Sustainability Spotlight: Jayson Taylor

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Jayson Taylor is a senior undergraduate student working on a Civil and Environmental Engineering. He serves as the President of Rice Urban Agriculture, the External Vice President of Lovett College, and one of the eco-reps for Lovett. We met with Jayson to talk about flooding, gardening, the Lovett Quad, board games, and much more.

Question: How did you first become interested in environmental issues?
Jayson Taylor: In high school, I took AP Environmental Science class, and fell in love with the material. I enjoyed learning the technical information from the water cycle to ecosystems to renewable energy, and also became interested in how our actions greatly influences the environment. Specifically with environmental issues, I participated in a Model United Nations conference in which I was in the United Environment Progamme. We discussed how extreme flooding events in East Asia affected environmental policy and food security. I wanted to learn more about the intersection of the environment with other disciplines.

Question: Your academic focus was influenced by Hurricane Harvey. Please explain.
Jayson Taylor: During my sophomore year, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. I saw first-hand the damage that it caused to the Rice and Houston community. Many people had to walk through the dangerous flood waters to get to safety. In addition to the powerful turbulence of the water, the water was polluted with many chemicals, and harmful organisms. The poor water quality is a severe issue that often gets overlooked. I want to learn more about the treatment of urban stormwater runoff to combat this issue.

Question: What are your plans after graduation? Do you plan to continue to pursue your interest in “green” stormwater management?
Jayson Taylor: My plan after graduation is to attend graduate school to get my M.S. in Environmental Engineering and complete a thesis. I do plan on my pursuing my interest in green stormwater management. I am applying to schools with research labs focusing on green stormwater infrastructure, and urban runoff treatment.

Question: How did you become interested in gardening, and what attracts you to it?
Jayson Taylor: When I was a freshman, one of my friends TA-ing EBIO 204: Community Agriculture, encouraged me to take the class. I signed up for the class and was amazed from what community agriculture offered. It was my first time being involved in a garden, so I tried eating locally grown, fresh, sustainable produce for the first time. It was delicious!!! I love composting because waste from the garden and serveries was reused to create compost for mulching the garden.

Question: What is Rice Urban Agriculture, and what are your goals as the group’s President?
Jayson Taylor: Rice Urban Agriculture is a club that promotes the practice of community gardening and composting on the Rice campus. We are located at the Betty & Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden, which is across from RUPD, and next to the media center. Our specific goals this year to host more events with the intersection of community gardening and mental health, host more volunteer events in the garden, and to engage more Rice students by tabling at the RMC.

Question: Given your passion for growing food, does this carry over to cooking too?
Jayson Taylor: While I do enjoy cooking produce, like sugar snap peas, my favorite activity to do in the kitchen is to make tea from the fresh leaves in the garden. I usually make mint or basil tea. The best part of making tea is the fresh scent that fills the kitchen when I boil the leaves. After boiling the leaves, I often mix the tea with lemonade or green tea to create basil lemonade, mint lemonade, and mint tea.

Question: I understand that you are a board game enthusiast. What are your favorite board games, and why?
Jayson Taylor: My favorite board games are Settlers of Catan and Avalon. Settlers of Catan is a game in which you build settlements and cities for certain points. The first person to get 10 points wins the game. It involves a lot of strategy to expand your territory, while trying not to be trapped by other players expanding their territory. Avalon is a game similar to Maffia. You go on quests and figure out who the evil players are in order to win. I love the “whodunnit” and mystery aspects of the game.

Question: You’ve had a number of leadership opportunities at Rice, including serving as the External Vice President for Lovett College. In that role you helped to oversee the redesign of the Lovett Quad. What did you learn from that process, and what feature in the redesign are you most proud of?
Jayson Taylor: I am most proud of the pavers in the Lovett Quad. Many students wanted to see concrete in the grill area of the Lovett Quad. The staff completing the project was weary of adding hardscape to the quad, and said it was not likely for them to do it. Once I relayed the news of this to Lovett college, Lovetteers voiced their opinions of wanting hardscape to my committee, and also provide solid reasoning for it. We communicated this to the staff, and listed it as one of our main priorities of the redesign. While we were not able to get the concrete in the grill area, we were able to get cool pavers in other parts of the quad. From this experience, I learned to always fight for what your group wants, the worst someone can say is no.

Question: As a final question, what advice would you share with first and second year undergraduate students?
Jayson Taylor: Be open to trying new things, you may just find your new found passion. Use your interests formed in high school to join new clubs and find more opportunities on campus.