SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College President Nayef Samhat announced Thursday (Dec. 3, 2015) an innovative program that will connect the college with both Northside and Glendale community partners through collaborative exploration of community and environmental sustainability. Among the key components will be a residence hall in the Northside neighborhood for students and a community outreach coordinator.
The Milliken Sustainability Initiative at Wofford College, which also will be used to fuel student social entrepreneurs and their business ideas as well as community-based coursework and research in the Northside and the Glendale communities, is being made possible by a $4.25 million grant from the Romill Foundation, 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.
In the Northside, an historic neighborhood near Wofford, a new residence hall will be linked to a common educational experience for resident students focused on community sustainability. A resident director will live with these students and work with Northside community partners – who have ongoing public-private partnerships to redevelop the area – to develop programming that will benefit the community and expand student-learning opportunities.
Resident students will enroll in two courses in the fall with a new faculty expert in community sustainability and a practicum in the spring – a semester-long independent experience that includes an internship with a partner organization, such as the Butterfly Foundation, the Urban Farm and the Early Childhood Development Center.
Tony Thomas, president of the Northside Neighborhood Association and a member of the Northside Voyagers, a local group of community leaders, thanked the Milliken family and noted that they recently provided a generous unrestricted gift to the community to address issues of early childhood education, healthy lifestyles and sustainability.
He said the component of the Milliken Sustainability Initiative that he’s most excited about is the student residence to be located in the heart of the Northside neighborhood. “This shows significant faith in our community and in our efforts to find creative ways to strengthen both the Northside and the greater Spartanburg communities,” he said. “Wofford students will not just walk across North Church Street to eat or volunteer or shop at the Farmer’s Market; they will actually live, work, research, study and talk with neighbors and friends.”
In Glendale, the Milliken Sustainability Initiative will allow another set of Wofford students to spend two days a week taking on-site linked courses. “Both communities, along with the Wofford campus, will be tied together by a common goal of sustainability,” said Dr. Kaye Savage, professor and director of the environmental studies program at Wofford. “The Glendale community already has a strong Wofford and environmental tie in our Goodall Environmental Studies Center, which sits on the banks of the Lawson’s Fork on the site of the old Glendale Mill. Glendale welcomed Wofford years ago, and the Wofford and Glendale communities continue to find ways to work together for the greater good.”
Savage noted that the Milliken Sustainability Initiative will provide Wofford students “so much more than academic, environmental and human immersion in the Northside and Glendale communities; it will be the start of a community-based research program that will involve faculty, staff and students across the curriculum. This research will bring together local community members with national and international experts in the field to discuss and seek solutions to environmental and human sustainability issues facing our community.”
According to Samhat, two new professors will join the Wofford faculty as part of the initiative, one with expertise in environmental sustainability and one with expertise in community sustainability. The grant also includes new equipment, new courses, a speaker series and funds for travel-study projects.
Carol Morel, a Wofford College junior from Fort Mill, S.C., majors in environmental studies and chemistry at Wofford. She thanked the Milliken family on behalf of the students. “I’m especially excited that student participation is at the center of every facet of this new initiative,” she said. “Following the example of Roger Milliken, we – students, faculty, staff and the Spartanburg community – yes, we will build a better Wofford College. Even more importantly, we will create a model for other college and community collaborations around the important issue of human and environmental sustainability.”
As part of the program, Wofford also will create an energy metering and monitoring infrastructure on its campus and will strengthen sustainability efforts under way at the Goodall Environmental Studies Center.
A robust energy monitoring system for buildings on campus will be coupled with the addition of an energy manager to the college’s staff. Half of the monetary savings realized in the energy-saving program will flow into the student innovation fund with the remainder going to implement future energy reduction projects based on data gathered from the metering.
Samhat shared a message from Nancy Milliken, chairwoman of the Romill Foundation and a daughter of Roger Milliken:
“Our dad loved Wofford. He believed that with a Wofford education, graduates could and would bring positive change to the world. We believe he would be thrilled that Wofford has embraced the challenge of addressing important environmental and community sustainability opportunities on the campus and in its curriculum, in the local community and globally. These are issues on which he focused great thought and advocacy in the last decades of his life.
“Our dad always believed that the success of Wofford and of Spartanburg were intertwined, so he would be particularly pleased with the current partnership between the campus and the community, which is integral to Wofford’s inspiring sustainability vision. We look forward to seeing the great progress that will emerge from this initiative long into the future.”
Harold Chandler, chairman of the board at Wofford College and Milliken & Co. said, “Mr. Milliken loved Wofford and Spartanburg, and we loved him in return. This gift will further extend his legacy as a builder, leader and enabler by serving our students and our community for years to come. We are extremely grateful.”
John Lane, director of the Goodall Environmental Studies Center, closed the program by talking about the notion of noble trees and a noble campus, something Milliken, along with horticulturalist Dr. Michael Dirr “began propagating in the 1980s.”
“But what does it really mean to be noble, or to be sustainable?” asked Lane of the crowd of several hundred who gathered for the announcement. “That is the question Wofford students, faculty, staff and administration will work out over the next generations with the assistance of this enduring gift.”
“Now the hard, but vitally important part begins — the creative thinking, planning, and investment of time, energy and additional resources,” said Samhat. “Join us! There's a place for everyone in the Milliken Sustainability Initiative at Wofford College.”