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VWU Recognized by Elizabeth River Project

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Awarded top-tier model level designation as one of the finest environmental stewards

Featured News | January 29, 2018

On January 25, Virginia Wesleyan University was recognized as one of the finest environmental stewards on the Elizabeth River, receiving the top-tier Model Level designation at the annual River Stars Recognition Luncheon, hosted by the Elizabeth River Project.  

Virginia Wesleyan advanced to Model Level this year based on the University’s pollution prevention efforts, wildlife habitat enhancement, and continued community outreach, mentoring and education.

“We began this academic year with two prominent new additions that have secured a national niche for Virginia Wesleyan University in these areas. With the completion of the Greer Environmental Sciences Center and the opening of the Batten Honors College, we have expanded our teaching, research and service toward the vital goals of studying and preserving the natural environment—including the Elizabeth River,” said President Scott Miller.

In the short time since it opened, the Greer Environmental Sciences Center  (GESC)has received many accolades. Next month, in recognition of the building, Virginia Wesleyan will be honored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with its “Conservationist of the Year” award. And VWU’s recent LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council—the first LEED certification in Virginia in 2018—played a primary role in University’s advancement to the River Stars’ Model Level. The LEED program is an internationally recognized certification program that provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across several metrics. These include energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

On its exterior, visitors to the GESC  find just over two acres of vegetated open space and teaching gardens. This living landscape is made up of nearly 24,000 native plants, inspired by the ecosystems of the Eastern Shore. It also has two upland meadow gardens, three wetland gardens, and nearly 60 different plant species, including trees, shrubs, groundcover, ferns, perennials, and aquatic plants. The wetlands and extensive green roof prevent polluted runoff from harming the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay. This area also serves as a habitat for ducks, geese, wading birds, turtles, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, and other invertebrates.

Virginia Wesleyan’s Model Level designation also celebrates the launch and expected long-term impact of the Batten Honors College, which is designed to prepare impactful leaders and environmental stewards. The Batten Honors College curriculum explores diverse disciplines from the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, and mathematics, with a goal of educating and graduating lifelong learners from Virginia Wesleyan who will shape the University’s future and take action to improve the world.

Virginia Wesleyan faculty, staff and students have long been engaged in unique opportunities to explore and support environmental issues, from the creation of the Student Environmental Awareness League in the 1980s, to the installation of beehives, bat boxes, and bluebird boxes on campus. The establishment of the President’s Environmental Issues Council (PEIC) has led to further support for environmental projects, including challenge grants for students and faculty.

“Thank you to our entire campus community and to the PEIC for your continued efforts,” noted President Miller. “Special thanks, in particular, to Professor of Political Science Bill Gibson for taking the lead on earning this and many other notable designations for Virginia Wesleyan University.”