Alumna turns the page at Teen Vogue, shares vision with New York Times

EDITOR
Sac State alumna Elaine Welteroth talks about her first foray into journalism in a New York Times interview.

The teen magazine famous for dishing out fashion and makeover advice is enjoying a historic facelift of its own. Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth ’07 (Communication Studies) is the force behind Teen Vogue’s transformation into a modern voice for an empathetic and engaged generation of readers.

Under Welteroth’s editorial direction, current issues of the magazine include fewer stories on fashion, beauty and style, and more on the progressive politics and social issues that impact and resonate with today’s diverse, digitally connected audience.

In a recent New York Times interview, Welteroth shares thoughts about her first foray into journalism and lauds a Sac State class that she says “changed her life.”

According to the article, the professor promised that any student who could get published in a national magazine would receive an automatic A. Welteroth pitched a story about plus-size footwear to Figure, a magazine for plus-size women, and her pitch was accepted.

Before her last semester of college, Welteroth interned at an international advertising agency, where she reportedly told a fellow intern that she’d rather be working at a magazine and showed him one of her stories from Figure. The other intern questioned whether her articles were real journalism, to which she replied, “I remember staying up for an hour and a half debating this man to the ground, telling him that beauty and fashion journalism is journalism.”

The editor-in-chief followed her heart and passion to become the second African American in Condé Nast’s 108-year publishing history to hold such a title and the youngest in Condé Nast history to become editor.

While content on the magazine’s robust website still includes articles on adolescent angst and celebrity crushes, the first navigation bar now reads “News and Politics,” a nod to Welteroth’s determination to move the needle on what’s considered news for teens.

“I felt like there was an opportunity to go a little deeper and to feature a different type of girl: someone who actually used their platform to be a role model and to be a thought leader. There was something shifting in the zeitgeist,” she told the New York Times. She added, “Teen Vogue has as much right to be at the table, talking about politics, as every young woman does in America right now.”

Welteroth was previously editor at Teen Vogue, which she joined in 2012 as beauty and health director. Before that, she was the senior beauty editor at Glamour, and worked as the beauty and style editor at Ebony magazine. – Anita Fitzhugh

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Ryan Todd builds ‘culture of sustainability’ at Sac State

Sacramento State Sustainability Manager and alum Ryan Todd, left , works with environmental studies student Nicolette Garces at the University’s compost facility, which functions as a “living lab” for students from a variety of disciplines. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Ryan Todd graduated from Sacramento State in 2009 with a degree in environmental studies and a resolve to do his part to help the planet. Now, he’s back at the University doing exactly that, leading the team responsible for keeping Sac State one of the most sustainable campuses in the world.

Todd recently was profiled by the California State University as part of a series focusing on students, faculty, and alumni who are proving the transformative impact of a CSU education. He talked about how he became a student at Sac State, getting involved in sustainability issues, and some of the projects he is working on as the University’s sustainability manager.

Sacramento State’s roots as an environmentally friendly university run deep – literally. The campus is home to more than 3,500 trees and has been designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation five years in a row. Sac State was one of just 21 campuses and the only CSU to make The Princeton Review’s 2017 Green College Honor Roll, and the Closed Loop program – through which green waste such as leaves and lawn clippings is turned into compost used across campus as well as clean natural gas for the University’s shuttles – received a Best Practice Award at last year’s CSU Facilities Management Conference.

Todd embraces the concept of the “campus as a living lab,” involving students, faculty, and other parts of the University whenever possible in sustainability initiatives. The sustainability office has a new solar-powered golf cart, for example, thanks to engineering students who designed it using leftover solar panels. The Closed Loop program is another example: Students are dispatched to collect food waste, and the compost generated is used by groups across campus including Capital Public Radio, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) and the ASI Children’s Center.

“Everything we do, we do in collaboration with different groups,” Todd said.

