Affiliates of the Wake Forest Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES) gathered on the afternoon of November 8th to meet and talk about their work in sustainability.

The mission of the center, which was launched in 2010, is to “support the development of prosperous, secure, and resilient human communities that create a sustainable balance between resource use, the maintenance of ecosystems, and the social, cultural and economic vitality of the citizenry.  [The center] serves as a catalyst and facilitator, bringing together the expertise of the faculty, the passion of students, and the knowledge and needs of the community to advance the research, teaching, and practice of sustainability across the region and globe.”

More than 30 faculty and several staff members met outside, on what turned out to be a beautiful fall afternoon, to enjoy one another’s company over seasonal refreshments. Attendees’ home affiliations spanned the Law School, the School of Divinity, and departments across the College including biology, chemistry, physics, math, religion, psychology and anthropology. Affiliates from Winston-Salem State and UNC-Greensboro also attended, following a meeting on solar energy generation.

In its research and scholarly activities, CEES seeks to “create a vibrant, multidisciplinary community of scholars at Wake Forest focused on effecting change in energy, environment, and sustainability.” According to professor of religion, Luke Johnston, “The work of the center is important. The structure, operations, and intellectual foundations of the contemporary academe are fundamentally unsustainable. Part of the problem is that disciplines don’t interact with, and learn from each other.  Mixers like this are one of the catalysts for such interaction.  I appreciate the opportunity to relate to other like-minded faculty and staff in such a causal environment.”

At this gathering, the second such meeting of CEES affiliates, community was, indeed, fostered. Chemistry and math faculty members talked about text books for green technology courses. Divinity and Law professors exchanged ideas about potential speakers to bring to campus. And, invitations to give guest lectures were exchanged.

Center director and professor of Biology, Miles Silman, feels the momentum of the center gathering: “We’ve gone a long way toward building a community of scholars here, and we’re now at a point where things are starting to snowball.  Research is taking off, and we’re building connections within the university that allow faculty to realize their passions for teaching and scholarly activities around the environment.  It’s exciting to see.”

The center has hosted a number of important events and speakers on campus, including Bill McKibben and Robert Kennedy Jr.  This month, in partnership with the North Carolina Sierra Club, CEES will host a symposium on wind energy for North Carolina: First in Flight, First in Wind. Law professor Dick Schneider sees the future strength of the center as bringing together the synergies of CEES with local schools and local environmental organizations to benefit Wake Forest and the community at large.

As for the fall gathering, attendees reported enjoying seeing familiar faces and meeting some new friends. “It was great to see the energy our colleagues have for scholarship and teaching in sustainability in the broad sense, to hear about their plans and successes, and to learn from them.  I leave these gatherings energized, full of new ideas and directions for research.”