Fulfilling The Spelman Legacy: A Choice To Change The World

EDF Staff | August 26, 2011

By: Melissa Wise, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Spelman College; MBA candidate at Keller Graduate School of Management

Here I am back on Spelman's campus. It's been eight years since the first time I walked through their gates as a student. I never thought that I'd be back here so soon after graduation, living a dream that I once had out of desperation as a "freshwoman" trying to survive the non-air-conditioned dorms. I had a vision of one day returning to the Spelman community as an Alumna and providing at least one dorm with the air-conditioning that it deserved. It seemed to be a "rite of passage" at Spelman for first-year students to live in non-air-conditioned buildings. Those unbearable long summer seasons in "Hot-lanta" will never be forgotten. So, I vowed that when I became a well-established businesswoman, it would be my gift to the school. Being a fellow with EDF may make that dream come true a little sooner than planned.


Here’s what I’ve learned upon my return:

  • The Suites, Spelman’s newest dormitory, received a silver-level certification from LEED.  This makes it the first of its kind for a residence hall on the campus of a historically Black university.
  • My office equipment inventory has shown that Spelman uses a very high percentage of Energy Star products including: copiers, fax machines, computers, and monitors. Spelman also has a high percentage of Energy Star vending and snack machines.
  • Lighting upgrades are well under way from T12 to T8 bulbs, along with many other energy efficient bulb choices.

And the list just goes on at this pioneering institute.  Often, I find myself coming across an idea for a possible improvement, just to find out that it has already been considered or underway in future plans.  Spelman seems to have it all under control, so I’ll just have to keep on digging!  It is definitely hard to find fault behind these gates.

 Interesting quotes I frequently hear:

  • “It’s my choice, and I choose to change the world!” A line from Spelman’s theme song sung by our Glee Club.  I hear this song or see this phrase often around campus and in articles on the school website.
  • “Ahh, touché!” Friendly debates involving opposing views of equipment and upgrades.  For example, the campus mechanical “Mr. Fix –it” may feel that a heating/cooling unit needs to be replaced due to its extensive life cycle, while the Automatic Control System guru will say that it’s working just fine. Who is right?
  • “Hey, who turned out the lights?” The Director of Facilities Management and Services (my supervisor) will randomly make trips to areas around campus during peak demand hours and turn off lights in unoccupied areas.

Choosing to change the world may seem like a difficult task for such a small school, but Spelman is no stranger to leadership and service. Be it students, alumnae, faculty or staff, Spelman is dedicated to serving its community and making choices that will impact many generations to come.  I am proud to join the continuous, precious legacy of Spelman’s story that dates back to 1881. Needless to say, this opportunity is a dream come true.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.