Dance is an increasingly popular art form for the investigation of cultural understandings of nature. Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, engaged her students in just such an investigation this semester. Soriano, who was a member of the 2014 Magnolias Curriculum Project cohort, modified her Dance Composition class to incorporate sustainability.
Soriano challenged her students to choreograph a piece based on nature, specifically something growing in Reynolda Gardens. She asked them to observe various plants, and then choose one to explore, taking into account its color, structure, growth and movement; how it might change with the seasons, and how it might react to light. With this information, the students developed their own movement studies, aligning their dances with nature.
After the assignment, the class performed Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance to witness how other choreographers integrate nature themes into their work.
The students were also asked to consider how an art form like dance might become more sustainable through rehearsal, repetition, and thoughtful use of time and resources. She encouraged them to consider what made dance sustainable, and to journal their thoughts and experiences.
Annie Stockstill, a student in Soriano’s class, reflected that by continuing to dance well-known pieces, “I am preserving the ongoing life of the dances, and therefore acting out sustainability.” Serena Cates expressed similar feelings, stating “Personally, I choose to perceive dance as sustainable because, although the technique, style, or choreography alters over time, the motivation and impact of it has remained.”
“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” Vandana Shiva made this call for awareness and action last week during her visit to Wake Forest University. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Shiva lectured as a part of the “Make Every Bite Count” speaker series, organized by multiple partners. On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Shiva led a community forum with students, faculty, and staff at the School of Divinity.
The “Make Every Bite Count” series featured other events including a panel discussion and film screening of GMO OMG with filmmaker Jeremy Seifert. The series aimed to investigate the role of agricultural biodiversity in our local, regional, and global food systems. The final keynote lecture by Shiva highlighted the challenges and opportunities of feeding the world with sustainable agriculture.
Shiva is the author of Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development and the founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote sustainable farming and fair trade. Her newest book, Who Really Feeds the World?, will be available next year.
During her lecture and in the community forum, Shiva consistently referred to the “patenting of life,” in relation to the patents held on seeds by industrial food producers. “Ecosystems produce food, not companies,” she said. “Destroying seeds destroys life. Saving seeds is an ethical duty.” The world is at a point where the diversity of creation needs to be reclaimed and valued for that diversity. Saving seeds is one way to preserve and continue the variety of life forms around us.
“We are not masters of the earth, we are a part of the earth family,” Shiva said during Tuesday’s lecture. “The process of commercial agriculture displaces diversity and people. There is a division in labor and knowledge.”
Shiva has concerns not only for the production methods of agriculture, but also the impact of food on health and wellbeing. “How we grow food is related to disease,” she said. She gave examples on how malnutrition occurs because food lacks essential minerals and the ways toxins from the chemicals used impact bodies in negative and life-threatening ways.
“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” This call echoed as Shiva gave glimpses of hope about the work that is being done and the work religious leaders are called to do on food issues. She recalled the abolition movements in the U.S. and India as a historical framework of resistance movements that changed social practices. She encouraged faith communities to plant “gardens of hope” as a beginning point of resistance. “Faith communities throughout the world already are responsible for feeding communities through soup kitchens and food pantries,” Shiva said. “Let’s link the feeding and outreach to the growing of food.”
Shiva’s call to action resounded with many. Fred Bahnson, director of the School of Divinity’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, said it was encouraging to have her on campus. “She inspired us, challenged us, and made us laugh. To hear this global food leader talk about the importance of faith communities working to create food justice and ecological healing was especially encouraging, because it means we’re on the right track.”
Second-year divinity student Pia Diggs is interested in learning more about holistic health and how the food industry is impacting the food she consumes. “After hearing Shiva speak, I have an increased awareness to be more cognizant about my intake of food and a greater concern for how it is being produced,” she said. Diggs worked in a community health center last summer in a low-income area of Greensboro, NC that has been designated as a food desert. “What you eat effects your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional states, so if you are not eating well-prepared food, it will directly affect your entire being.”
