Wake Forest University encourages all members of the campus community to take responsibility for the interdependent environmental, economic, and social consequences of their actions.
News Related to Stewardship
The Office of Sustainability is pleased to welcome Brian Cohen and Ally Hellenga, who joined the Wake Forest Sustainability team on August 1, as the Program Coordinator and Communication and Events Coordinator, respectively.
“We are fortunate to have attracted such bright and accomplished individuals to our team. These two bring experience in both sustainability and higher education – their talents and perspectives provide a fresh and creative lens on our work,” Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Chief Sustainability Officer for Wake Forest University, said.
Cohen comes to Wake Forest after serving as an assistant tennis coach at Old Dominion University and Washington & Lee University, where he also became a leader in campus sustainability. He helped introduce a number of environmental initiatives to the athletic departments at both schools and served as the Athletic Department Liaison for Environmental Initiatives at Washington & Lee. In addition, Cohen has experience in marine conservation with two NGOs: SeaWeb and the Ocean Conservancy.
Cohen holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Bucknell University and a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
As Program Coordinator, Cohen manages all aspects of student, faculty, and staff peer education networks, collaborates with multiple units to collect and analyze sustainability-related metrics, and develops targeted operational and educational opportunities to accelerate the adoption of sustainability across campus.
“The Wake Forest campus community is comprised of some of the brightest and most dedicated people in higher education and I am honored to be working among them. I look forward to making a difference in the lives of the students, faculty, and staff and helping them to become agents for positive change,” Cohen said.
Like Cohen, Hellenga also has experience with sustainability programs and initiatives within higher education.
Hellenga has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. While at the University of Georgia, Hellenga held a two-year communications internship with the UGA Office of Sustainability—a solidifying part in her decision to pursue a career in sustainability within higher education. Hellenga also served as a sustainability intern abroad in Costa Rica where she designed the 2014-2015 Sustainability Report for the University of Georgia Costa Rica campus.
After graduating, Hellenga worked at the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Sustainability where she was tasked with marketing Atlanta as a hub for urban agriculture and the local food movement.
As the Communications and Events Coordinator, Hellenga designs and curates weekly and monthly communication pieces, manages social media accounts and coordinates special events and conferences for both the Office of Sustainability and Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability.
“I look forward to telling the stories of individuals who are implementing real sustainability initiatives on campus and are thus keeping Wake Forest on track to becoming a leader in campus sustainability,” Hellenga said.
Both Cohen and Hellenga look forward to working alongside students, faculty and staff to make Wake Forest an even more sustainable place to call home.
Dr. Eric Stottlemyer has been named director of the Wake Forest Environmental Program— adding yet another hat to his current work as an assistant teaching professor of the Writing Program and as the faculty director of the Learn, Experience, Navigate, Solve (LENS) Global Sustainability program.
Stottlemyer will lead the Environmental Program as former Director Dr. Abdessadek Lachgar begins a year-long sabbatical to further his research before returning to a professorship within the Chemistry Department.
In his youth, Stottlemyer recalls running around the woods and swimming in the lakes and rivers near his parents’ remote cabin in northern Michigan—the place where his passion for the environment originates. Since this point, Stottlemyer has been an active proponent of environmental education making his directorship of the Environmental Program a natural step.
When asked what makes the Environmental Program at Wake Forest great, Stottlemyer says the strength of the program stems from the high level of engagement Wake Forest professors have with their students. As director, maintaining this high level of interactivity between professors and students is essential. Additionally, Stottlemyer aims to continue previous efforts to offer a broad range of interdisciplinary classes centered on the environment, create internship and scholarship opportunities, and incorporate experiential learning opportunities into the curriculum.
“We want to give them [students] opportunities to have a world-class environmental education, and we want to see them succeed,” Stottlemyer said.
Stottlemyer assumed the role of directorship on July 1, 2016.
Strike up a conversation with John Shenette, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Campus Services, and along with that genuine smile and deep Bostonian accent you will find a wealth of knowledge and passion about the role of facilities in higher education. Shenette joined Wake Forest University in March and has been a prominent figure on campus ever since. Facilities and Campus Services plays an important role in our effort to transform the campus, bringing strategic sustainability goals to fruition and providing metrics for continuous improvement.
What attracted you to Wake Forest?
I toured the university in 1997 and was struck by the uniqueness of the campus. However, the more research I did, the more I learned about the quality of education Wake provides and the presence Wake Forest has in the US and internationally. It was also evident to me that at Wake I would have the opportunity to engage with faculty and staff and continue to grow and learn in the profession, both of which were important to me.
Why are you interested in sustainability?
Sustainability in its definition is integral to facilitates. When you’re in facilities, it’s all about being a good steward. If you’re replacing equipment and buildings, everything hinges on the right materials. Awareness and adaptability is important. Technology changes and student lifestyles change and we must embrace that changing mindset. Facilities is no longer viewed as just a “physical plant,” it is now much more broad and engaging. It’s important for facilities to be a financial steward and support the mission and vision of the institution, which includes staying modern and incorporating sustainability.
What are you most looking forward to?
I look forward to embracing the Wake Forest culture and bringing Facilities and Campus Services from the background to the forefront so we’re seen as part of the fabric of the university. We can and should use our physical structures and lands as living, learning laboratories.
