The Office of Service and Social Action facilitates opportunities for students to connect to the community, serve others, and explore social justice issues. Through these experiences, students develop into engaged, reflective, and knowledgeable change agents in the global community.
Volunteer Service Corps is a student run organization dedicated to furthering the University’s motto of Pro Humanitate by engaging students, faculty, and staff in meaningful volunteer service.
The Campus Kitchen is a volunteer led food recycling program. Participants fight food insecurity in Winston-Salem by working closely with partner agencies to redistribute food donations from The Fresh Food Company and other partners.
The Institute for Public Engagement (IPE) is an academic center focused on connecting Wake Forest’s academic mission to the needs of our community. IPE provides resources and support for students, faculty, staff, and members of the broader community seeking to realize the values implied by the University’s motto, Pro Humanitate.
Students and staff circled around a vibrant Japanese Maple tree at Student Apartments on April 24th to celebrate Arbor Day. Landscaping Services, Residence Life and Housing, and the Office of Sustainability co-hosted the ceremony in conjunction with a Campus Beautification Day celebration that was organized by Greeks Go Green interns.
University Arborist Jim Mussetter, presented the ceremonial tree, a cultivar known as Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ or “Lion’s Head.” Mussetter described that this specific cultivar was chosen for its slow growth and striking fall foliage of gold and crimson tones. As the first ‘shishigashira’ introduced to campus, the tree will be a seasonal focal point in the housing courtyard for decades to come. University Chaplain Tim Auman led a poetry reading before guests in attendance planted the tree.
Immediately following the ceremony, students divided into groups, led by Greeks Go Green representatives, to pick up litter across campus as part of the Campus Beautification Day celebration. From small tools to cigarette butts, students collected litter of all shapes and sizes in an effort to Keep the Forest Green. Participants were recognized for their contributions: the first-year class turned out in the highest numbers as did brothers from Alpha Sigma Phi. After the clean-up, students were rewarded with at a cookout, including grass-fed burgers made from Grayson Natural beef, which was generously co-sponsored by Residence Life and Housing, Outdoor Programs, and Landscaping Services.
The fourth annual Arbor Day ceremony and the inaugural Campus Beautification Day service event exemplify Wake Forest University’s commitment to our Tree Campus USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation.
The Sierra Leone Watershed Project Foundation (SLWPF) was born out of a series of conversations in a criminal procedure course taught by Vice Provost and professor of law Jennifer Collins. As students, Adam Chapman and I were vocal contributors to the course discussion and we often found ourselves on different sides of the ideological coin; Ryan Bouley was a mediator of sorts, as he often intervened with comic relief. Collins’ course was unique in that it provided an atmosphere conducive to exploring human psychology at the intersection of criminal legal theory. Her course put diversity into action. It moved students past sitting in a room with people from different backgrounds to learning from the various viewpoints that those backgrounds produced. The course provided us with experience that helped us in life, not just in the practice of law.
Adam and I became fast friends through our discussions in class, which lead us to discover that we shared a passion for giving back on a global scale. Adam had experience with charity fundraising and had volunteered in Haiti building cisterns to improve rural water supplies. He approached me with the idea of starting a project that would help improve access to clean water in Sierra Leone. He felt that his experience, coupled with my connections to the country, would make a strong combination and that our education rendered us capable of improving existing models and providing water in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way.
The project got off to a slow start because we were spending lots of time planning, writing proposals, researching and making pitches to people who could help fund the program but who had no real incentive to contribute because we hadn’t made any impact yet, and because they didn’t have any connection to Sierra Leone. We started this project in 2010 and after so many stages of planning we decided in 2012 to make whatever little impact we could with money from our pockets and hope that people would join us once they realized that our program was effective. Ryan Bouley joined the team shortly after we took this small step forward and has been key to our current momentum. Ryan is a businessman and he encouraged us to get our house in order in terms of finance and business compliance; since he joined the team the support for SLWPF has really snowballed.