Links of Interest
Focus on food in the forest – WFU News Center
Make Every Bite Count Fall Speaker Series
Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative)
Thrive: Well-Being at Wake Forest University
About Wake Forest University School of Divinity
The Wake Forest University School of Divinity is a growing, dynamic and ecumenical theological institution that prepares men and women to be religious leaders in a changing world. The School currently offers the Master of Divinity degree and several dual degrees in law, bioethics, counseling, education, and sustainability offered jointly with other schools of the University. Through imaginative courses and diverse programs of community engagement, students are equipped to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries.
By Mark Batten, School of Divinity
On October 21st, the exhibition Spencer Finch: color / temperature, at the Hanes Gallery, culminated with a talk by the artist in the Kulynych Auditorium. Finch engages in a close observation of nature and natural systems, tying the natural world to that of art, literature, and philosophy, expressed particularly in the properties and perception of light. He filters his fundamentally empirical approach through a poetic, eccentric sensibility that owes much to American transcendentalism and the uncanny awareness evident in the work of writers like Emily Dickinson (in his talk, Finch admitted to being a “groupie” of Dickinson and her work). Pragmatic, but also idealist and romantic, his work is in part a summation of 19th century sensibility brought into what is now being called the Anthropocene, a geological period reflecting the impact of human influence.
In his talk, Spencer Finch emphasized, with characteristic modesty and humor, the provisional nature of his research and process, even though he employs the tools and techniques of scientific measurement and observation. The centerpiece of the exhibition at Wake Forest was an ice machine adjusted to cycle water that has been color-calibrated to match that of the sky above the Franz Josef glacier (New Zealand) at a precise date and time. It then “calves” as ice into a basin, melts into a sky-blue pool, and is recycled.
Finch’s work posits us in a fraught relationship with the nature he observes and records the workings of. His creative process transforms and reinterprets those observations and experiences; his work helps us understand our position vis a vis “nature” (and its phenomena), even as we alter it.
Two things in particular stand out from Spencer Finch’s talk: his work (like Dickinson’s) takes the natural, the intimate, and the particular and creates a metaphor for our being in the universe; and he -repeatedly and knowingly, despite his assiduous methods- demonstrates the futility of quantifying the hue of human experience.
By Paul Bright, Director, Hanes Art Gallery
My family and I live on a 22-acre farm in Stokes County. We are serious gardeners. I can’t remember the last time I bought a tomato at the store and I have saved my own okra and basil seeds each year for over a decade. Now late October, we have over 60 garlic heads up in the garden and have put the cold frame in place. We also raise Shetland sheep, a very hardy heritage wool breed. For a few years we raised heritage turkeys (Bourbon Reds) and maintain a flock of about 30 free-range laying hens and sell their eggs to wonderful people on campus. Sometimes I go to meetings and people say, “Oh, you are the egg lady.” All of this effort supplies fabulous, fresh and taste-laden ingredients to cook with. At my house, we eat very well.
But all of these farming endeavors do not pay the mortgage. My husband and I are both faculty in the Department of Chemistry, and Bruce currently serves as Associate Provost of Research. In the Chemistry Department, teaching slots are a common topic of discussion. We never have enough faculty members to meet demand for all the courses required for our majors and pre-med students. We run out of faculty teaching slots every semester and work hard to fill the needs of our students. Because of this, we are truly limited in the number of First Year Seminars (FYS) we can offer each year. Faculty who have developed FYS offerings offer them on a rotating basis.
I have taught the FYS True Value Meals several times in the past. According to the syllabus, True Value Meals “has been designed to develop the analytical and critical thinking skills of students, and their ability to express in writing and aloud their opinions and ideas, in a setting that focuses on the production, processing distribution and eating of food.” It is an ideal topic for the FYS, and a topic that I am passionate about. Luckily, my turn in the rotation came during the fall 2014 semester.
