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DR. CLARISSA MATHEWS SPREADS THE ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE
From reusable mugs and bumper stickers to Recyclemania and doughnut-scented car exhaust, Dr. Clarissa Mathews, assistant professor of environmental studies, has always done her part to spread the message about the environment. In her high school there were no environmental groups, so she organized a reusable mug campaign to reduce waste and covered her car in pro-environmental bumper stickers.

Since Dr. Mathews came to Shepherd in 2004, she has spread her message by getting students involved in Recyclemania, a nationwide recycling competition for college students, using grant money to develop conferences on renewable energy applications that West Virginians can use in their homes, developing new courses, and serving as the campus advisor for a student environmental group.

Shepherd was scouted by the EPA for participation in Recyclemania because no schools from West Virginia had been involved in the contest. "The program director contacted Ed Snyder, Institute for Environmental Studies director and professor of environmental studies, and he recommended our Resource Management class to undertake the project. That particular class looks at municipal solid waste--basically garbage that goes to the landfill--so it was really a perfect fit," she said.

Bins were set up around campus for students to place bottles, cans, glass, paper, and cardboard in. "I thought students did a terrific job organizing and collecting the materials," she said. "The response on campus was good; even the campus newspaper the Picket gave us their old copies to recycle."

Dr. Mathews would like to see continued recycling on campus and is currently in discussion with the administration on a campuswide initiative. "The students collected more than $600 through the program. This can generate funds for the University," she said. Mathews said the only thing that doesn't generate funds are plastic bottles, and she would like to get the administration to consider switching all vending machines to aluminum cans. "Plastic bottles are so light it actually costs money to recycle them."

Dr. Mathews and Dr. Snyder received a $45,000 Innovation Grant from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to look into various renewable energy types and how the average West Virginian can use renewable energy. The Renewable Energy Demonstration site, or RED Zone, will feature two different wind turbines, 30 solar panels, a biodiesel processor, and a veggie van. One turbine is meant for a housing development with small yard space that would let users have power added back to their homes. The solar panels use photovoltaics to generate electricity, and the processor converts vegetable oil to diesel. "Students collected oil from the Ram's Den and the Dining Hall and converted it during lab," said Dr. Mathews. The veggie van is a demo for engine reconfiguration to allow it to run on leftover grease (people's fuel).

The RED Zone will be used campuswide for class instruction. "You read what to do in textbooks and still aren't qualified to do it. We want our students to be on the cutting edge," said Dr. Mathews. The site is also open for community outreach. "People love to smell the tailpipe of the veggie van because it smells like what you put in. I've heard Dunkin' Donuts grease is the best."

She has also worked with Dr. Snyder on a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Development Office, Energy Efficiency Program that supported the 2006 Alternative Energy Odyssey Conference held on campus in October 2006. The conference featured a display of hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles, a demonstration of the veggie van, and professional presentations on biofuels and solar energy technologies that are suitable to West Virginia.

Dr. Mathews developed a course in sustainable development focusing on green building. The students examine development in Berkeley and Jefferson counties to see how to accommodate the population without polluting resources. The class also examines how to reduce energy use. As a field trip for the class the stu-dents visited a house that was being built with straw and assisted in building. The course introduces concepts of energy conservation and management and explores different energy sources for sustainable growth. Mathews has also developed another course to begin this fall, Integrated Pest Management. The class examines organic and sustainable pest control tactics. "We are trying to be at the head of the green movement," she said.

Dr. Mathews also serves as an advisor for the Shepherd Sustainability Council (SSC). The group set up a booth at Shepfest to promote environmental issues, has posted signs to educate the campus, and made flowers out of old aluminum cans and displayed them behind Snyder Hall. Mathews is also chair of the Shepherdstown Environmental Sustainability Committee which advises the Shepherdstown mayor on green building, renewable energy, and policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The committee would like to see green building utilized by Shepherd to save energy and money in the long term.

As for the future of the environmental studies program at Shepherd, Dr. Mathews sees "a continued focus on managing the planet's biological and physical resources sustainably and an increased emphasis on renewable energy sources to meet human needs--the most salient environmental issue of our time."

Stephanie Horst


Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.

Dr. Mathews with a solar panel.

Dr. Mathews with the Shepherd University Veggie Van.

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