As the SLWPF team looks forward, raising the amount of funding necessary to make sure that the project keeps moving is an ongoing concern. Although financial resources are necessary, making the right long term partnerships concerns me more than money. I believe in the generosity of the human spirit and I know that people will eventually donate once they become acquainted with our cause, but to truly make this project sustainable, in terms of passing maintenance responsibility back to communities and minimizing negative environmental impact, we need information and skills that the three of us don’t possess. SLWPF needs to become a collaborative effort across disciplines and organizations.
For the year ahead, SLWPF plans to hold a large fundraising event to build resources and strategic partnerships, to continue our water pump repair program and add a video/photo documentary program focused on developing grassroots solutions to Sierra Leone’s water coverage issues. The SLWPF team is excited about the challenges ahead and invites everyone who is interested to contribute in any way that they can. To learn more, visit the foundation’s website at http://sierraleonewater.org/.
Wake Forest’s celebration of Earth Day this year included the announcement of Champions of Change award winners. This was the first year of the program, which recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability across campus. Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented the awards.
Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.
- Residence Life & Housing and Financial Services were jointly named champions of change in Resource Conservation. Residence Life and Housing dramatically reduced solid waste and conserved water through renovation and retrofit programs this past year; Financial Services supported the conversion to electronic business processes campus-wide.
- Campus Kitchen was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Campus Kitchen repurposes prepared, but not served, food from our campus dining facilities into balanced meals for members of the broader Winston-Salem community.
- For Teaching, Research and Engagement, Lynn Book and her faculty colleagues Angela Kocze and Wanda Balzano were recognized for their work in the new course, “Women, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.” Students collaborated with community partners Margaret Norfleet-Neff and Salem Neff, the mother-daughter team who founded the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market.
- Abby McNeal was recognized for her Bright Idea in turf management and the installation of the UgMo Wireless Soil Sensor System at Spry Soccer Field. UgMo is an underground monitoring system that measures soil moisture at the root level and determines when and how much to water on a zone-to-zone basis.
Thirty nominations were received for the four awards. A committee evaluated the nominations based on:
- The ways in which the nominees have helped advance one or more of the Wake Forest University campus sustainability strategic goals
- The level of participation by colleagues within the department or unit
- The measurable impact among constituents across campus or in the community served
Additionally, Green Team captains Peter Romanov, Darlene Starnes and Carol Lavis were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. 65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.
Contributed by Alyshah Aziz (’16)
As a sophomore minoring in Environmental Studies, caring for the environment is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. Participating in the Knoxville, TN Wake Alternative Break trip served as an opportunity to reground my beliefs. Often, in our fast-moving technology-centered world, I have found myself becoming isolated from nature and its beauty.
Laura Coats and De’Noia Woods, recent WFU alumnae and current AmeriCorps members, hosted us in Knoxville and organized the activities for our trip. The heart of the work was service in areas of environmental conservation and waste reduction. Some service activities throughout the week consisted of packing Mobile Meals, laying the foundation for a disc golf course, carrying out a clean-up at Ijams Nature Sanctuary, working in an urban garden, and clearing more privet than I have seen in my entire life!
Our venture to the Queen City of the Mountains was quite unique compared to any other service trip I have experienced. Each WAB trip has a specific focus – some are more people-centered than others. For me, the WAB trip inspired the process of questioning, fostered independence, and allowed me to reconnect with nature. As a society, we benefit from many ecosystem services. Our unique adventures each day allowed me to see the raw beauty nature humbly provides for us. The primary goal was to help heal the physical environment. In turn, the hope is that the healthy environment is able to serve both humans and other living beings.
The work allowed time to think and to reconnect with our gracious hosts, Laura and De’Noia. It was interesting to hear their experiences during freshman and sophomore years at Wake, and find the similarities with my own experiences. Since Laura and I were both former EcoReps, she shared with me that she originally joined AmeriCorps with the hope that it would be similar to the EcoReps program we have on campus. Although she found her position in AmeriCorps working with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to be different from what she expected, it is still a very enriching experience.
As a current sophomore I have begun starting to ponder: Where do I see myself after I receive my four-year degree from Wake Forest? What people would I like to be surrounded by? While working in Pond Gap Elementary’s Garden, something Laura said really hit home. She shared that she has never been a part of a group of such like-minded individuals before. Transitioning from an EcoRep to an intern with the Office of Sustainability, I strongly feel that I have been able to better find my niche on campus through my encounters with students, faculty, and staff. I have met many interesting and refreshing students in my Environmental Studies minor courses and have been introduced to new activities, events, and perspectives to which I otherwise might not have been exposed.