By coincidence, the semester I was offering a food-centered FYS class, the Office of Sustainability organized Make Every Bite Count, a speaker series about the food we grow and eat that challenges us to imagine how we can sustainably feed the world. Students are required to attend the events and we sit together as a group. In the following class meeting, the discussion is centered on frank analysis of each event and how it compares with other course material. In twenty years of teaching at Wake, I have never seen students as fired up as they were the day after viewing the documentary GMO OMG. I have no doubt that the talk by Vandana Shiva on the challenges of feeding a growing world population will be just as powerful, if not more so.
Since I taught True Value Meals last, the sustainability movement on campus has blossomed. I was able to participate in the Magnolias Project, which strives to integrate sustainability across the curriculum. The campus garden has grown both in size and organization. Campus Kitchen now has dedicated space on campus and has expanded its programming. All of these have combined for wonderful service-learning opportunities for my students. Each student is required to complete 18 hours of food-related service with community partners to enhance their readings for the course and aid class discussion. What have they been doing? The mid-term logs of service hours showed that they have been gleaning food from the Cobblestone Farmers Market for redistribution to food-insecure families; repackaging food from the on-campus dining hall for delivery to persons in need; making sandwiches for homeless individuals on Saturday mornings; turning plots, compost and planting fall crops. All of this effort has helped the partner agencies AND the students’ learning. Our class discussions are livelier because they are all experiencing different aspects of food culture in their work outside of class. And the students actually enjoy their service learning hours. It’s a nice break from reading and writing and gives them time to reflect on course material and try to integrate all the different pieces. Some students have found a “niche” at the university through their service learning partners. I am astounded by the number of students who want to become shift leaders for Campus Kitchen or interns with the campus garden. It’s helped me realize how important extra-curricular activities are to students’ overall wellness.
I can say with confidence that this semester students are the most engaged in my FYS material, thinking more deeply and broadly. I encourage all faculty to find a topic they are passionate about and use the plentiful teaching resources here at Wake to develop a class that will impact students. From teaching workshops on community engagement and sustainability to on-campus service learning opportunities, our university has a bounty of support for engaged learning.
By Dr. Angela King, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry
Since 2006, Wake Forest has hosted the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship (BFTF) Summer Institute, a Department of State-funded grant that brings 45 high-school aged students—35 from across Europe and 10 from the United States—to Winston-Salem to learn about citizenship and democratic deliberative practice. The month-long summer program features classes and workshops on civic engagement and social entrepreneurship, helping students develop projects they could implement that make a difference in their home communities. Over the past few years, the BFTF fellows have expressed increased interest in environmental and sustainability-related issues. We have accommodated their interests by connecting with numerous community partners dedicated to sustainability issues, including Wake Forest Campus Kitchen, the WFU Campus Garden, the Shalom Project, and Forsyth Futures. These hands-on partnerships, in addition to small-group conversations with sustainability professionals, provide opportunities to learn and practice new strategies to advance sustainability.
The cross-cultural skills that the students develop are important to their success in diplomacy, deliberation, and debate. The cultural diversity of the group, however, also presents a unique pedagogical challenge: socio-environmental issues and commitment to sustainability varies greatly across the many represented Europe nations and the United States. Advocating for green technologies, for example, would look quite different in Moldova than in Sweden. Mindful of these differences, the fellows are keen to explore which issues and sustainability strategies could relate to their home communities.
The fellows are exceptionally talented and possess an uncanny sophistication in drawing connections between their diverse interests and cultural differences. Even as their proposed strategies might vary, the opportunity to learn, and gain inspiration, from one another propels them to develop projects that reflect the unique opportunities and challenges in the students’ home communities.
