LRU News

Lenoir-Rhyne champions sustainability in Asheville

Tue Feb 11 2014

ASHEVILLE, N.C.—Sustainability’s not just about making grand globally sweeping sea changes—it’s also about starting the journey of 1,000 miles with a single step. Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Sustainability Studies master’s program is in its second year and it’s beginning its journey close to home by taking a look at the University’s own sustainability practices on its Asheville campus. This is being supported in part by a new Reese Institute Fellowship that is providing a few select students the opportunity to make change happen and build skills while receiving a partial tuition reduction.

Before taking a look at the larger community, LR is taking the time to get its own house in order—literally. Lenoir-Rhyne shares a building with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor’s Center and that’s where this year’s Reese Institute Fellows Lin Orndorf and Bekah Webb will be focusing their sustainability efforts during the first year of the program.

“Why not start with our own building?” asked Orndorf. “If charity and a lot of other things begin at home, then sustainability does, too.”

Orndorf and Webb will be working with the University and the Chamber in a joint partnership designed to make improvements in sustainability and wellness in the building all three share.

“I would like to see the university’s facility become a model for the region, especially for businesses and academic institutions,” Orndorf said. “I’d like to reduce the building’s energy footprint, and I believe it can be done without a major investment or retrofit.”

The Sustainability Studies graduate program is focused on four areas: sustainability, business, public policy and research within a structure that is custom-tailored to each student’s needs, interest and schedule. The program was a natural fit for Orndorff.

“I’ve been interested in sustainability since I was an environmental studies student at Warren Wilson College in the mid-1980s, but I think the real cincher for me was the rapid pace of development around Philadelphia in the late 1990s,” Orndorf said. “An acre an hour was being bulldozed into housing developments, office parks, and shopping centers with little thought of the consequences on the environment or the community. I felt it was a waste and knew what we were losing we’d never get back again.”

Although she doesn’t have any concrete plans for what lies ahead following graduation Orndorf said, “I have a strong interest in working in an academic or public service setting. I think I would really enjoy sharing my passion for sustainability with college students or youth, or helping to shape policies. A few people have suggested politics for me, and that’s not out of the realm of possibilities.”

As for Webb she plans to step into the marketplace upon earning her degree.

“I am working to start my own business using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to design more connected and sustainable communities,” she said. “I hope to work on personal sustainability projects as a way to make small but meaningful changes in our own lives.”

LR’s Reese Institute for the Conservation of Natural Resources was specifically designed to allow students the opportunity to participate in a curriculum that honors that old bumper sticker, “Think globally—act locally.”

Through service learning, scholarship, fieldwork, travel opportunities and internships, students have the chance to positively impact their immediate community, while setting their sights on the larger conservation issues of the nation and beyond.

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