I came to the realization that although many of my peers might not consider themselves environmentalists, we are the generation that consciously bikes more, drives less, promotes carpooling, and actively searches for local foods. My goals and values have solidified through my WAB experience; although I came into the trip with a passion for the environment, being able to interact with the environment in different ways each day was a refreshing experience. The beauty, strength, and wisdom of Nature never cease to amaze me, and I will always treasure these opportunities.
Contributed by Pam Denish (’15)
Last fall, I studied abroad in Bonaire, a small island in the southern Caribbean. The program focused on coral reef ecology and tropical marine conservation. I chose the program because I have always been passionate about marine biology and conservation, and I knew it would give me first-hand research experience in a beautiful location. Throughout the program I spent a lot of time SCUBA diving and learning about different marine ecosystems, the species that inhabit them, how human activities are threatening the oceans, and what can be done to protect them.
Among the most shocking of my experiences were beach clean-ups, during which we collected trash and disposed of it in the island’s sole waste management site. Many of the locations we cleaned were not popular recreational areas, but rocky shores and dense marshes. These places were overwhelmed by trash that had washed ashore from the ocean. I couldn’t help but think that if this much trash had been washed ashore, there must be much more still circulating in the oceans.
These trash collections caused me and my classmates to consider how we could encourage the public to reduce the amount of trash they throw away and teach them why it is important. We hosted a children’s environmental fair with booths showing the life in the oceans as well as suggestions for easy ways to reduce our impact, including recycling and creative ways to repurpose trash. We had an arts and crafts station where we made wallets and Christmas ornaments out of old boxes, and snow globes out of jars; the children were amazed by how many fun things could be made from trash. We also distributed flyers about how to reduce trash output by using reusable shopping bags and purchasing groceries with minimum packaging.
Another rewarding experience was the work I did once a week with children from a local after-school program designed to keep kids off the street. Through snorkeling activities and games, we taught them the basics about coral reefs and how humans affect the reefs. It was fun to see the kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm each week. I truly believe that if we can inspire children to care about sustainability and protecting the environment, then we have the ability to preserve and restore many beautiful and important ecosystems.
Going abroad enriched my life in many ways, and continues to do so. Not only did I get to experience and learn about my passion – the ocean – but I also learned that we have the power and responsibility to protect our environment. We are inextricably linked to the earth, and it is to our own benefit that we learn to live sustainably and protect it. This experience abroad imbued me with the spirit of helping the community to protect the environment and it definitely channeled the familiar and beloved spirit of Pro Humanitate.
This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.
In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:
- resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
- academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
- service and social action, and
- bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).
We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.
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.
As of May 2013, students, faculty, and staff on the Reynolda campus have collected and donated a cumulative 8000 pounds of books to Better World Books, an online bookstore, social enterprise, and B Corporation. Founded in 2002, Better World Books has raised nearly $15 million for global literacy projects, including $7.3 million for literacy and education nonprofits and $7.2 million for libraries nationwide. Since its founding, the organization has re-used or recycled over 146 million pounds of books – that’s over 100 million books.
At Wake Forest, we began collecting books for donation to Better World Books in 2009. Our students donate an average of approximately 2000 pounds of books during move-out each year. Collection boxes are placed in the bookstore, making it convenient for students to donate the books that the bookstore isn’t able to buy back.
From time to time, faculty members also clean out their offices and clear off their bookshelves. Several have opted to donate their unwanted books to Better World Books. The process is simple: the Office of Sustainability delivers boxes to a departmental liaison; once the boxes are packed and taped, the office prints and delivers pre-paid UPS labels and the boxes are picked up for shipping. We cannot accept textbooks that are more than ten years old. Instead, those can be recycled locally.
Better World Books sells some of the donated books online and returns a portion of the proceeds to the programs it supports. For the first time this year, Better World Books invited Wake Forest to designate a local literacy partner to support. We chose the Augustine Project for Literacy’s Literate Girls program, a unique tutoring program that supports low-income girls with learning differences in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.
