This fall Hannah Slodounik (pronounced: Sla – duv – nick) assumed the role of Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. Her broad range of experience with sustainability programs throughout the country will serve her well as she works to advance several sustainability initiatives at Wake Forest.
Underlying her professional experience is a passion for sustainability that was fostered at a young age during trips to the Grand Teton National Park and weekends spent applying storm drain stickers to local curbs. It wasn’t, however, until she arrived at the University of Redlands that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in sustainability. Looking back, the path seems clear. After transferring to the small liberal arts school in California, she was randomly placed in the sustainability theme dorm there. After that, she helped found the first “environmental sorority” Kappa Pi Zeta at the university serving as the sustainability chair. The sorority’s mascot (as well as her favorite animal) is the leatherback sea turtle.
While at the University of Redlands, Slodounik not only focused on the human dimension of sustainability but also the scientific dimension. Slodounik studied abroad in Costa Rica where she conducted field research to help quantify the environmental benefits of shade-grown coffee. During a travel course to Tetiaroa Atoll in French Polynesia, Slodounik collected GPS data to contribute to a GIS database, used to assess the risk of an emergent sand bar between two of the tropical islands as well the potential for renewable energy installations for a new luxury eco-resort on the atoll (arguably the world’s best job). After receiving her BS in Environmental Science, Slodounik interned in the City of St. Louis Mayor’s office where she collected GPS data in preparation for the city’s participation in ICLEI’s STAR Community Index.
Most recently, Slodounik served as an AmeriCorps member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as the Sustainability Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. This position entailed a wide variety of programming initiatives. She worked closely with student EcoVols (Vols – as in UT Volunteers), a group of students functioning as stewards for sustainability in their dorms. She also worked with student interns conducting an energy audit of campus with grant money from the TVA EnergyRight Solutions for Higher Education program. The rest of her work ran the gamut from leading trail clean-up operations to clearing weedy islands in parking lots to make way for edible vegetation. During football season she managed volunteers for the Game Day Recycling program at the sprawling UT tailgates and planned an entire month of celebration around Earth Day.
Although she has worked with many different programs and universities on sustainability-related issues, she is particularly excited to work at Wake Forest because of the attention the university has given to sustainability and the relationship between the office and the students here. Slodounik especially enjoys working with students here who are, in her assessment, “excited to learn, have the potential to significantly impact their peers, and continue sustainable behaviors for the majority of their life.”
To her, the location of the office itself, in the heart of campus, speaks to the attitudes about sustainability here and the accessibility a small liberal arts school can offer. Part of the reason she was attracted to the university was her ability to work with the corps of student interns working in the office of sustainability: “Aside from being enjoyable, working with student interns just makes sense. Students have a different understanding of campus, they gain practical experience from the internship, and it strengthens our network on campus.”
By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern