On the Road with Urban Green at Winthrop University


Graphic by Chambers Design, Photo Courtesy of smart usa

Big surprises can come in little packages - and that's what I found when I visited Winthrop University during my book tour stop at the school. The campus is located just south of Charlotte, NC in the town of Rock Hill, SC. The school has the feel of a academic oasis where you can park your car and walk anywhere you need to go. A public school established in 1886, Winthrop has four colleges that grant degrees in 41 different subjects. Over the last few years, the university has indicated a desire to be a sustainability leader within the United States.
Photo Credit: Neil Chambers

They have signed onto the Talloires Declaration, ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities, as well as have joined 12 other higher education institutes as an affiliate member of the South Carolina Sustainable University Initiative. Their first LEED building was completed in 2007 called the Lois Rhame West Health, Physical Education and Wellness Center, or the West Center for short.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Winthrop University

I was excited to visit Winthrop because it was only a few miles from my hometown. When I arrive, Judy Longshaw, media relations manager, and Chris Johnson, the newly hired sustainability coordinator, met me to orient me to the campus and provide me with some of the background on the perspective the school has on green design and sustainability. Winthrop is affiliated with the National Council for Science and the Environment, the Carolinas Recycling Association, and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Speaking with Johnson about future efforts to do more around green construction, he was very optimistic about envisioning a fully integrating green into all areas of the school.


Video Credit: Courtesy of Winthrop University

The West Center provides educational and recreational opportunities for the campus community in a safe, engaging environment promoting academic growth and healthy lifestyles. The Center is the recipient of a 2008 Educational Interiors Showcase "Outstanding Project Award" for interior design and a Charlotte Business Journal "Green Award.", and houses a climbing wall, four racquetball courts, 25-yard pool with 8 lanes, four basketball courts that can also be used for badminton and volleyball, an 8,000 square foot weight room, 2,000 square feet of cardio space with four additional cardio stations and two aerobic/activity rooms. I even saw a room full of students practicing fencing while I was there.


Photo Credit: Neil Chambers

My lecture was on Sept 13, 2011 in Owens Hall in front of a packed room of students and facility. From my position, I felt the students are hungry to understand how to better understand everything and anything to do with sustainability. They also want to discover how to apply their learning of green practices and concepts into their education and, later, their careers. The next day, I sat in on a first year interior design studio. In the class, we discuss a 5-step approach to better design, daylighting and what attributes of green building can be used by interior designers for successful projects.


Photo Credit: Neil Chambers

Johnson has his work cut out for him as the new sustainability coordinator, because Winthrop should strive to be on the Sierra Club "Coolest" Schools as well as start to really think about the big picture to make itself a premiere sustainability institution. One of its greatest assets is its people, the students and its location. It was a breath of fresh air, and I hope to visit there again soon.

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Tags: College Life

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