Contributed by Ron Von Burg, Assistant Professor of Communication
In the spring of 2012 I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Magnolias Curriculum Project. The readings and discussions in the workshop quickly revealed the big questions of sustainability: How does personal behavior and choice relate to global phenomenon? What do we hope to sustain, and who benefits? These issues are not only about the earth’s future, but also prompt deeper reflection about our history, relationships to places, capacity for self-awareness and change, and sense of responsibility to others.
I wanted to further explore these big questions in a First Year Seminar that I offered in spring 2014 titled Nature, Environments, and Place in American Thought. My intention was to introduce students to traditions of environmental thought and help them explore their relationships to places, nature and social action. The class was organized as a journey from inner reflection to public outreach, culminating in a web exhibit. After reading classic and contemporary nature writing pieces, the students first created group photo essays that visually tell a story and make an interpretive point about human relationships to nature. Some groups chose to investigate personal relationships to significant places, while others depicted Wake Forest’s efforts to promote sustainability.
Meanwhile, the class visited Old Salem’s heritage gardens, Reynolda House Museum of Art, and Reynolda Village to make connections to scholarly arguments about landscape design, cultural values, and sustainability featured in the readings. Each student then chose one place in Winston-Salem to research in-depth, endeavoring to interpret the environmental and social histories of familiar and everyday places – a trail, lake, neighborhood, park – in novel ways. The final project was to create a podcast based on an interview with an environmental actor. The groups traveled around the Piedmont to visit organic farms, a prayer center, and the site of the Dan River coal ash spill to conduct interviews. Throughout the semester the students worked with Digital Initiatives Librarian Chelcie Rowell to build a digital exhibit featuring text, images, audiovisual presentations, and a map of place studies. In doing so, students had the opportunity to reflect on the power and limitations of technology to represent nature and educate and inspire others. Most crucially, the course allowed students to both think through their personal relationship to environments within the context of intellectual traditions, and to link these ideas to cooperative action and collective responsibility.
View the students’ web exhibit at: http://cloud.lib.wfu.edu/fys100fff
By Lisa Blee, Assistant Professor of History
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 13-14, 2014 for the 3rd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was co-facilitated by communications professor Ron Von Burg, an alumnus of last year’s cohort, and Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the university’s director of sustainability.
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed provocative literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and is launching a new Master’s in sustainability this fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from art, management, sociology, history, classical languages, economics, dance, business, documentary film, and writing.
Closing words of appreciation from participants in the 2014 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model:
What a treat to meet colleagues from other parts of the university. It’s very easy to hole away and neither learn about nor appreciate what they are doing.
Meeting people from other departments. Hearing things from a different perspective.
Opportunity to learn about sustainability as a field, here on campus and amongst colleagues. Loved outside time…on schedule.
So glad I participated in the workshop!
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
In the interest of sounding a little less unbearably flippant, I did change the official title of this February 2014 WFU conference to “Viticulture and the Environment,” but in my head and heart it remained “drink wine/ save the planet/ feed the hungry.”
The drinking wine part was expertly handled by Olivier Magny, a Parisian wine specialist who started his own wine tasting school after graduating from a top business school. He led a group of faculty, students, and one alumnus in a wine-tasting, following a talk by Professor Wayne Silver on “The Neurobiology of Wine Tasting (and Smelling).” So we drank a little wine. That was the easy part.
Magny’s work seems to have started from a sense of pleasure, but his own study of wine also led him to an awareness of the conditions in which grapes are grown and more specifically, soil health. He writes in his book Into Wine, “Studying how vineyards were farmed has helped me grasp that the importance of the soil actually goes far beyond wine, and that the implications of mistreating it are also much more far-reaching than we think.” Farming practices have the biggest impact on soil health, and there is much that deserves to be questioned in our current agribusiness practices. These issues are addressed in a rather international light in the documentary “Dirt,” which a small group of us watched together and then discussed. The politics behind agribusiness practices are daunting at best. In the spirit of a hummingbird analogy put forth by this film, both WFU EH&S Technician Justin Sizemore and Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri had ideas for addressing our individual carbon footprints.
