Students and staff from the university’s Office of Sustainability gained new insights at an international conference this month. Director of Sustainability, Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Wake Forest Fellow, Caitlin Brooks, and four Office of Sustainability interns attended the three-day Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

The 2011 AASHE conference, which drew more than 2,500 attendees from campuses across the nation and around the globe, focused on creating sustainable campuses and communities. In addition to providing numerous professional development workshops and over 400 peer-to-peer presentation sessions, the conference featured a half-day pre-conference student summit.

At the summit, Office of Sustainability interns – senior Carrie Stokes, juniors Anna Donze and De’Noia Woods, and sophomore Logan Healy-Tuke – networked with over 500 other students and shared insights on projects taking place on campuses across globe. During breakout sessions, the interns were able to discuss best practices with other students while learning about innovative initiatives taking place on other campuses. Stokes said that she was thrilled at the opportunity to interact with other students. She also found the student summit’s keynote address delivered by Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, to be particularly engaging.

The highlight of the conference was the opening keynote address by Majora Carter, who spoke about her work pioneering one of the nation’s first urban green-collar job training and placement programs in the South Bronx portion of the New York borough. Intern Anna Donze took away an encouraging message from Carter’s address. “I really appreciated her emphasis on sustainability as a community builder and human rights issue,” Donze said. “The dramatic changes that she had facilitated in her own community were quite inspirational.”

This year’s conference was bittersweet for WFU sustainability director, DeLongpré Johnston, as she was honored among a group of founding AASHE board members who will leave the board in December, due to term limits. “Having watched this fledging grow into a thriving organization has been both inspiring and humbling,” she said.

Wake Forest was honored on the conference’s STARS Hall of Fame as a charter campus participant, having earned a Silver rating in January 2011. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, is the first fully transparent self-reporting framework adopted the higher education community.

The university is a member institution of AASHE, so any university community member can access the organization’s resources by registering with a wfu e-mail address. Resources include conference slideshows and keynote videos, sustainability job and academic program listings, policy banks, operational best practices, and curricular resources.

By Jane Connors, Communications and Outreach Intern