History of the Jane Goodall Center

The Jane Goodall Center, founded on the campus of WCSU nearly twenty years ago, has collaborated tirelessly with the university on many levels.  The Jane Goodall Symposium, an annual event for over a decade, brought Dr. Goodall to campus and allowed her an opportunity to interact with academic, environmental and business leaders as well as the community-at-large.  These forums provided a chance to raise awareness regarding a wide range of topics of local, national and international concern, including biology, ecology and human culture. The JGC continues to thrive due to the support of WCSU and our community as each has been an invaluable resource to us in accomplishing our goals.

As part of, and in addition to Dr. Goodall's symposia, the JGC has hosted regular public talks with participation from a variety of noted individuals, including folk singer, environmentalist and activist Pete Seeger; chimp videographer Bill Wallauer, permaculture guru Ryan Harb; ethnobotantist Mark Plotkin; as well as tropical and conservation biologist Dr. Thomas Lovejoy. Fabien Cousteau, filmmaker, oceanographic  explorer and grandson of Jacques Cousteau, is the JGC's first scheduled speaker for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year. 

The Center also fosters service learning projects for students throughout the community by reaching out to help with after school programs, animal shelters, the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, nursing homes, food pantries and soup kitchens.

In 2005, WCSU was established as The National Center for University Roots & Shoots by the Jane Goodall Institute and was the first of its kind in the U.S.  From 2005-2012, the Roots and Shoots  office at WCSU served as a regional and national center of excellence that trained university students, faculty and administrators to develop programs for K-12 and college students in local, regional and global conservation.  Two notable programs grew out of this satellite office of the Jane Goodall Institute as well: The Roots & Shoots Summits and The Youth Leadership Initiative. Through the efforts of many WCSU faculty members, including Dr. Rick Asselta and Dr. Howard Russock, along with help from national JGI staff members Grace Felten and Shawn Sweeney, the Roots & Shoots program grew from a mere handful to nearly 150 clubs today all around the globe.

The international headquarters for Roots & Shoots is now located at the Jane Goodall Institute headquarters in Washington, D.C.,  but with steady support from the university, WCSU maintains a very active group that works closely with other clubs throughout the Northeast.  Animal Week, International Peace Day, and Earth Day activities are yearly events and our R & S students attend  leadership and educational conferences annually.  Kudos have been earned in recent years, most notably, “Best New Club” and “Most Active Club” honors awarded by the Student Government Association, thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of Faculty Advisor Dr. Bethany Morrison.

The Jane Goodall Center at WCSU is currently led by the following faculty members: Dr. Laurie Weinstein, (Anthropology) Chair; Dr. Howard Russock (Biology); Dr. Stephen (Mitch) Wagener (Biology); Dr. Robert Whittemore (Anthropology); Dr. Bethany Morrison (Anthropology); Dr. Mary O’Neill (Philosophy); and Dr. Darla Shaw (Education). 

The Jane Goodall Center has established an ambitious and active agenda for the next five years. We are in need of your support to accomplish our many plans and projects:

  1. Design and plant a large ecologically sound garden that will supply food to student cafeterias as well as local soup kitchens and food pantries;
  2. Teach students, through overseeing the garden, about getting “dirty,” going green, disconnecting from technology and learning a skill that will feed the community;
  3. Sponsor visits by well-known speakers to shine a spotlight on global, environmental and humanitarian problems, who will also teach us ways to solve those problems;
  4. Collaborate with Roots & Shoots club members on fundraising for charities, special events and symposia;
  5. Welcome Dr. Jane Goodall for periodic visits to WCSU;
  6. Secure grant funding for the many exciting & educational programs, speakers and classes that promote the mission of the Jane Goodall Center for Environmental Excellence at WCSU.
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