The morning sun peeks through the trees over Hearn Plaza, on the campus of Wake Forest University on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

This month the Wake Forest undergraduate Environment and Sustainability Studies Program reached an important milestone in welcoming new Program Director Dr. Julie Velásquez Runk. She comes to Wake Forest from the University of Georgia, where she was an Associate Professor of Anthropology. Velásquez Runk takes the program’s reins from Eric Stottlemyer, Associate Dean for the Engaged Liberal Arts at Wake Forest.

Velásquez Runk was attracted to Wake Forest’s strong liberal arts tradition and teacher-scholar model. “I’m delighted to be here. I appreciate the relationships between students and faculty, and as a product of a liberal arts undergraduate education, I know the value of that.” She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell College, a master’s of environmental management from Duke University, and her Ph.D. from Yale University.

Dr. Julie Velásquez Runk

Velásquez Runk’s research examines the relationships between humans and the environment. She has three main focal areas: sustaining forests and nurturing human well being in mosaic landscapes; strengthening cultural and environmental rights and sovereignty; and incorporating multiple voices in holistic science and the humanities. Her scholarship takes a highly interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies, drawing from ecology, anthropology, Indigenous studies, public health, history, and geography.

Velásquez Runk’s goal is to build an inclusive environmental program here on campus, with diverse faculty and students engaging with our local and global communities. Her vision will meet a growing interest in environmental justice among students and faculty on campus, and will extend Wake Forest’s impact here in Winston Salem. “I think it’s important to harness experiences so students work both in their home community and in other communities,” she says.

“We are so delighted to welcome Dr. Velásquez Runk here at Wake Forest,” says Stan Meiburg, Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability.  “She brings a distinguished scholarly record and strong leadership to our Environment and Sustainability program, as well as a deep commitment to community engagement.  This is another great step forward in making Wake Forest a center for scholarship and leadership on the urgent Pro Humanitate issues of our time.”