By Donna Gray

Trent Marshall graduated this May from Colorado Mountain College with a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies that has already thrust him into the enviable role of shaping the future of his community. He has put his knowledge to work at Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley, where he has worked for almost two years.

According to Habitat President Scott Gilbert, Marshall was a perfect fit for the organization from the moment he set foot in the door as a paid intern a year and a half ago. “He couldn’t have been better suited for us. He’s a great member of the team.”

For Marshall, his work at Habitat has allowed him to put the principles of sustainability into action. He coordinates the volunteers who work on the houses Habitat builds for families who might otherwise be unable to afford their own home in this upscale valley. Marshall sees huge value in the work. In order to have a sustainable community, “you have to have affordable housing,” he said.

With Habitat’s focus on green building construction practices, Marshall has learned firsthand to put into practice what he learned at CMC. “I had read about building a tight envelope and the efficiency of a house,” he said. Habitat’s approach has taught him how to implement those practices and yet keep the homes affordable.

Now he instructs the volunteers who come to the projects in the essentials of construction, from building stairs to siding and painting the house. First as a paid intern and now as an employee, Marshall found that Habitat worked with him so he could continue to attend classes and work full time.

Marshall is stay on with Habitat after graduation. His next project is a 27-unit mix of duplexes and triplexes in Basalt for needy families as well as for area teachers.

Adrian Fielder, assistant dean of instruction at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley, supervised Marshall’s studies at the college “I’ve witnessed his evolution,” he said. “He is one of those super positive people. He makes you feel positive about the future.”

Colorado Mountain College worked with Habitat for Humanity to provide paid interns from the sustainability studies program. “Trent worked out just great,” Gilbert said. “He made the most of that opportunity,” and was asked to stay on full time. Habitat for Humanity, Gilbert said, fulfills “that social justice piece that is so strong in sustainability.”

The beauty of the program, Fielder said, is that it is broad-reaching and prepares students to enter a variety of fields with a sustainability mindset. “There are a lot of jobs out there that can benefit from the systems mindset we teach in the program,” he said. “And businesses are moving quickly these days to meet the challenge of sustainability.”