A Sustainable New Academic Year

With August comes the beginning of a new academic year, a time of excitement, potential, and a few nerves for faculty and students alike. Here at the Wake Forest Sustainability Graduate Programs, we are especially looking forward to the incoming class, as well as welcoming back returning students, celebrating those who completed their degree requirements with internships this summer, and strengthening our ties with alumni and other partners who share our vision of developing and nurturing the next generation of leaders in sustainability.

It will be an eventful year! As the incoming Director, I look forward to building on the strong foundation established by Dan Fogel, Jon Clift and Ashley Wilcox, with the support of the awesome faculty here at Wake Forest who work with us because of their commitment to making the world a better place.

The need for leadership in sustainability has never been greater. In an era challenged by snap opinions and casual thinking, we need to build the capacity for critical analysis. In an era that can treat science as a full contact, sound bite sport, we need to demonstrate how robust scientific inquiry can properly frame problems and help solve them. In an era that confuses sound bites with thought, we need to build a home for honest dialogue and true conversation, embracing conflicting points of view in a culture of mutual respect. In an era that treats events as one-offs, we need to illuminate systems at work — social, economic, environmental and health.

Fortunately for us, there is a world that shares our concerns. More and more businesses see how they are linked to larger environmental and social systems, and how the principles of sustainability are not only helpful, but essential to their ability to thrive in the years ahead. A new generation of consumers is asking hard questions about the sustainability footprint of products and services they purchase. Communities around the country and the world are recognizing that while central governments can be helpful or harmful in promoting sustainability, there is always strength in informed self-reliance, and when this happens, they can find powerful allies.

One of the earliest and most enduring slogans of the environmental movement is “think globally, act locally”. It is as true now as ever before. We have information systems and scientific tools that give us unprecedented access to a world of data, but for change to happen, it takes individual commitment and action. This August, a new cohort of graduate students will bring their commitment to Wake Forest, to strengthen their ability to take action. We are honored to be participants with them in their journey!

Stan Meiburg, Ph.D.
Director, Graduate Studies in Sustainability
Wake Forest University
meiburas@wfu.edu