By Samantha Davies
Graduate student makes a difference by making things “green”
Spend five minutes with Michael LaFemina and you might just feel empowered to make a difference in the world. While studying education in grad school, LaFemina chairs the Student Affairs Committee for the University Senate.
For the last ten months, he’s been trying to create a full time Officer of Environmental Sustainability position for the University. He helped bring about the Styrofoam ban on campus and the plate first policy and he is currently working on a ‘ban the bottle’ campaign. Along with saving our planet, he has also done his part in educating students about politics through the 2008 debate.
Q: What makes you angry about our youth today?
A: In general we are impatient, we are not self-motivated, and we have expectations that are too high of others and too low of ourselves. It takes a lot for us to look past our televisions, MySpace pages, iPhones and the many other distractions to things that have influence on our lives and the lives of others.
Q: Why did you become a vegetarian?
A: My reasons are ever evolving. My original reasons were animal rights because I was blown away by the lack of humanity that was in the factory farming industry. Then I learned about how to be a conscious consumer and it dawned on me that I shouldn’t buy sweatshop made goods. This is another level of ethical disagreement I have with the production of an item that I consume.
I also found out that the meat and dairy industry are the number one producers of global green house gases. I read a statement that said if you want to do something great for the environment don’t drive a hybrid, give up meat, you will have a bigger impact.
Q: What have you done at Hofstra that you’re most proud of?
A: For the last couple of years I have been sharpening what I believe in and making sure that I understand what I am talking about. I have been educating myself, focusing my energies and then acting on them. It’s good to have beliefs, but if you don’t carry them out, then they are useless.
Q: Anything you didn’t get to do?
A: I wish I could have spent more time learning how to play the cello. It’s a beautiful instrument.
Q: You majored in music as an undergraduate. Are you trying to do anything with that at the moment?
A: My studies in music were not so much that I could be a musician or a music teacher; I originally had intentions to be a researcher of music. My studies have kind of evolved to be just a deeper appreciation for music as an art form and a community. I value it and its part of my life, but as far as being active in my music that’s not really my focus right now.
Q: What would your friends say about you?
A: They would tell you that I am pretty sincere, hardworking, concerned for their well-being and our planet. I would hope they would say that I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk.
Q: You have made many friends here at Hofstra, but have you made any enemies?
A: My reputation is not one of confrontation. I am more of a coalition builder, not someone who believes fighting with people who disagree with you is a way to further your agenda. There is no reason to make enemies in this world. It’s just counterproductive.
Q: Is there any story that your friends would tell me but you wouldn’t want them to?
A: I don’t get embarrassed by the things I do, I revel in them.
Q: What has made you the person you are today?
A: Everything I have done, everywhere I’ve been and every person I have interacted with, has had an influence on me one way or another. Of course there have been milestones and there have been people who have had more influence than others. I’m constantly reevaluating myself as an individual, as a learner, as an activist, as an organizer, as a spiritual person in every dimension possible. The more time you spend with people and pay attention to who they are, the more you learn about yourself.
Q: If there was one message you could tell everyone what would it be?
A: Look in a mirror: if you’re happy with what you see, you’re doing something right. If you’re not, fix it. I can’t tell you anything that you can’t tell yourself.