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Campus News

Changes to sustainability leadership

Sarah Banks, Staff Writer

The departure of Margo Flood means changes to the staff working toward sustainability, but the college’s commitment to the issue will remain strong.

Flood has long served a dual role as both chief of sustainability and director of the Environmental Leadership Center. Both positions must now be filled. As chief of sustainability, Flood has also been the sustainability representative on the President’s Advisory Council. This PAC spot will now rotate, on an annual basis, among PAC members.

Jonathan Ehrlich, vice president for administration and finance, currently represents both of these issues on PAC. On July 1, Ehrlich will take the additional role of chief of sustainability for one year, and represent sustainability issues as well.

After one year, another PAC member will adopt the role.

John Brock will be the interim director of the Environmental Leadership Center.

Ehrlich has been a PAC member for two years. He has a master’s degree in environment and land use planning, as well as a background in finance.

Ehrlich will take over as Chief Sustainability Officer next year

“Sustainability is a core element of Warren Wilson College,” Ehrlich said. “It is important to strengthen and build upon the foundation which has already been established.”

In 2007 Flood wrote what would, in 2008, become Warren Wilson’s constitution of sustainability. College President Sandy Pfeiffer created the title of chief of sustainability as well as a seat for Flood at the PAC table, effectively bringing sustainability practices to the forefront of the administrators’ discussions.

“Sustainability is the intersection of economic, social justice and environmental concerns,” Flood said. “Not only are these decisions important to the environment, they support a holistic framework to involve long-term goals into decision-making.”

Flood is optimistic about Ehrlich’s new role.

“The sustainability representation didn’t lose a seat at PAC: it was deepened, in a sense,” Flood said. “I’m passionate that we can make a smooth transition, but it will require a lot of support from the community.”
According to Flood, PAC’s role is to encourage sustainable practices. Not only does the new Strategic Plan address these goals, but sustainability is one of the core values.

“Our goal is to educate and employ sustainability practices as a core value of the college,” Flood said. “Based on the new Strategic Plan, the college is working hard to set in place this sustainability commitment. [...] Before 2008, the college hadn’t made a document with specific environmental goals laid out. For three years, we have set out the foundation for sustainability commitment.”

Ehrlich sees the fiscal and sustainable prac- tices merging into one common goal.

“Sustainability efforts need to be sup- ported by financial investment where necessary,” Ehrlich said. “I believe that my perspective as the chief financial officer of the college will be of positive value as I also take on the responsibilities of the chief of sustainability position.”

Ehrlich is still drafting goals for sustainability commitments in the upcoming year. “Over the next several months,” Flood said, “I will be working with Margo Flood to learn the specifics of sustainability on campus, as well as attending meetings of the Sustainability Working Group in order to become integrated in the workings of that group.”

Ehrlich added that the Sustainability Working Group may get smaller and reduce their membership to representative enroll- ment. The representatives would be elected from the current members.

The Sustainability Recognition Group has been giving Sustainability Recognition Awards for this for two years, and Ehrlich plans to continue with this.

Ehrlich also plans to improve the sustain- ability website.

“I am very sorry to see Margo leave the college, as she has increased student and staff understanding of sustainability a great deal,” Ehrlich added. “In the coming year I am looking forward to working with John Brock, who will bring a fresh perspective to the Environmental Learning Center.”

Ehrlich sees the biggest challenge of the dual role – that is, representing both financial concerns and sustainability issues – to be a time constraint.

“The importance of promoting and supporting sustainability on campus is a challenge that I am looking forward to taking on,” Ehrlich said. “As I already have a full schedule with my other duties, I will depend on the support and energy of others to supplement the time and effort that I put into the role of chief of sustainability position. Ultimately, my hope is that sustainability will become so integrated in all activities of the college that it will no longer be necessary to have one person specifically in the position of CSO.”

Ehrlich will take over from Margo Flood, current CSO

Flood reiterated the importance of inter-departmental support to the college’s sustainability program.

“An institution wishing to make sustain- able differences usually finds the most resistance from the financial department,” Flood said. “But at Wilson, the college sees sustainable decisions as making good economic sense.”

This is a vital sharing role for the college to pursue and Ehrlich’s background and commitment to environmental issues make him the perfect candidate to continue the sustainability goals.

“Warren Wilson has the mission, princi- ples and educational components to provide an extraordinarily powerful and transfor- mitive education that graduates students who understand the path to a resilient and sustainable future,” Flood said. “Tuning these parts, with an eye to the greater vision, will achieve this potential.”

Ultimately, the future of a sustainability program on campus is contingent on the passion and enthusiasm of the students.

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