For more information about Wake Forest’s relationship with Better World Books or how you can get boxes for an office clean-out, contact the Office of Sustainability at or at ext. 3328.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Summer isn’t necessarily a vacation for Wake Forest students. From late May to early August, The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest, a student-run service organization, maintains full operations, serving 154 meals per week to underserved members of the Winston-Salem community. Unlike during the spring and fall, when Campus Kitchen is run by a six-member executive board and a 24-member leadership team, during the summer three interns are at the helm of one of Wake Forest’s flagship service organizations.
The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University is an affiliate of the Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization dedicated to fighting hunger and reducing waste through food recycling programs on college campuses. The Campus Kitchen model takes surplus prepared (but never served) meals from campus dining facilities and distributes these meals to partner agencies serving local communities. In addition to this basic model, the Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University partners with the Fresh Market, rescuing edible produce and baked goods and delivering the food in bulk to agencies serving populations with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University also partners with the Campus Garden, incorporating fresh, campus-grown produce into balanced meals.
Brittany Forniotis (’15), David Hale (’15), John Iskander (’16), and Monica Hedge (’14) make up the summer 2013 team of Campus Kitchen interns. Brittany, who is also spending her summer conducting original research on American slave narratives, splits five cooking shifts and five food delivery shifts with David, a premedical student who is also currently conducting summer research. John serves as the Fresh Market intern, running five food rescue shifts per week and researching the feasibility of food trucks as a means of increasing access to nutritious food. Monica will replace Brittany as one of the cooking and delivery interns for the second half of the summer.
According to the Campus Kitchens Project’s national guidelines, all meals must include a protein, a vegetable, a starch, and a dessert. Because there are fewer students on campus during the summer, the Fresh Food Company has less surplus food to donate to Campus Kitchen, so the interns must creatively combine resources to meet the organization’s standards. Brittany, who plans many of the summer menus, relies heavily on produce grown in the WFU Campus Garden. Most recently, she and summer volunteers prepared a huge salad with roasted beets, greens, and beet greens from the Campus Garden.
David, who served the salad at the SECU Family House, an agency providing housing for the families of patients who travel to Winston-Salem for medical treatment, reports “Everyone is always really happy when I say we grew these beets in our Campus Garden…they were so impressed that it was full circle, that we are using what we have and being sustainable.”
Partner agencies rely on Campus Kitchen to stay open during the summer, but David explains that the summer also provides an opportunity to reach new volunteers. He says “it is also important for us to educate volunteers, whether they are at a summer camp here, faculty and staff, or just anyone in the Winston-Salem area, to realize that [food insecurity] is an important issue in our region that many people don’t know about.” He also explains that bringing new volunteers into Campus Kitchen “is really about removing the stigma from certain areas [of Winston-Salem] or the stereotypes someone might associate with a particular type of person.”
In the context of cooking shifts, Brittany takes care to talk to volunteers about “where the food is going, what sort of people are receiving the food, and what sort of health problems they might have.” She explains the intentional choices she makes based on the population being served, such as sending reduced dessert portions and low-salt meals to senior housing where many residents suffer from diabetes and hypertension.
In the context of delivery shifts, David explains the goal of a particular partner agency and how food from Campus Kitchen fits into that goal. For instance, at Prodigals Community, a faith-based drug rehabilitation facility, David explains to volunteers how the Sunday night meal provided by Campus Kitchen allows Prodigals to allocate funds towards programs that facilitate residents’ recovery.
When asked what the Campus Kitchen needs from the Wake Forest community this summer, the interns offer a single emphatic answer: volunteers. David says “We need people who are willing to be flexible, to try something new…to go out of their comfort zone, to get out of the Wake Forest bubble and realize that these places exist in Winston-Salem.”
To volunteer for Campus Kitchen, contact Brittany Forniotis at .
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability
As she began to examine questions about life-cycle analysis and resource efficiency, she says “I realized…to get a sense of what’s going on, you can use fairly simple math. I decided that would be a great place to bring in students, to give them the confidence to apply straightforward mathematics to analyze complex situations.”
