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Sustainability at Wake Forest

Archive for the ‘Conference’ Category

Sustainability Sings in the Music City

Monday, October 28th, 2013

AASHE 2013Just as fall started to peek its vibrant head around the corner, I ventured over to the music city with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Director of Sustainability, and Megan Anderson, Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, to attend the 2013 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.

This year, the annual conference, which moves around the nation, attracted over 1,700 attendees. Held in the new Music City Center in downtown Nashville, a LEED silver-certified guitar shaped conference center, the energy of the city reverberated in conference attendees, including me.

As only a second-year attendee, it was an exciting opportunity to indulge in the visionary ideas presented by internationally acclaimed sustainability leaders, including Raj Patel and George Bandy, to attend a few thought-provoking workshops, and to connect with colleagues from around the world.

Members of the Southeastern Sustainability Coordinators Network congregated for dinner one evening at a local hotspot in revitalized East Nashville. It was nice to reconnect with other sustainability professionals and to meet some faculty and students from the region, who are not typically involved in the network’s regular meetings.

AASHE 2013 was also a bright reminder of the impact higher education makes in the development of a more sustainable world. With universities the size of towns and university systems larger than entire states, operational changes for sustainability translate to multi-scalar resource conservation and policy development opportunities. Curricular and co-curricular commitments to education for sustainability generate change agents with the necessary critical thinking and leadership skills to lead the societal transformation.

As a silver rated campus in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, Wake Forest embodies these opportunities: our students and faculty are developing and applying research that is stimulating change at home and in the places they work around the world. Our commitment to Pro Humanitate through service and social action demonstrates our leadership for the betterment of humanity. WFU’s influence in the field was evident to conference attendees as Dedee was the master of ceremony for the conference and co-lead both pre-conference and conference workshops.

What boost of energy the conference-catered coffee failed to provide, our colleagues offered through shared stories, new ideas, and inspired laughs. After all, if a conference in the music city doesn’t make you come back with a little honky tonk in your sustainability step, then maybe you should keep on walking.

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator 

Community of Scholars Grows

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Rain garden at Winston HallEleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 15-16, 2013 for the 2nd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was facilitated by alumni from last year’s inaugural project: Sarah Mason (mathematics) and Luke Johnston (religion).

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 relevant 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 plans to launch a new Master’s in sustainability next 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 communication, Divinity, education, entrepreneurship, humanities, math, physics, psychology, and writing.

Closing comments from participants in the 2013 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model; when asked what they enjoyed most about the experience they said:

 Bringing together folks from different disciplines and allowing the conversation to unfold organically.

Interacting with colleagues and bouncing ideas off each other. The outdoor excursion was great!

The camaraderie of the instructors and participants.

I think it did a good job providing substantive introductions to the constellation of issues that make up sustainability without being overly long or too one-track.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability

Coopitition – It’s Not Just for Business Anymore

Friday, September 13th, 2013

This summer, representatives from the Southeastern Sustainability Network (SESN) gathered on the Wake Forest campus to share ideas, challenges, resources, serious talk, laughs, and good food.

Wake Forest University is one of the 871 member campuses of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Membership in this national (now international) body has skyrocketed since 2008. Attendance at the annual national gathering tops 2,000.

Since 2009, sustainability directors at schools in the Southeast have also been meeting monthly by conference call to bring the benefits of networking down to a regional scale. We share some commonalities – energy sources and pricing, water issues, political climate – that influence the way we frame our work. The governance of the group is truly sustainable: flattened, collaborative, and highly functional. Participant campuses run the gamut from behemoth research and extension universities to small liberal arts campuses, with myriad configurations in between.

In some cases, our campuses compete for students, grants, and athletic titles. In other cases, we merely co-exist in the higher education landscape. The outcome of this purposeful sharing of resources – intellectual and otherwise – is a rising tide that lifts us all higher. In this case, cooperation makes us all more competitive in the higher education marketplace.

This summer’s in-person gathering was our first. Though many of us see one another at conferences and often present together in professional settings, it was nice to enjoy a mix of collegiality and camaraderie in a more intimate atmosphere. The Wake Forest campus was decked out in full summer bloom, South Hall offered comfortable sleeping quarters for a few nights, and Posh Plate pulled out all the stops in presenting a gracious locally-sourced spread at every meal.

Our office enjoyed rolling out the Southern hospitality to our friends from around the region and we look forward to sharing time together next summer lifting the boat even higher.

By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability