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Dr. John Wear

Dr. John Wear, founder and executive director of the Center for the Environment and associate professor of biology and environmental science at Catawba College, has been involved in a diverse array of environmental efforts for over a quarter of a century that have spanned a very broad range of environmental and sustainability-focused areas. He has been named Conservationist of the Year by the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Program, “Guardian of the Earth” by the Charlotte Observer, and Green Builder of the Year by the Carolina Recycling Association, the nation’s largest recycling association, for his oversight of the design of the facility that houses the Center for the Environment, one of the Southeast’s first green academic buildings.

During his time as Director of the Center for the Environment, Wear has been the driving force behind a wide variety of regional initiatives, including campaigns to improve air quality and water quality, land conservation efforts, programing to educate government, community, and business leaders, a statewide program to certify schools for their efforts in shifting towards sustainability at all levels and a national environmental summit for high school students among just a few. Wear’s efforts to focus at the community level, engaging students in those efforts while educating the region and beyond, have brought the Center for the Environment into the national spotlight. Julian Keniry, author and co-creator of the National Wildlife Foundation’s Campus Ecology Program, recently called the Center “incomparable.” No other center in the country has, in her words, “the approach, the perspective, the longevity and the outcomes” that the Center has. “With leadership from John Wear and his team, the Center for the Environment at Catawba College has set many local and national precedents.”

Dr. Wear teaches college courses and has lectured broadly on a variety of topics that focus on environmental challenges and the creation of sustainable solutions. He holds a bachelor of science degree from North Carolina State University; a master of science degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and a Ph.D. from Wake Forest University.


Cathy Green

Cathy Green serves as the Center’s director of operations. She oversees all functions of the Center, including helping to plan and orchestrate events and programs; coordinating work-study and volunteer activities; and assisting with/orchestrating all communication, both print and electronic. A graduate of Mary Baldwin College, Ms. Green has been associated with the Center for the Environment since 2006, initially working as a volunteer.

Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid

Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid is the Center for the Environment’s Director of Student Engagement. She is also the Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Advocacy with the Department of Environment and Sustainability at Catawba College. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies, a Master’s in History, and two Bachelor’s degrees: one in Spanish Language and Culture and the other in the Biological Sciences. Her professional and personal background help to keep her attuned to the search for whole picture solutions for the pressing challenges of our world today.

She is a transdisciplinary scholar with research and teaching interests spanning the social and natural sciences, always with a clear concern for ecological integrity, equitable political-economies, and the building of truly democratic societies through strong community capacity. She believes that service, experiential learning, and critical inquiry are key elements to successful knowledge acquisition and is intent on cultivating an academic experience in the classroom that is impactful and relevant to students’ daily lives. She recognizes, however, that a significant amount of learning also takes place outside of the formal classroom.

Part of where Dr. Quesada-Embid empowers the tangibility of this knowledge is through community engagement and service-learning work. She finds that the Center for the Environment’s community focus is a great match for the work she enjoys doing with students. She would like to continue to foster an atmosphere that draws students out into the spaces beyond the physical College campus. In so doing, she would like to promote an even more apparent bridge between the Center and the diverse multiethnic, multilingual and multigenerational cultures within the surrounding Salisbury community. Dr. Quesada-Embid believes that this inclusive outreach work is key to building a strong, local sustainability movement.

She also sees value in further developing the relationship that the Center has to the College itself. Dr. Quesada-Embid’s aim is to support the bourgeoning efforts among the distinct Departments and Schools in the hopes of coalescing the good work of faculty and staff from different disciplines toward an expansion of a culture of sustainability across Catawba. This includes helping to advance institutional sustainability endeavors, through collaborative student research opportunities and innovative college-wide projects.

Dr. Quesada-Embid has a strong desire to empower a hope-and-agency-rich impact on the injustices so persistent and prevalent in our society and larger institutional frameworks. She believes that in our globalized world, sustainability has become the work of our time; which she understands as a pathway toward a more just future. Thus, an integrated, scholar-activist community ethic fuels her understanding of the necessity for interspecies and intergenerational justice and centers deeply in her work.

Laura Richards

Laura Richards has been working with the Center for the Environment since 2009, providing a variety of graphics. The owner of Richards Creative Imagery, she has developed many projects in collaborative efforts with her clients over the years. These projects include brochures, logos, newsletters, flyers and other printed material. Other artistic endeavors include pen and ink, watercolor, stained glass and mosaics.

Joshua Cool

Joshua Cool studied Interdisciplinary American history and Parks and Recreation Management at Appalachian State University. Growing up in a farming family led him back to horticulture and then to the care of native wildlife such as bobcats, black bears and raptors, among others. His driving motivation is to see environmental stewardship become a priority among all peoples. Managing the Fred Stanback Jr. Ecological Preserve as both a nature preserve and living classroom allows him to teach the next generation about the practical and theoretical challenges and triumphs that we as a species must undergo to protect the environment.

Jai Hall

Jai Hall is the Web Outreach Coordinator for the Center for the Environment. He is a senior at Catawba College and a double-major in Environment & Sustainability (with a concentration in Sustainable Planning and Leadership) and Computer & Information Science. He is minoring in Data Science. He is the President of the Catawba Shelter Guardians and is a Catawba Outdoor Ambassador. He also works at a local aquarium shop. After graduation, Jai hopes to one day open his own fish store where he can educate others about his passion for aquatic life and ethical fish care.

Dustin Sink

Dustin Sink is a senior at Catawba College. He is majoring in Environment and Sustainability with concentrations in Sustainable Planning and Natural Resource Management. He is also minoring in GIS. After graduation, Dustin plans on working for the forest service at either the federal or the state level.

Rachel Bentley

Rachel Bentley is a junior Environment & Sustainability major with a concentration in Environmental & Outdoor Education. She is the Service Coordinator for the Honors Program and manages the compost system in the sustainable garden. She works with the Center in creating engaging environmental education programs and materials. She plans on becoming a certified environmental educator and working at an environmental education center after graduation. 

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