This urge to combine a personal passion for sustainability with her career resulted in Dr. Mason’s first-year seminar, Counting on Sustainable Energy: Does it Add Up?, which she is currently teaching for a second time this spring. The simple addition, multiplication, and conversion involved in the course are far from her traditional research field of combinatorics, but Dr. Mason’s course demonstrates how “pretty basic mathematics can be used to do some powerful things.”
Counting on Sustainable Energy fosters a greater understanding of alternative energy and arms students with the ability to critically evaluate assertions about the relative environmental impacts of various fuel sources. “One of the biggest things that I want my students to get out of this class is getting comfortable taking claims and evaluating them for themselves. If someone says something is better for the environment, I want my students to be able to go home and verify that claim.”
Over the course of a semester, Dr. Mason’s students will investigate a wide array of alternative energy sources, including solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal. They will examine how much energy these sources could produce on Wake Forest’s campus and how much energy a Wake Forest student consumes each day. By the end of the semester, students will find an answer to the course’s central question: Could we, with our current consumption patterns, rely on sustainable energy at Wake Forest University? If the answer is yes, students will explain exactly how a switch to sustainable energy might be feasible in their final paper. If the answer is no, students will lay out a plan to reduce energy consumption.
Much of Dr. Mason’s FYS is hands-on. Her students began the course by measuring their own electricity consumption with a Kill-a-watt, an exercise designed to give them an idea of scale when they use the watt or kilowatt hour (kWh) as a unit of measure. Recently, her students completed the construction of miniature wind turbines, an exercise designed to familiarize them with the mechanics of wind energy. As part of their final project, students will develop and staff interactive educational booths at Food for Thought, this spring’s Earth Day celebration for the Wake Forest community.
In addition to readings and class projects, Counting on Sustainable Energy includes a line-up of guest speakers, including a representative from Volt energy (the company responsible for the solar panels on The Barn) and an environmental engineer working in wind turbine installation. Students will visit a land fill and a geothermal installation. So far, Dr. Mason’s students have matched an impressive syllabus with impressive work product. Dr. Mason reports her students are highly motivated by the subject matter, explaining “because they are passionate about [sustainability], they are willing to do the leg work.”
The latest version of Counting on Sustainability is a result of Dr. Mason’s participation in the Magnolias Project, a WFU faculty workshop on integrating sustainability across the curriculum. An assigned reading on the moral ecology of everyday life (from Higher Education for Sustainability) inspired Dr. Mason to take the focus of Counting on Sustainability from a national level down to a campus level; her students have benefited from an opportunity to relate to their course material directly.
Not only did the Magnolias Project allow Dr. Mason to refine her syllabus, she also made valuable connections to faculty from different disciplines. This network continues to be source of ideas and feedback, which Dr. Mason finds particularly valuable as a mathematician teaching a writing-intensive course. This spring, she will co-lead the second iteration of the Magnolias Project with Dr. Lucas Johnston, a faculty member in the Religion department and another member of the Magnolias Project’s first cohort.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mason also integrates sustainability into her life beyond the classroom. When moving to Winston-Salem, she intentionally purchased a home within walking distance from campus and often uses a bicycle for transportation. An avid hiker, she partially attributes her interest in sustainability to a love of the outdoors, saying “I love hiking and I really value being able to explore untouched places. I worry our society is moving towards less and less of these beautiful, spectacular places.”
A passion for sustainability runs in Dr. Mason’s family. The environmental engineer who spoke to her class about wind turbines was her father and her brother is an urban planner, currently tackling solutions for mass transit in developing countries. Her brother also helped her tackle a compost bin project in her backyard and Dr. Mason plans to put her compost to good use this year. She muses “I love being able to go out and make a salad with ingredients straight from my backyard, there is something really satisfying about that.”
Dr. Mason’s academic innovation is possible through the generous support of the university, for which she is continually grateful. Her students are equivalently grateful for Dr. Mason, especially those like sophomore Caroline Waco, whose experience in Dr. Mason’s FYS last year inspired her to do independent research on the factors impacting the payback period for solar photovoltaic panels. Dr. Mason explains that her promotion of sustainability at Wake Forest naturally flows from her interest in the topic. She says “I’ve always believed in following my passions, and hopefully that leads to a strong contribution to my community.”
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability