Just 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
“When you die, God will not ask you how old the earth is. He will ask you ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’”
In celebration of World Food Day, the WFU Divinity School’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative and the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability hosted Richard Cizik for a discussion of what some refer to as creation care, or a scriptural call to care for God’s creation.
Cizik served for ten years as Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the top staff position in the organization. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” he expressed support for addressing climate change and sparked a national uproar within the evangelical movement. Soon thereafter, he was discharged from his post.
In his work as the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik is now empowered to address the interconnections between food, poverty, and climate change. He references Bob Doppelt’s book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking in saying that we cannot be good stewards of creation without understanding the systems that surround us. Global hunger is not simply a matter of inadequate distribution: floods, draught, poverty, the subjugated roles of women, and regressive global economic and agricultural policies all play a role in the inability of families and communities to access food.
According to Cizik, food and climate have become two of the most important issues to young evangelical voters. He believes that leadership on these issues requires bold action and a commitment to morally just behavior. In the conversion from climate denial to climate action, he witnesses a deny-deliberate-do-defend cycle. He sees more and more faith leaders making the conversion and answering the call to action because it is aligned with their intrinsic biblical values.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
A diverse academic audience was prescribed a remedy for some of the defining environmental issues of the century when Winona LaDuke, American Indian political activist and founding co-director of Honor the Earth, spoke at Wake Forest in late September.
LaDuke’s heritage and experience – founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project in her Anishinaabe homelands in Minnesota, co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, former board member of Greenpeace USA, and two-time national office vice presidential candidate – provided a unique landscape for her lecture entitled “To Honor the Spirit of the Earth: Contemporary Indigenous Approaches to Sustainable Economies.” Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies, says “Winona LaDuke is a global leader and spokesperson in environmental sustainability. She offers a perspective and depth of knowledge that is rarely heard on our campus.”
LaDuke outlined what she identifies as the three most important issues regarding sustainability: climate change, peak oil, and food insecurity. She went on to describe how the current American view on sustainability and the environment is both flawed and unsustainable, saying “It seems like people don’t want to stick around for another 1000 years.” Rather than making viable public policy, we simply clean up the messes we make. She explained to the audience that Americans have an addiction, and that we partake in extreme behaviors, including fracking and mountaintop removal, in order to feed this addiction.
By highlighting various flaws she sees in our economy and the catastrophic consequences of our current behaviors, she urged the audience to spring into action, describing the changes she implemented in her own community: eating local foods, using renewable energy, and increasing the biodiversity of her crops. She emphasized that if her community, which has high rates of poverty, incarceration, and chronic illness, can do it, then the Wake Forest community can too. “You could sit here and pretend that someone else is going to do it. But as my culture says, ‘you are either at the table or on the menu.”
LaDuke’s lecture was a wake-up call for several attendees. As Dr. Wanda Balzano, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program articulated, “Not only is Winona LaDuke a role model for many women who are fighting for social justice, but she is also one of the most important voices of our time as an environmentalist, as an inspirational author, and as a feminist and political activist.” Her presentation will hopefully incite change in our Wake Forest community, and inspire us to plan for the next seven generations in everything that we do.
By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer
WFU was the host site for the Piedmont Triad Green Roof & Wall Market Development Symposium in mid-September. The conference, which was organized by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in partnership with the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (CEES), brought experts from around the state and across the country together to display the newest green roof and wall technologies as well as to discuss the benefits of living architecture and how to advance the field.
Learn more about the symposium from the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability website.
Eleven 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
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
The Learn Experience Navigate Solve (LENS) @ Wake Forest program offered 38 rising high school juniors and seniors a three-week, hands-on opportunity to engage with peers around the 2013 theme “Sustainability – Operate locally and extend globally.” Students partnered with faculty and community leaders to examine issues, and then worked in teams to tackle real-world challenges. The inspiring discussions and college environment lent itself to fun activities and friendships along the way.
Read more about the 2013 LENS @ Wake Forest experience.
In late July, over 240 students, educators, and administrators came to Wake Forest University to attend Camp Snowball, an annual summer “camp” that promotes systems thinking and education for sustainability. Camp Snowball, which is hosted annually in various locations around the country, chose Wake Forest as its first university host site. This choice signals the recognition of Wake Forest’s sustainability efforts in the broader community.
Camp Snowball’s vision, inspired by renowned systems theorist Peter Senge, is to develop a community of leaders to build capacity to shape the future through systems thinking and education for sustainability. Speakers at this year’s camp included Nancy Conrad, the founder of the Conrad Foundation and the Spirit of Innovation Challenge; Marv Adams, COO of TD Ameritrade; Jessica Bailey, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, Winston-Salem State University; and Michael Fullan, noted expert on change in education.
Elayne Dorsey, a lead member of the camp staff explained that WFU’s commitment to sustainability, exemplified by the Office of Sustainability, drew the camp to select WFU as a venue. “With a focus on education for sustainability, it felt like a natural match to choose an institution that reflects the values of the camp,” Dorsey said. Camp co-organizer LeAnne Grillo echoed the sentiment: “We look for a location that has both an espoused and implemented sustainability plan.”
A university setting also supports the concepts Camp Snowball promotes. “It helps reinforce systems thinking education and learning,” Dorsey commented. WFU provided the 40 students in attendance a college campus experience including conversations with admissions counselors and campus tours. Although the organizers have not settled on next year’s host site, Grillo attested “Several students commented that thinking about going to college became more real to them now that they had the chance to experience college life.”
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability
Did you get a chance to see those artsy trees on the Mag Quad for Earth Day? If you did, you witnessed Wake a Forest, a play on the United Nations’ Make a Forest campaign. In 2011, the UN proclaimed that year to be dedicated to the forest. Their aim was to highlight the forestry industry while shedding light on the adverse effects of deforestation at the same time. To do this, cultural institutions were prompted to create their own trees across the globe while portraying what a forest meant to them. A sample of these trees can be found at makeaforest.org.
These trees ranged from typographical trees crafted out of shoe laces to walls covered in suggested tree forms. The types of trees were wide-ranging. A team of Wake Forest students headed by De’Noia Woods and Kelsey Zalimeni decided to create their own Wake a Forest to contribute to the project. Individuals or groups who participated had one constraint – they had to use found and reclaimed materials. After much thought, students took the idea and ran with it by creating trees out of materials from plaster to old street signs. The types of trees varied as a reflection of the interest of the group or the personality of the individual student. The forest emulated the array of students that attend Wake Forest University in a very creative and unique way. Check out the WAF trees at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainablewfu/.
Contributed by De’Noia Woods ‘13, Office of Sustainability Photography Intern
Food For Thought 2013, the Office of Sustainability’s Earth Day Celebration, was a great success. The fair was held on Manchester Plaza on April 20th. Students, faculty, staff, and other members of the community enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day full of live music, live animals, educational booths on sustainable practices, and great food and drink. The Office of Sustainability is grateful to attendees, vendors, educators, volunteers, and performers who participated. The success of the fair would not have been possible without each, who helped further foster knowledge and engagement in sustainable practices.