Faces of Sustainability is a regular feature on our website. You can read about past Faces of Sustainability here.
Stan Meiburg, Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA Region 4 for 18 years and prominent Wake Forest alumnus, recently announced his retirement, marking the end of a 37-year career with the EPA. He worked on a host of issues ranging from The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 to public financing strategies for water and wastewater treatment facilities.
In a recent conversation with us, Meiburg discussed the misunderstanding many Americans have about sustainability, and their lack of awareness about what we can do to escape a growing web of seemingly intractable problems. In Meiburg’s view, the most wicked of these problems is climate change.
Q: Diffuse problems are sometimes lumped together under the term “wicked” problems. We think of wicked problems as persistent, complex, and relying on interconnected variables for a solution. What is a wicked problem from your perspective?
A: To me, the best example of a wicked problem is climate change. I also consider the use of chemicals in the environment to be a particularly persistent wicked problem. Many trends unite these problems, but two stand out: 1) they are big, and require collective action; and 2) results take a long time, and people don’t see immediate benefits from their actions. For example, if you drastically reduce your personal carbon footprint, the climate doesn’t immediately change. But just because you don’t see an impact doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Q: Since people can’t always see the results of their efforts, how do you make them aware that what they are doing is valuable?
A: For us at the EPA, it was always about education. We knew we were doing a lot, and we wanted to make sure that the public knew why we were acting, and what they could do to help. Notwithstanding all of EPA’s legal authorities, we depend on voluntary, collective actions to help us out of environmental holes we’ve dug for ourselves.
Q: When you say collective action, what do you mean?
A: Collective action is the aggregate of many, many little things. Little things like choosing to walk or bike instead of drive, composting and recycling materials, and turning off the lights (or using motion sensors). By doing little things, we make an impact—and we help promote big things, like designing buildings and neighborhoods that promote such behaviors. By doing little things, we give our neighbors and friends examples of actions that they, too, can take. Above all, I encourage people not to despair; it takes time before we can see the impact of our actions. A motto to still go by is from the first Earth Day in 1970: think globally, act locally. And the country is so much cleaner now than we were then!
For some noteworthy practical tips from Stan Meiburg check out these that have been excerpted from a 2009 keynote address.
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/.
Before the fair officially began, we celebrated a unique group of change agents. At the inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony, Provost Rogan Kersh and Sr. VP/CFO Hof Milam presented campus sustainability leadership awards in four categories: resource conservation; service and social action; teaching, research, and engagement; and bright ideas.
Wake Forest’s own Hobbs Sisters led the crowd that gathered for the awards program down to Manchester Plaza, where fair attendees were lined up to receive their participation passports and ready to begin the fun.
Over 400 students, faculty, staff, and friends attended the celebration. In addition to food and entertainment, fairgoers learned about the ways that caring for one’s self, caring for one’s community and, ultimately, caring for life on the planet are related and interdependent. We would like to thank all of the entertainers, exhibitors, and vendors who provided the inspiration to love the world we’re with.
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.
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
From lamps to pianos, if you have moved or discarded furnishings on campus in the past few years, chances are you have met Alan Winkler, Surplus Coordinator for Wake Forest University. With a passion for keeping anything reusable out of the landfill, Winkler collects, catalogs, stores, and delivers myriad furnishings and recyclable waste streams across campus.
Before Winkler was hired, surplus property was managed by Michael Logan, Manager of Strategic Sourcing in Procurement Services. Although Logan was successful in finding placements for some pieces through a basic surplus listserv, both Facility and Campus Services and Procurement Services recognized the system could do much more. “I am really thankful that we have leaders and a responsive administration on campus that recognized it wasn’t the best that the university could do,” said Logan.
What was a bare bones effort when Winkler arrived is now a thriving, well organized waste diversion program. “The surplus program was my baby,” Winkler said. With a background in logistics, Winkler tackled the substantial surplus inventory that had built up prior to his arrival. In the first year alone, the program helped the university avoid nearly $440,000 in expenses, mostly in avoided landfill fees and avoided expenses for new furnishings. In addition to cost savings, the program generates substantial resource savings: nearly 100 tons of waste have been diverted from the landfill in less than two and a half years. November 2013 also marked the first-ever WFU surplus sale. With over 200 pieces of surplus property sold to members of the Wake Forest community, this successful event could well turn into an annual offering.
Last year, Winkler began collecting electronic waste for recycling as well. Through established relationships with organizations like Goodwill, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, which houses the surplus property program, continues to find safer and more cost effective ways to divert potentially harmful waste streams, like electronics and toner cartridges, from landfills.
Winkler hopes to see even further expansion down the road. “The next step is to have the space, time, and staff to include office supplies in the program.” In its current configuration, the surplus program is only available to faculty and staff. Such an expansion would make some of the supplies available to students as well.
Whether the task of the hour is moving staff and faculty offices, helping a customer outfit a new office with gently used furnishings, strategically placing new recycling bins, or coordinating collection of inkjet and toner cartridges for recycling, Winkler can be counted on for courteous customer service and a commitment to Wake Forest’s campus sustainability goals.
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