A Word from New Director of Shi Center for Sustainability
The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman is getting a new leader. On May 1, Dr. Weston Dripps, a member of the Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty at the university, became director of the Shi Center. He replaces Angela Halfacre, who was named Special Advisor to the President for Community Engagement earlier in the year.
During his time at Furman, Dripps has been deeply involved with the university’s sustainability efforts and sustainability student living communities. He has received Furman’s Meritorious Teaching Award (2008), Student Organization Advisor of the Year Award (2009) and Engaged Living Award (2013).
Before joining Furman in 2005, Dripps was a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering and an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. A graduate of Amherst College, he earned a master’s degree at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin.
Q: You’ve just started as director of the Shi Center, but you’ve had some time to think about how you will approach your new role. Is it too early to talk about your vision for the Shi Center?
Dripps: The Shi Center for Sustainability has been a campus, community, and national model for the teaching, practice, and research of sustainability. It has been a dynamic, animating academic hub, and I am truly honored to be its new director. I will certainly continue with the center’s ongoing efforts to foster innovative and interdisciplinary curricular development and integration around sustainability and work to strengthen both campus sustainability efforts and community partnerships. I am excited to build on many of the innovative and successful programs already in place including the Faculty Affiliate program that brings together faculty from across all disciplines on campus to engage and collaborate on sustainability topics and the student fellowship programs which provides students with real world opportunities and sustainability experiences with campus and local Greenville partners.
Q: You have worked closely over the past decade with Furman students who are devoted to sustainability. Will that be a particular benefit as you develop new ways for the Shi Center to impact the University’s sustainability efforts?
Dripps: Yes, that will certainly be a benefit. Student engagement and the student experience, particularly around individual and campus sustainability, has always been a passion and focus of mine. I intend for the center to play an increasingly prominent role in promoting a campus sustainability culture and better integrating the curricular and co-curricular student experiences around sustainability. My ongoing work with the Environmental Community of Students (ECOS) first-year engaged living program, the student-led Environmental Action Group, the upperclass Greenbelt sustainable living community, the Furman Farm, and our sustainability science major will certainly serve me well.
Q: Furman has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2026, which also marks the 200th anniversary of the University’s founding. How is the Shi Center contributing to that demanding goal?
Dripps: 2026 is coming quickly. We are making progress, but much remains to be done for us to reach this ambitious goal. The center has always helped support Furman’s broader sustainability goals and will continue to work closely with the university’s sustainability planning council to move us towards carbon neutrality. I will be co-chairing that committee in my new role, and so will definitely be helping contribute to on-going efforts and new campus sustainability and carbon neutrality initiatives.
Q: Do you plan to continue teaching in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department?
Dripps: Yes. Although I am certainly looking forward to taking on my new role as director of the center, I was not ready to step completely out of the classroom. I love teaching and the interaction with the students and for the past 15 years have poured my heart and soul into that endeavor. So I will continue to teach half time in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.