Some of the projects Todd and his team – Energy & Utilities Analyst and Sac State alum Nathaniel Martin, Sustainability Analyst Kristina Cullen, and Recycling & Sustainability Coordinator and alum Joey Martinez – are working on include:

  • Replacing standard water faucets with infrared, motion-sensor faucets that save water, as well as replacing showerheads at Yosemite Hall, a project funded by a grant from the state Department of Water Resources
  • Partnering with local elementary schools to bring students onto campus to learn about sustainability issues and expose them to college
  • Retrofitting lighting inside Mendocino Hall to feature “daylight harvesting” technology, which automatically dims indoor lights depending on the amount of natural light coming into a room
  • Facilitating competition between residence halls to see which can conserve the most energy
  • Developing the campus’ first greenhouse gas emissions report following President Robert S. Nelsen’s pledge to reduce such emissions at Sac State and achieve carbon neutrality

The University’s new “Science II” building, which breaks ground this summer, is expected to be certified LEED Gold, becoming the third building on campus to earn a LEED designation (the other two are The WELL and American River Commons).

“What we’re doing is trying to create a culture of sustainability,” Todd said. “When you do that, it makes being environmentally responsible happen naturally. It sets the expectation that this is just how we do things at Sac State.”

To learn more about sustainability initiatives on campus, visit the Sac State Sustainability homepage at csus.edu/aba/sustainability/

Jose Avina is making the world a better place, one spin class at a time

Jose Avina ’13 (Communication Studies) was excited when he had the opportunity last year to speak with a small business advisor about his plan to open a gym. But he got an early reality check when the meeting, which was supposed to last two hours, was over after just 20 minutes.

“He said that there are too many gyms out there, it’s a saturated industry, and that I needed to find something that would give us a niche, something that would make us different,” says Avina, who left discouraged. Then he remembered something from his time at Sac State: The WELL featured a handful of “eco” cycles – exercise bikes that generate power during use and return that electricity to the grid.

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The 16 “eco-cycles” in the spin room at Sacramento Eco Fitness pump enough electricity back into the power grid to nearly eliminate the gym’s monthly electrical bill.

Avina, a lifelong environmentalist, had his niche. In December he opened Sacramento Eco Fitness, which he says was just the second gym in the world to feature exclusively “eco” aerobic equipment. All 16 cycles in the facility’s spin room generate enough electricity to reduce Avina’s monthly bill from $680 to just $38. Soon, he’ll add an “eco-treadmill” to the mix.

The idea seems to have resonated. The gym already boasts a substantial social media following and 38 members, many of whom Avina says canceled less expensive memberships at other gyms to be part of a facility on the cutting edge of the industry.

“They like the fact that we’re giving back to the environment and the community,” he says.

Avina came to Sacramento State initially to play soccer alongside his brother and to study communications and marketing. He went into the Marine Corps following graduation, but when he finished officer training, he had difficulty finding a job after so much time away. He eventually decided to pursue his passion and open his own business.

That’s when his time at Sac State paid off. He put out a call to his former fraternity brothers for help, and eventually seven of them – six of whom are still students – offered their photography, business, media and other skills. He also became connected with the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which set him up with a free work space and helped him refine his business plan. His classes came in handy as well. Though he didn’t wind up in marketing, he and his team were able to effectively leverage social media platforms and build a strong following. The content was so effective that many of Avina’s followers thought he already had a gym – and that the one he opened in December was his second location.

“I had a great experience at Sac State,” Avina says. “I loved the campus, I loved the fact that it was in line with my environmentalist side, with the trees and everything, but I think the most important thing I pulled away from there was the network. When I came back and had this crazy idea for a new concept, they believed in it, went along with my idea and helped me out.”

In addition to being eco-friendly, Avina also works to make sure his gym gives back to the community. He hosts free monthly boot-camp training sessions, during which he collects donations for various charities.

He has big ideas on the sustainability end as well. He’ll travel to Italy soon to check out a floor that can harness kinetic energy and see if it can be used in the fitness industry, for example by generating power when someone drops his or her weights. And while he is in rented space right now, he hopes eventually to build a gym from the ground up – harnessing the latest technology in green energy and water collection, of course. He cites Tesla CEO Elon Musk as inspiration, someone with “a crazy idea” who never gave up.

“I’m an avid outdoorsman and I understand that the role we play as human beings on this planet is key to preserving what we have left,” Avina says. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint. Can’t change everyone’s mindset, but at least for our members, we’re doing our part to reduce the carbon footprint, and that could go a long way in the long run.”