I like to think of the following ideas as “Dr. Zimeri’s Eco Challenge.” Anne Marie Zimeri is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Science Department at the University of Georgia. One of the courses that she teaches is a first year seminar in which she gives her students an assignment to collect and record data related to behavior changes they make to lower their environmental impact. She has the students select a pledge topic according to their own interest, related to one of the following areas: 1) Vegetarian / vegan 2) Transportation 3) Single use disposables 4) Composting / packaging 5) Water conservation 6) Electricity 7) Local / organic. For example, if students were electing to go vegetarian or vegan for a week, they would include before and after data relating both to how much meat they consume, and to the food miles, water use (in the production of meat vs. vegetables and fruits) and carbon footprint. More detailed information on this will be part of an upcoming publication by Dr. Zimeri. Like the hummingbird, we can only do what we can do in decreasing our impact, one rain barrel, solar water heater, backyard garden and bike ride at a time. So we learned a little about saving the planet.
It was the welcome presence of Shelley Sizemore, Assistant Director of Campus Life and Service that allowed me to add feeding the hungry to the list. Technically, we only fed our hungry selves that night, but I learned more about some ongoing campus and local efforts, including Campus Kitchen that distributes prepared but unserved food through local agencies including the Shalom Project, an outreach network started by Green Street United Methodist church that provides food, clothing, medical services and networking to the community. Wake Forest also has its own garden that both provides Campus Kitchen with fresh produce and also helps Wake Forest students (and I would add, faculty) better understand and influence the social, environmental, biological and political consequences of food production and consumption. So we could be part of feeding the hungry, if we’re not already.
I like the three-fold nature of my not-really-the-title-except-yes-it-is, because it reminds me of just how interconnected everything is. Even starting from the position of a possible urban sophisticate enjoying his or her own glass of wine can logically lead to soil health, then to the importance of environmental stewardship, then to food production and distribution. So, next time you swirl and sip, think about where the contents of your glass were originally grown.
For more musings on the theme “Drink Wine/Save the Planet,” visit Dr. Barron’s blog.
Fresh students are being sown this spring as the new course, Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability roots itself into the curriculum of Wake Forest University. Under the leadership of Professor Lynn Book, Dr. Angela Kocze and Dr. Wanda Balzano, students narrow their focus on female entrepreneurs as today’s largest and fastest growing minority group in agriculture. Students work with community partners of the Innovators in Residence program which highlights local entrepreneurs of the Piedmont region.
The course’s primary Innovators in Residence collaborators, Margret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, cultivated their farm, Beta Verde, where they grow pesticide-free fruits and vegetables that are used for garden-to-table suppers at their home in Winston-Salem and are sold as delicious jams, pickles, and syrups. These “home sown” heroines also founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market which accepts EBT and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, providing a greater opportunity for people to have access to good food. These mother/daughter ventures provide insights that allow Margaret and Salem to serve as guides in matters of food traditions and food justice, regional economies, cultural diversity and environmental stewardship. It is through such symbiosis that the interdisciplinary course of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability has been able to help students better understand how women are impacting local and global communities while simultaneously forming a greater connection with food and place by learning beyond the gates of our own Forest.
The course will be hosting a collection of events throughout the spring semester that bring knowledge from the surrounding communities back to campus. The convivial environment of the course’s first event, SEED, was held last Wednesday on February 19th, and encouraged a certain quality of shared experience around food. This helped break the “busy” schedules of the Wake Forest community by providing an hour and a half of close conversation, local food tastings, live music, and shared stories. Margaret and Salem spoke of their love for people and place nurtured and sustained through their good food ventures. Together, they stressed the importance of sustaining a sense of place not only by protecting an area for the future, but also for the reclamation of an environment. The women addressed how the heritage of the Piedmont region was once previously occupied by apples which held a central place in the ecology of the land. The message of SEED focused on the importance of the restoration of these indigenous seeds if our community wishes to sustain the Piedmont land forward and to live in concert with an optimal environment that provides access to good foods. Working to make something that is close to disappearing abundant again is not an easy task. The notion that all regional schools, colleges, and universities could choose their own variety of apple trees to be planted on their respective grounds was offered by Margaret and Salem as one example of attaining this goal.
