‘Sustainability and the Environment’ takes over as 2019-20 campus learning theme

WCU’s Electron Garden on the Green, also known as the “EGG,” was the first physical structure funded through a student sustainability fee and carried out by WCU’s Sustainability Energy Initiative. The EGG is a combination solar power generating facility and hammock hanging lounge, fitting in nicely with the 2019-20 campus theme, “Sustainability and the Environment.”

Sustainability is something that affects everyone in some way. During Western Carolina University’s 2019-20 academic year, it will affect WCU students as the new campus learning theme.

“Sustainability and the Environment” was chosen after a survey by the Office of Undergraduate Studies was conducted among faculty, staff and students during the fall 2018 semester. The survey drew more than 430 responses.

Since 2009, WCU has selected an interdisciplinary theme for campus conversations, curricular and co-curricular connections, and enrichment.

“I am excited that ‘Sustainability and the Environment’ has been selected as next year’s campus theme,” Acting Provost Carol Burton said. “(Chair) Jerry Miller and the steering committee will do a fabulous job of overseeing our intellectual discourse and educational opportunities around this topic. It is timely, provocative and engaging; it is one of our areas of distinction, and connects well with our mission and strategic plan.”

Miller, WCU’s Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, said it’s an exciting topic, while also pointing out that 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

“It’s an important topic,” Miller said. “It’s in the news all the time, whether it’s climate change, or corporate sustainability, or issues dealing with domestic water supply, both quantity and quality. It’s just a pretty broad topic that affects all of us.”

Miller said he is looking forward to seeing the many ways sustainability issues will be implemented across campus disciplines.

“We have an Office of Sustainability and Energy Management and they’re doing a lot for Western as a whole,” Miller said. “But then there’s a lot of activity in terms of course work. In the sciences – chemistry, biology, natural resources management, geology – we all have courses related to that. But in addition to that, you have environmental courses related to history and religion, music, art. It’s just one of those topics that’s going to be pretty easy to implement.”

The current theme, “Defining America,” has been successful in bringing the campus community together for conversations and activities related to events throughout the country, Burton said.

“Our current theme, ‘Defining America,’ is a great example of an interdisciplinary theme and our steering committee, led by Angela Dills, Dana Patterson and Lane Perry, is doing a marvelous job of shepherding a variety of activities that accomplish these goals,” Burton said.

Previous campus themes were:

2009-10: Josefina Niggli – A Celebration of Culture, Life, and Art

2010-11: Sweet ‘n Low – An Interdisciplinary Journey to Living Well

2011-12: The WCU Poverty Project

2012-13: Citizenship and Civility

2013-14: The Decade of the 1960s – Take It All In

2014-15: North Carolina: Our State, Our Time

2015-17: Africa: More Than A Continent

2017-18: Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.

2018-19: Defining America