Written by Sophia Masciarelli, (’22)

Each year, the Office of Sustainability recognizes campus change agents who work as “Champions of Change” to create a more adaptable and resilient Wake Forest community. This year’s eighth annual Campus Sustainability Awards took place on April 19 during the Office of Sustainability’s month-long celebration of the earth, comprising more than 30 events on campus throughout the month. This year’s celebration will always be known as Champions of Change – the Pandemic Edition. 

“It’s one thing to lead in the before times — to lead in a pandemic is another brand of heroism,” says Vice President of HR and Sustainability Dedee DeLongpré Johnston. After an incredibly challenging year, it is more important than ever to celebrate the leadership of colleagues across campus. This awards program is an opportunity to celebrate the impact that our colleagues and students have on campus, in the community, and around the world amid a time of unprecedented challenges. 

Wake Forest University Provost Rogan Kersh, Executive Vice President Hof Milam, and  Director of Sustainability Lindsay Batchelor recognized students, faculty, and staff who have demonstrated or initiated successful sustainable practices on campus in the following five categories: Everyday Champions; Academics and Engagement; Resource Conservation; Teaching, Service and Social Action; Bright Ideas; and Leadership.

Sean McGlynn was recognized as an Everyday Champion of Change. Sean is a Green Team captain and a Study Abroad Advisor in the Center for Global Programs and Studies. He encourages colleagues to reduce waste, decrease their carbon footprint, and learn more about sustainable practices happening globally.

Madison Fishler was also recognized as an Everyday Champion of Change. Madison is the Health and Wellness Manager and Culinary Dietician for Harvest Table at Wake Forest. Since joining Harvest Table, Madison has embraced the importance of plant-forward dining and third-party certified sourcing, educating students on eating with purpose, while simultaneously working to combat issues like disordered eating and allergen safety. 

Next, Karl Darr was recognized as an Everyday Champion of Change. Karl is the foreperson for the Reynolda Village landscaping team. He has demonstrated leadership through several landscaping practices to enhance ecosystem health, including adding native plants in Reynolda Village and along the Reynolda trails. 

Dr. Elizabeth Whiting Pierce was recognized as an Everyday Champion of Change. Dr. Pierce is a Green Team captain and the Assistant Director in the Professional Schools for the Program for Leadership and Character. Her work with students includes coordinating an Ecological Citizenship Discussion Group, mentoring first-year students on sustainability leadership, and working to create climate justice opportunities with professional school students. 

Then The Ocean and Marine Conservation Club was recognized for their outstanding contributions as a student organization. In a year when many student organizations were understandably less active than usual, this group of passionate student leaders went above and beyond in their efforts to educate and engage the campus community. 

The 2021 Academics and Engagement award was awarded to Dr. Becky Dickson, adjunct faculty member in the Department of Biology and Graduate School Professor of Environmental Science. Dr. Dickson is Wake Forest’s link to the application of geography and geospatial techniques to sustainability. According to her nominator, “she has changed Wake Forest through her work on geography and geospatial analysis of sustainability issues, and she is changing the world by linking our university’s expertise to pressing problems here and around the globe.”

This year’s Resource Conservation Award went to Mike Draughn for his leadership of the Maintenance and Utilities Teams. The pandemic created an incredibly challenging year in the world of indoor air quality and, under Mike’s leadership, this team rose to the challenge. With their hard work and dedication, the Maintenance and Utilities teams continue to lead WFU on the path to climate neutrality by 2040. 

This year, three individuals from two different projects were recognized for the Service and Social Action awards. 

The first award went to Justin Green, professor of practice in the Department of Communication and Debate Coach for Wake Debate. Justin and members of the Wake Debate team serve as coaches for Piedmont Environmental Alliance’s Environmental Debate Program, which gives students the opportunity to engage in competitive, academic debate on environmental issues. 

The next two recipients of the Service and Social Action award were recognized for their work with the Energy Explorers Program: Julia McElhinny, a junior Biology major with minors in Environmental Studies and Math, and Carolina Conway, a senior Anthropology major with minors in Environmental Studies and Writing. The Energy Explorers Program provides hands-on education for middle school students about sources of energy, effects on the environment, and the importance of conservation. Julia and Carolina, under the direction of PEA’s VISTA, Annie Fulwood, successfully adapted the Energy Explorers curriculum for a virtualized setting, allowing the program to continue educating students in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools. 

The recipient for the Bright Ideas award is Sophie Wimberley, Waste Reduction Specialist with Facilities and Campus Services. Sophie tackled the issue of textile waste by introducing a pilot to collect textile waste for recycling. Her Green Zone pilot started in November, and the four collection bins have diverted over 300 pounds of textiles from the landfill in just four months.

The final category is a special award that recognizes outstanding Leadership for sustainability at Wake Forest. Dr. Rowena Kirby-Straker, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Communication, was recognized for extraordinary active leadership for sustainability. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, she has facilitated a reading circle with the Environmental Justice Knowledge Community for the book All We Can Save, which explores climate justice and women’s leadership. Dr. Kirby-Straker also moderated the spring mainstage event with renowned marine biologist and policy expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, which celebrated both Women’s History Month and Earth Month. 

Congratulations to all of our Champions of Change for their work to make Wake Forest an even more sustainable place to live, work, study, and play.