Through the creative collaboration of Women, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability and the Innovators in Residence program, a “biodiversity for the future” is encouraged that requires awareness and vigilance. This future envisions a change in dismissive and unthinking action towards a shared inspiration for students, administrators, and members of the Piedmont community to cultivate and protect the resources under our feet by reclaiming, stewarding, and taking pleasure in good food as a fundamental right for all people.
When thinking about theological education, sustainability might not be the first word that comes to mind. The Wake Forest Divinity School, however, is currently adopting some changes that will influence sustainability learning outcomes for their students.
At the end of the spring 2013 semester, a group of Divinity School faculty participated in a retreat centered around the question “What would it look like to have a curriculum that takes full advantage of the places where we are located?” The result will be a gradual transformation of the curriculum to reflect what many refer to as a “place-based” education. By definition, place-based education is rooted in the unique culture, history, and ecology of the community.
The Divinity School has since introduced new courses that take full advantage of the place where we are located. For instance, in a class on worship and liturgy, in which the professor teaches about baptisms and communion, the students have been able to connect these sacred rituals to the place in which they are located. The class began with a trip to the Salem Creek, followed by a visit to the Water Treatment Plant. Divinity School Dean Gail O’Day notes that these trips aid the students in viewing water in a different way; they begin to think about the water theologically and have a newfound appreciation for it as a resource. The class also took visits to a community garden and a local winery in order to fully understand these resources from cultural, ecological, and theological perspectives.
This unusual approach to graduate education appears to be incredibly beneficial in several different ways. As expected, taking advantage of the “place” element of education has a positive impact on the students’ learning and in their preparation as leaders who understand issues members of their communities are facing. Jill Crainshaw, professor of worship and liturgical theology, explains that effective religious leaders must be “deeply immersed in and knowledgeable about the people, history, and patterns of the particular places where they serve.” This curricular approach emphasizes the importance of a connection and understanding with the surrounding community, in hopes that they will take this strong foundation with them to the communities where they will serve in the future. According to Dean O’Day, “The better they understand the complexity of the world in which they live and in which they are going to serve, the better able they are to make informed decisions about what’s good for their community.”
The new curriculum also seems to instill a passion for sustainability and caring for the Earth. Dr. Crainshaw explains that through these place-based classes, students appear to develop “cosmocentric sacramentality” in which they “begin to see the many ways in which the world around them – both inside and outside of the walls of the church – is sacred.” In this way, the Divinity School is not only shaping individuals who care for the people they are serving, but also about the environment they call home. Dr. Mark Jensen, who received a grant from the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability to convene the curriculum retreat, is a leader in the ongoing curriculum changes. He says that an essential part of achieving their mission of developing “agents of justice, reconciliation and compassion” is exploring themes of sustainability and instilling the idea of the interlocking contexts of natural and built environments. Jensen quoted environmental writer Wes Jackson saying that we all need to “become native to the place in which we live” and take lessons from ecosystems that work harmoniously.
The developments across the curriculum complement a strong existing interest in sustainability within the school. An environmental theology student group called EcoTheo has grown in popularity over the past several years, convening regular meetings, contributing time to service projects, and working to incorporate principles of sustainability into everyday practices around the school. At their bi-weekly community lunches, students and faculty now use reusable plates and silverware, which the students wash, and food scraps are collected for composting after each meal.
A Food, Faith and Religious Leadership initiative offers to “equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.”
The Wake Forest Divinity School’s leadership is shaping the future not only of the communities in which its graduate students will serve, but of the wellbeing of life on the planet.
By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer