In November, MA Sustainability students investigated and articulated sustainability-related organizational challenges during an in-class session with Winston-Salem based clients. This living learning laboratory experience was one step in preparing students to translate classroom knowledge to practice. Now, in the second semester of the program, student teams are hard at work on their 20-week client-based sustainability practica.

The Wake Forest Sustainability Practicum experience is designed for student teams to engage with clients, investigate client-identified challenges, articulate the issues, and propose feasible solutions to important sustainability challenges. The programmatic goals of these capstone client-based projects center on giving the students an opportunity to develop expertise in problem solving, develop proficiency in the practice of sustainability, deliver value to the partner clients, and build professional networks. The client-based projects being tackled by this cohort range from organic weed control to the carbon action plan for a top-tier institution.

One team is assessing the potential for an organic weed control system, Frostbite, to win market share in a 500-billion-dollar resource-intensive agricultural industry through product differentiation.

Another team is uncovering best practices to avoid a potential loss of public engagement. The group is working with Centralia Council of Governments. CCOG’s efforts help communities in a 14 county region around Charlotte, NC adapt to significant growth by constructing useful sustainable development frameworks. The vision is transjurisdictional cooperation and continued public engagement.

A team working with Sustain Charlotte, a non-profit education and advocacy group, identified a need for baseline research to understand why public transportation ridership is lower in Charlotte than in cities of similar size. The student group sees a future that includes successful advocacy campaigns aimed at increasing Charlotte’s alternative transportation ridership.

Finally, a group paired with Wake Forest University uncovered the need for institutional consensus and a shared understanding of the importance of climate action planning to bring meaningful reductions to the university’s carbon footprint.

Einstein is famously quoted as saying that if he had an hour to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes identifying it and 5 minutes solving it. The sustainability practicum imparts this same wisdom to students who will soon graduate and tackle many of the world’s most pressing problems from unique perspectives and in varied organizational settings.

The student teams will present their findings and project proposals on April 17, during the Project Showcase. We invite students, faculty, and staff to join current and potential clients in discovering the talent within the 2015 MA Sustainability cohort.

If you have a project idea you or your organization would like to submit, contact Jon Clift cliftjs at