When Sarah Strobl came to Butler University as a pharmacy student, her story and life plan changed after a two-week tropical biology class in Panama.
During the summer of 2010, the rainforest was Strobl’s classroom, and she said she was always lagging behind the group, completely in awe of everything.
As she gazed at the green of the trees and witnessed how connected the people were to nature, Strobl, now a biology and chemistry major, came to a startling conclusion.
“This is where I belong,” Strobl said, “playing in the dirt.”
Her passion for recycling and creating a green environment on Butler University’s campus has landed Strobl in a nationwide contest that honors the sustainability efforts of college students.
Sponsored by SmartPower, the contest seeks to recognize outstanding students who make considerable efforts to decrease their campus’ carbon footprint. Strobl is currently in 14th place for her campaign to install a green roof on the old part of the Pharmacy Building at the end of March.
Nathan Krout, Council on Presidential Affairs operations committee coordinator, said that the roof would help insulate the building and divert rainwater away from buildings.
“This project is not only innovative for Butler but for the city of Indianapolis as well,” Krout said.
CPA chair Mike Tirman said Strobl is easy to work with.
“She’s a hard worker and dedicated,” Tirman said.
Strobl’s father, who was born in Germany, instilled the idea in her to use only what she needs.
“It was an innate thing for us,” Strobl said.
After her trip to Panama, Strobl returned to the states eager to learn more.
She spent a summer interning with the U.S. Geological Survey at Lake Michigan and even enjoyed getting up with the sun.
“We had to be there at 7:30, it was very early, but I never got tired,” Strobl said.
Consisting of days spent outside, hiking and taking plant samples, the internship taught Strobl the importance of understanding the complex relationship between natural and manmade environments.
This dichotomy between the natural and the manmade is something Strobl is seeking to understand through her internship at the Center for Urban Ecology.
Tim Carter, the center’s director, said that Strobl was the captain of the ship when it came to the green roof project, which stemmed from her honors thesis.
But her passion hasn’t always involved the outdoors.
As Strobl gingerly sips her hot Starbucks soy chai tea latte, she smiles at the memory of disliking watering plants in the garden as a child alongside her mom.
“I thought it was really stupid,” she said, “getting up so early in the summer.”
Now, Strobl is not afraid to get her hands dirty.
“She is driven, smart and confident,” Carter said.
These three characteristics, along with her dedicated studies and research, have landed Strobl an internship after she graduates with Bayer CropScience in Germany, a half an hour away from her grandmother’s home.
Today, Strobl considers those summers in the garden and her German heritage as part of her passion for sustainability and recycling.
Strobl said she isn’t quite sure what will happen if she wins the contest, but she does know one thing: At some point she wants to be a professor at an undergraduate institution.
“Big ideas come from undergrad students,” Strobl said. “I very much appreciate my professors here, and I would like to give back.”
Vote for Strobl and her sustainable efforts, visit. Voting ends Feb. 24 at 5 p.m.