Sustainable Learning

Article Published: Jul. 19, 2012 | Modified: Jul. 19, 2012
Sustainable Learning

Kayla Tilman is the 2012 recipient of the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson Scholarship at Appalachian State University.

Photo submitted

Sustainable development, seen often as a narrow educational environmental degree, is more of a spacious applicable philosophy.

“Sustainability and sustainable development (SD) is more than just ‘going green’ and environmental awareness,” Chuck Smith, one of Appalachian State University’s sustainable development professors, said. “Sustainability means attending to and combining the important areas of environment, economics and (social) equity – also known as the ‘Three Es.”

The Doc and Rose Lee Watson Scholarship is given to a student who fulfills these three and majors in this program.

On the SD program’s 21st anniversary, the scholarship was awarded to 21-year-old Kayla Tilman at the 15th annual MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove this past weekend.

Mountain Times Publications contributed $1,000 toward the scholarship through sales of a Watauga Democrat special edition tribute to Doc Watson, the award-winning bluegrass legend from Deep Gap, who died May 29. Mountain Times Publications publisher Gene Fowler and The Mountain Times editor Frank Ruggiero presented the check to Tommy Walsh, director of ASU Sustainable Development Outreach, Saturday at MusicFest.

Tilman, of Fayetteville, could not attend to personally accept the scholarship due to a previous engagement.

She decided to major in sustainable development after a series of events that tugged on her discernment of duty.

“I attended the N.C. Governor’s School one summer and was exposed to Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and other social justice issues that correlate with climate change and ecosystem destruction,” she said in her scholarship application.

When she returned, the conviction did not dissolve. She and a classmate began the first environmental club of Jack Britt High School. They coordinated volunteer opportunities with the Cape Fest Botanical Gardens and expanded the recycling program to include classrooms, activity rooms, and cafeterias. They held a fundraiser every April to donate money for clean water initiatives in developing countries though the organization, A Child’s Right.

She studied abroad through ASU to Huancayo, Peru, where she volunteered with a local after-school facility for rural children in the Andes. Her concern with the “left-behind” rural populations was matched with other “passionate” youth at the 2011 Powershift Conference in Washington, D.C.

Last summer, she joined an internship with the nonprofit, Sustainable Sandhills, in her hometown of Fayetteville. She gave lectures on environmentalism and sustainability in North Carolina high schools and Fayetteville State University. She facilitated a co-op with Sandhills Farm to Table, a local CSA that delivers fresh local produce.

Appalachian State University has the oldest SD program, begun in1991. The scholarship goes to a local student with financial need during their junior year and is renewable for the student’s senior year, provided they remain in good academic standing.

The Brundtland Commission, a leader in raising sustainable development awareness, defines it as “Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Tilman will use the scholarship, combined with two jobs, to help pay for the last two years of her education at ASU. She plans to use knowledge acquired through the program to continue community outreach in “these very issues we all have in common – land, water, air, food and health.”

For more information or to donate to the fund, visit

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