By Richard Zagrzecki
Gabe Durham has spent a lot of time over the past few months poring over data.
Since August, he’s worked in the Office of Sustainability, helping collect information about sustainability efforts here at the University of Houston.
Mostly what he has been working on is the STARS report (Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Ratings System), which is from AASHE – the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The STARS program is a tool created by AASHE for colleges and universities to use in tracking their progression on sustainability initiatives using objective criteria.
“What the report boils down to is auditing the University’s sustainability impact – whether it is ecological, social or economic – on the local community,” said Durham, a graduate student studying anthropology. “That’s involved a lot of emailing people, looking for reports, searching for data and having meetings with key people.”
He’s always had an interest in sustainability-related issues, which is why he was interested in applying for the job when he found out about it over the summer. Even as a kid growing up in Houston, he remembers dwelling on certain issues.
“Even when I would be stuck in traffic in a car with my dad, I would think about how an intersection could be more efficient in its design,” he said.
After graduating from the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Durham attended UH and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. He then started pursuing a master’s degree and has one more year to go to complete it. After that, he plans to pursue a doctorate.
“What got me into anthropology is that I was passionate about so many things in life that it was hard to commit myself to a certain thing,” he said. “I became aware that a lot of the problems in the world are human-based. This is the human shaped era of the world. So one of the best ways to address the problems of the world is looking at human behavior.”
Durham grew up surrounded by music. His father is a folk musician who would travel across Texas to perform. So when Durham first came to UH, his intention was to pursue a vocal performance major.
“When I was younger, I would often travel on the road with my dad, singing and playing my violin,” he said.
He can play numerous stringed instruments, including violin, mandolin, viola and guitar, as well as flutes and even a little bit of piano. He’s performed with Opera in the Heights a couple of times, and he and his father are about to release a record, in which he sings harmony and plays some instruments.
He chose to attend UH because it made sense in a lot of ways. It had all the majors he thought about pursuing, and he received substantial scholarship funds.
What does he like the most about UH?
“Here at UH I see a lot of people taking on very big challenges. Making sustainability a priority at UH is something that a lot of us are very eager to do. That’s one of my favorite things – the drive for change. We are making a lot of accomplishments that way,” he said.