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Going greener: Sustainability the Wright way for Wingate

by Luanne Williams


Catherine Wright is headed to the Green Mountain State this month to expand her already burgeoning knowledge of campus sustainability, thanks to a grant from the Wingate University Board of Visitors.

An associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Wright is an ecotheologian who has helped drive the University’s sustainability initiatives.

“Since my arrival in 2014, I have been fortunate to work with President (Rhett) Brown, Vint Tilson (vice president for strategic partnerships), the Religion department, faculty, staff, students and many others on and off campus to imagine and implement sustainability initiatives at Wingate,” says Wright, who seems to see new opportunities everywhere she looks.

Wright is the advisor to BIGG (Bulldogs Into Going Green), a student organization formed in 2016 that spawned a bike-share project, helped start a community garden and has initiated numerous events to help the university and the community become more environmentally friendly. She teaches sustainability-oriented Honors seminars and W’Engage courses and networks with like-minded organizations outside of the University.

“I have had the privilege to work with some very talented and passionate students who are driven to make our world, local community, and campus a better place,” Wright says. She has also worked with fellow employees on a three-year Jessie Ball duPont grant that funded the installation of energy sub-meters in eight University buildings, with the goal of tracking energy use to encourage efficiency and, ultimately, to lower costs.

DuPont officials have been pleased with Wingate’s efforts.

“I am absolutely floored by the implementation and outcomes of this grant. It is clear that Wingate, both its leaders and its greater community, have embraced sustainability in a major way,” wrote duPont’s Mark Walker, in a review of the grant. “That enthusiasm for this work has not only exceeded the Fund’s expectations, but given Wingate incredible results beyond plant operations and the operational savings.”

It’s those kinds of results that Wright wants to build on with additional training this summer. She asked the Board of Visitors for $3,100 to attend a five-day sustainability-leadership-certification program at the University of Vermont. She said the training will help her find ways to build a more sustainable Wingate community – “from our cafeterias to our dorms, modes of transportation, classroom experiences, building structures, travel experiences and community partnerships.”

A group of alumni and friends of the university that has awarded more than half a million dollars in grants over the past 14 years, the Board of Visitors entertains proposals that will make a significant impact on the student experience. In addition to Wright’s funding, this year’s 10 grants, roughly $55,000 worth announced in March, paid for the cheerleading squad to attend a national competition in Florida, purchased classroom ovens in the Chemistry Department and will provide needed equipment for University dining webcams.

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