The Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the world. It’s also one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “dirty waters” list.

This week a small group of students and faculty were able to meet at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies with Chesapeake Bay Foundation Chief Executive Will Baker and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, two men who know firsthand about the challenges of cleaning up the bay.

Baker was a guest of Kaine’s and met with the select group to present on “Saving the Chesapeake Bay – Insurmountable Opportunities.” He had a candid discussion with students off the record, answered questions and discussed ways that University of Richmond students can get involved in cleanup efforts. His organization, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is the largest non-profit conservation organization working to preserve, protect and restore the bay.  

“One thing I think the Jepson School and the University of Richmond does really well is bring in leaders to share their expertise,” said Kaine, who is teaching a course on leadership breakthroughs at the Jepson School this semester. “So I am really happy that we can have this discussion.”

The group included students from majors such as leadership studies, geology and environmental studies, as well as a representative from Green UR, the student environmental club, and the University's sustainability coordinator, Trey McDonald.

“There are so many opportunities to improve the Chesapeake Bay, but sometimes the opportunities can seem insurmountable to people,” Baker told the students. “I’d love to hear some of your ideas and questions, and if there is an environmental movement on campus.” 

He discussed the need for college students to get involved in efforts and encouraged the students to start a grassroots campaign to help save the bay. “I’d love to see something like that spread to other colleges,” he said.

Kaine also encouraged students to get involved in issues that mattered to them. “As you’re reading the newspaper and looking at issues, think about ways you might be helpful.”

Ali Amaral, ’11, a leadership studies minor and international relations major, agreed that it is important for students to get involved and said she is grateful for the opportunity to meet with leaders such as Baker. “Students getting involved could have a huge impact and really help the regions and areas affected,” she said.

“Having the opportunity to meet with leaders like this makes you realize that there is more to cleaning up the environment than just politicians sorting this stuff out,” said leadership studies major Jacki Raithel, ’10. “These issues require attention from lots of people.”  

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation works with businesses, government and the public to educate, serve as a watchdog, and speak out on behalf of the bay.

During his time as head of the organization, Baker has been recognized as one of the most influential leaders in D.C. and Maryland. In 1992 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was awarded the Presidential Medal for Environmental Excellence.