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winter 2018
Northside Park

Well on the way

Wofford begins implementation of Milliken Sustainability Initiative.

Within a few years, 16 Wofford College students will be living in a new residence hall — not on campus, but in the nearby historic Northside neighborhood. The complex, which will be linked to a common educational experience for resident students focused on community sustainability, is a major component of the $4.25 million grant from the Romill Foundation for the Milliken Sustainability Initiative, announced in December 2015.

“We are in conversations with our community partners on where this residence hall will be located and how it will integrate with the Northside residents and businesses,” says Dr. Tim Schmitz, professor of history and associate provost for administration, who is overseeing the implementation of the grant. “A resident director will be hired who will live near the students and work with community partners in the Northside to develop programming that will benefit the community and expand student learning opportunities.”

Wofford is well on its way — hiring two new professors, one with expertise in environmental sustainability and one with expertise in community sustainability, as well as hiring an energy manager and implementing a robust energy metering system for campus buildings.

Dr. Amy L. Telligman, assistant professor in Environmental Studies, will focus on environmental sustainability and is developing two lab courses. She also will put in place a living/learning community centered on sustainability for the fall 2017 semester. 

The search to fill the second faculty position in community sustainability is in progress.

Rob Richards came to Wofford in the fall as the energy and sustainability manager whose primary responsibility is to monitor and enhance campus sustainability programs. Already 39 campus buildings, including residence halls and the Goodall Environmental Studies Center at Glendale, have been metered for baseline information, so that sustainable practices can be implemented, monitored and improved as necessary.

“The bulk of the metering equipment installation was complete in late 2016, and we are beginning to build our resource consumption database,” Richards says, noting that 12 months of data will be needed to fully assess consumption before the buildings can be evaluated and needed changes made. “We will be able to compare the buildings to other similar buildings nationally regarding their energy consumption, and we can compare them to like buildings on campus — residence hall to residence hall, for example — to know how each building is performing and whether any corrections need to be made. We will be able to tell whether any buildings are ‘outliers’ based on an index of BTU-per-square-foot-per-year usage.”

Richards, who has a degree in biosystems engineering, says the metering and assessment will tell how much Wofford is spending for energy consumption and whether that amount departs from the norm. “We’ll be able to determine whether it’s drawing on the electrical system, natural gas or whatever, and what the point of attack will be to improve the efficiency of the building.”

Richards and Jason Burr ’01, associate vice president for facilities and capital projects, note that many Wofford students are interested in sustainability issues, particularly campus issues. Richards is participating this semester as a consultant in a student lab focusing on “green home” aspects for a house the college owns at Glendale near the Goodall Center. The students are exploring the potential for the use of solar panels, the orientation of the house, beneficial landscaping solutions and other topics.

“The work with sustainability at the Goodall Center is ongoing thanks to the Romill grant,” says John Lane ’77, professor of environmental studies and director of the center. “The grant has made possible some research in the watershed, and in the spring with funds from the grant, we purchased the mill house across from the center we had been leasing as part of our ‘Thinking Like a River’ initiative. Now, with some extra funding from the grant, we are able to engage the college’s first sustainability class with recommending some green up-fits, and with guidance of visiting green architect Greg Olson, the students will emerge from the semester with a plan for future projects.”

Richards says he will make himself available as much as possible for class and lab involvement at the request of instructors, “toward a common goal of student engagement in the sustainability process.” Richards also will explore options for the college to take advantage of cost incentives available from energy providers, such as Duke Energy, and he is applying for the college to join the Energy Star Program, directed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. This will provide the college with tools to manage the metering data and provide access to energy conservation materials.

The college also will conduct a survey of student attitudes toward sustainability this spring, and a new Sustainability Committee is developing ways to enhance Wofford’s sustainability efforts. 

Half of the monetary savings realized in the energy-saving program will flow into a student innovation fund with the remainder going to implement future energy-reduction projects based on data gathered from the metering.

Dr. Kaye Savage, professor and chair of the Environmental Studies Department, says the Milliken Sustainability Initiative will “support participation of Wofford students across disciplines and across campus boundaries to consider the links between environmental factors and community sustainability. The range of supported experiences — community research, residential and internship opportunities in the Northside neighborhood, analyzing campus systems, implementing entrepreneurial ideas — allows many ways for students to meaningfully participate.”

The first award provided by the initiative was a $19,000 grant to Dr. Dave Pittman ’94, professor of psychology, who used the funds to take 20 students to Hawaii for the January 2017 Interim to study best practices in sustainability and gain hands-on learning. The course was co-sponsored by Greg Farley, a biology professor and director of the Center for Leadership in Environmental Education at Chesapeake College in Maryland.

Pittman says the experience challenged students to apply Hawaiian sustainability practices to Spartanburg, and they used the Northside neighborhood as a model. “Like the Northside, Hawaiians have a strong sense of connection with their culture and with their history,” he says.

The students broke into groups and created six hypothetical projects they thought would incorporate sustainable practices into the work of the Northside Development Group in the area. The projects were:

  • Restoring the watershed as part of the Butterfly Creek daylighting project.
  • Increasing the energy efficiency of the future T.K. Gregg Community Center by using solar panels, water conservation and “green” recreation equipment and lighting.
  • Improving internet access in the neighborhood by installing energy efficient LED lamplights with wi-fi signals.
  • Promoting family and community cohesion with smaller sustainable playgrounds that use environmentally friendly and recycled materials.
  • Implementing a learning garden at Cleveland Academy of Leadership.
  • Increasing the energy efficiency of the neighborhood and homes in it through solar-powered lighting and solar-powered water heaters.

Pittman says the projects will be reviewed for possible implementation in the Northside as part of the Milliken Sustainability Initiative. “It’s important to have our students involved in visioning and creating potential sustainability opportunities for the Northside,” he says. “The experiential learning during the Interim trip about best practices in sustainability in Hawaii has made our students more aware of the issues on campus and in their own lives. It’s something we can’t always teach in the classroom, but that’s the benefit of the Interim experience — teaching inside and outside the classroom for a well-rounded education, which in turn can be brought to bear on real-world applications.”

The Romill Foundation is the personal foundation of the late Roger Milliken, a dedicated champion of Wofford and the Upstate. Milliken was the longest-serving trustee on Wofford’s Board of Trustees and was a major benefactor of the college, overseeing the growth and strategic planning for the college as well as its arboretum, named in his honor. Members of his family manage the foundation.

“A lot of good things are happening as a result of the Milliken Sustainability Initiative,” Schmitz says. “The grant dramatically boosts the college’s work in environmental sustainability and will create a host of new opportunities for Wofford to partner with the local community.”

by Laura Hendrix Corbin