Robbie Brown creates sustainability solutions at Gavilan College

New Energy, Education and Facilities Fellow working on water management and conservation.

This article was contributed by Gavilan College.

In a new role at Gavilan College, Robbie Brown applies vision to application pairing strategic energy ideas and innovations.

Brown is Energy, Education & Facilities Fellow, with Strategic Energy Innovations Inc (SEI), a nonprofit placing emerging leaders at community colleges, nonprofits and government organizations. Fellowships are co-funded by PG&E, and Gavilan management oversees his work, a recent release states.

“Gavilan is honored to have been chosen to host a fellowship program,” said Dean of Career Education Sherrean Carr. Along with Carr, Director of Facilities Jeff Gopp will supervise the projects.

During a break between winter storms, Brown visited the lower pond at the Gilroy campus, known by many students as the duck pond. Next spring, one of his projects will entail planning a lab for students to evaluate water levels at the ponds.

The path from philosophy to environmental issues

“A friend of mine went through SEI and Climate Corps and recommended me,” said Brown. He looked at different job opportunities available in the greater Bay Area and Southern California. A 2011 Baler alum and CSU Long Beach graduate in philosophy, Brown chose Gavilan in part because of his roots.

“My dad’s a farmer in Hollister,” said Brown. “He raises garlic, onions, bell peppers. Cherries in the summer.”

Brown arrived at Gavilan College in October 2018 and plunged into curriculum development, working to create an introductory lesson plan for Water Resources Development that examines water management, supply and quality. He is currently working on a curriculum overview that melds the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Water and Infrastructure Master Plan, the Urban Water Management Plan and the Groundwater Management Plan. After that, Brown will develop rainwater harvesting information.

“Robbie has already, in a few months, designed specialized curriculum for Water Resources faculty to embed into their lectures,” said Carr.

Working three days a week at the Gilroy campus also allows Brown time to pursue his MA in philosophy at San Francisco State University. His studies focus on animal and environmental ethics, primarily human relations with wildlife.

“I have a personal interest in environmental studies, history and problems,” Brown said. Using philosophy, he examines human relations and obligations toward sustainability. “Water ties in,” he said, “because it is the foundation of life – plants, humans, biodiversity.”

Bridging strong partnerships across disciplines

As Brown walked the campus and explored the natural environment, he discovered the various holding ponds across the Gilroy campus. He also visited the native garden installed and maintained by biology and botany students at Gavilan College. Water, the park setting of the campus, and an emphasis on native plants led to a new project.

Early next spring, a svelte water catchment device called the Water Hog is expected to be installed adjacent to the Human Resources building. Five feet long, less than ten inches deep, the tank can hold 50 gallons of rainwater retrieved from the roof of the building. Water Resource Management students will monitor rainfall, test water quality and devise a spreadsheet predicting the water required for a native plant garden. Botany students supervised by instructor Rey Morales will select plants, install and maintain the area. If successful, the project could be a prototype for water conservation across campus.

Future projects include water conservation analysis and audit of the cafeteria, as well as studying the possibility of switching to compostable garbage bags on campus and compostable utensils and plates in the cafeteria.

“Thanks to Robbie’s efforts,” said Carr, “he is propelling Gavilan’s programs with an eye on creating sustainable systems.”



Gavilan College

Gavilan College offers a wide range of services, including programs of community education, the liberal arts and sciences, the pre-professional, business, vocational, and technical fields. To support student success, we offer services that strengthen and augment the learning environment. Courses and programs of study are offered days, evenings, weekends, and online. All offerings are designed to assist students in meeting their educational and life goals.