Meet the Staff

Dr. John E. Wear, Jr.

Dr. John E. Wear, Jr., is the Founding Director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College and Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science. During his tenure at Catawba, he assumed responsibility for establishing the college’s Environmental Program, coordinating the faculty’s creation of four different degrees.

He has committed his energies to environmental initiatives at the local, regional and state level. His leadership has been instrumental in launching a number of sustainability initiatives in the state relating to air and water quality and land conservation.



In the 1990’s he served as the Founding Chairman of the N.C. Watershed Coalition, which, at that time, held the second largest statewide watershed conference in the nation. He was also a founding board member and past president of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and the founding chairman of one of North Carolina’s only countywide Sustainable Community Development Commissions. He was instrumental in the development and acquisition of the South Yadkin Wildlife Refuge and in the creation of one of the Southeast’s first higher education “green” buildings, the Center for the Environment facility, for which he provided design oversight. He has served on a number of state and regional boards and commissions including the North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance; “Connect,” a regional sustainability initiative of the Centralina Council of Governments; and other regional planning initiatives. He serves on the national board of the “Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska” television series.


Dr. Wear recently contributed a chapter called “Creating the Educational Foundations for Change” to the book Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness. He is a fellow of the American Leadership Forum and was named the 2003 N.C. Conservationist of the Year by the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Program; a 2002 “Guardian of the Earth” by The Charlotte Observer; and the 2001 Green Builder of the Year by the Carolina Recycling Association (the nation’s largest recycling organization). In addition to these awards, the Salisbury Civitan Club recognized him in 2001 for work in his community with the Citizen of the Year Award.


He teaches college courses that focus on environmental concepts, issues and the creation of sustainable solutions. He also lectures broadly on a variety of environmental topics, including shifting communities toward more ecological thinking and fostering leadership to advance sustainable solutions.


Dr. Wear 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 for the Environment’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 all communication, both print and electronic.  A graduate of Mary Baldwin College, Cathy 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.

Katie Cavert Ferrell

Katie Cavert Ferrell joined the Center for the Environment in 2015 to continue coordinating the N.C. Green Schools program for the Center, which has assumed leadership for the effort.

She has been an educator since 1998 and has worked in the field of sustainability since 2009. Before directing the N.C. Schools Program, she served as production assistant for BotaniPharm, communications coordinator for the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute and an education and outreach assistant for the Appalachian State University Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling.

Ferrell holds a bachelor of science degree in geology from the University of the South and a master of science degree in technology from Appalachian State University. Her graduate studies concentrated on appropriate technology, defined as “creating sustainable solutions using renewable resources to address community needs.”

Laura Richards

Laura Richards assumed the position of graphic artist at the Center for the Environment in 2009. She has done a variety of projects for local and national clients since 1983 when she founded Richards Creative Imagery in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  She has done brochures, logos, books, fliers and other printed material for clients like the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Drawing Board, Verizon and Lead Concepts.  Richards holds a bachelor of science degree from Michigan State University and an associate’s degree in graphics from the Art Institute of Dallas.

Malachi Gray

Malachi is the preserve-keeper for the Fred Stanback Ecological Preserve. He is a senior at Catawba College and an Environment and Sustainability major with a concentration in Sustainable Planning and Leadership. Malachi is also double-minoring in Botany and Entrepreneurship. He is a Resident Assistant on campus and is also a member of the Dead Athenian Society. Once he graduates from Catawba, he hopes to attend graduate school. 

Jai Hall

Jai is the web outreach coordinator for the Center for the Environment. She is currently a junior at Catawba College. She is a double major in Environment and Sustainability (with a concentration in Sustainable Planning and Leadership) and Business (with a concentration in Information Systems). She is also minoring in Music. Jai is the drum major for the Spirit of Catawba Marching Band and Pep Band, and is also the president of the Catawba Shelter Guardians. After she graduates Catawba, she hopes to one day open her own aquatics shop, where she can educate others about unique freshwater and saltwater fish species. 

Zach Johnson

Zach is a volunteer coordinator for the Center for the Environment. He is currently a senior at Catawba College. He is a triple-major in Environment and Sustainability, Biology, and Biochemistry. He is also minoring in Botany. Zach is a Resident Assistant on campus, the president of Catawba Outdoor Adventures, and a member of the Environmental Stewards. Once he graduates, he plans on attending graduate school to study environmental toxicology.

Alberto Borges

Alberto is an outreach specialist for the Center for the Environment. He is a senior at Catawba College and is majoring in Environment and Sustainability with a double-concentration of Natural Resource Management and Outdoor Environmental Education. He is also minoring in Biology. In 2016, Alberto was named and awarded National Geographic Explorer status for his research on camel spiders in northern Kenya. In 2017, he gave a TED talk at the Africa Idea Search conference in Nairobi and in 2018, he was awarded honorary membership into the Scientific Exploration Society in the UK.

Madison Kluge

Madison is an outreach specialist for the Center for the Environment. She is currently a senior at Catawba College. She is majoring in Environment and Sustainability with concentrations in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Science. She is also minoring in Chemistry. Madison is a member of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, an Alpha Chi Honor Society member, a member of the Catawba College American Chemical Society, and the Treasurer for the Catawba Eco Club.