By Brooke Schultz
Elm Staff Writer
Alumni Rob Savidge has been using his Washington College degree and ethics in the real world. Savidge graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies.
When Savidge first visited WC and spent the night with fellow swimmers he loved the atmosphere of the campus and later began his education here.
Savidge was an active member of the WC community for his entire college career. “I was a swimmer for all four years, and that close-knit community, led by Head Coach Kim Lessard, was quite valuable and important to me. I also started the Student Environmental Alliance and was quite involved with that. To help speak for environmental interests, I was also a student senator on the SGA,” he said.
Savidge had other environmental opportunities at WC as well. He was able to pursue specialized, experimental courses, like a coastal ecology course in Maine and a 30-day course with the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Yukon Territory.
The classes and professors Savidge encountered influenced him throughout his years at WC. “Professors Dr. Michael Harvey, John Seidel, David Newell, and Martin Connaughton stand out in my mind. They were energetic, passionate professors who cared about their students and imparting their wisdom upon us. Linda Cades and Vicky Sawyer provided essential, caring support at the Career Center as I became a junior and senior at WC.”
Associate Business Management Professor Dr. Harvey had Savidge in a class during Harvey’s first year of teaching at WC in 1998. “Rob displayed the same qualities he has displayed in his career since graduation: intelligence, hard work, rock-solid integrity, passion about the environment, deep interest in policy, and a strong moral commitment to protecting the environment and to sustainability,” Dr. Harvey said.
When Savidge graduated, he was able to take this background and begin working for the Chesapeake Bay Program. “WC really infused a deep appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay, and I really wanted to do my part to help clean it up.”
After his time at the Chesapeake Bay Program, Savidge began efforts to reform Annapolis’ environmental programs, particularly the forest conservation program. Savidge worked as an environmental compliance inspector where he was an environmental plan reviewer for new development projects, a water quality enforcement inspector, and the city’s sustainability coordinator, working on climate change and sustainability issues.
Savidge discovered that Annapolis was violating public transparency and approving projects that violated the Forest Conservation Act.
On Jan. 26, Savidge testified in front of the City Council against his former job. He said, “I detailed how the city’s environmental review process for the new developments is broken, how many development projects have not followed the law, the Forest Conversation Act, and how the Department of Neighborhood & Environmental Programs leadership has not followed the law.” Prior to testifying, Savidge faced “retaliation, marginalization, and discrimination” for trying to do his job and was prompted to take a stand.
“I testified before the City Council, put together a 15-page report detailing the forest conservation and transparency violations,” he said. Along with testifying, Savidge wrote a guest column for the Capital Gazette where he discussed the issues in the city pertaining to the Forest Conservation Act. He continued his work by creating his own blog, robsavidge.wordpress.com, where he discusses everything pertaining to the whistleblowing in detail.
Regarding how Savidge has been influenced by WC, Harvey said, “It might be that WC sharpened Rob’s skills and confidence. I sure hope my courses gave him useful knowledge and helped him with critical thinking and clear writing, but from the day I met him, I’ve been struck by his passion and integrity. They are core traits he has always had and that he continues to build his life and his work around.”