Sometimes one doesn’t find their true calling during the first go-around in college.
Sometimes their first degree doesn’t give them enough satisfaction.
And sometimes it’s out of chance that a person’s passion is discovered.
This was the case for Wesley Enterline, who became UW-Whitewater’s first sustainability coordinator in 2008.
“I really got lucky that I got a position like this where I can have that kind of impact,” Enterline said.
Enterline is involved with many projects on campus to save energy, such as with lighting projects, working with the greenhouse gas inventory, the Zimride program, and helping improve recycling.
But working to enhance UW-Whitewater’s environmental efforts wasn’t always in Enterline’s plans, that is until he returned to UW-Whitewater in 2006.
When Enterline was a student here from 1996-2001, he earned a degree in Information Technology Infrastructure. But Enterline wasn’t satisfied with it.
Upon his arrival back to UW-Whitewater five years later, he had an epiphany in his World of Ideas class.
“Some of the stuff we read and the discussions snapped me out of the perspective I was in and woke me up,” said Enterline, who graduated with a sociology major and an environmental studies minor in his second stint as an undergraduate. “I wasn’t thinking about the big picture. I took that class and that’s when it shifted. I started looking at issues like oil depletion, energy depletion and what kind of dynamic that would have on society.”
While that class got him thinking more about environmental concerns, another class put him on his current path.
In the spring of 2008, Enterline was working on a project for his cultural ecology and sustainable development class. When Dr. Eric Compas, Enterline’s professor, asked for volunteers to present their topics to the chancellor and other faculty, many were reluctant.
Enterline, however, volunteered and it proved to be a worthwhile decision.
“He hit a home run with that presentation,” Compas said.
During one part in the presentation, Enterline said the university should hire a sustainability coordinator.
“I was presenting on that slide so I just cracked a joke, ‘If you guys are hiring, I just quit my job,’ ” said Enterline, who had recently left his job at a movie theater after eight years. “I took the plunge and just threw it out there as a joke.”
But many university officials liked the idea and Frank Bartlett, director of university housing, issued a grant and a part-time sustainability coordinator position was made, which Enterline received.
“He was the clear person to go after before he got a job somewhere else,” Compas said. “I think he just lives and breathes for this stuff. He just loves looking for different ways to improve the campus.”
The 20-hour-a-week job was only a two-year temporary position. But after the two years ran out, the university hired Enterline as a full-time employee in late October 2010.
Enterline likes the direction the university has gone in recent years on making the campus more sustainable.
“I just want to see the momentum continue to go toward the greater goal,” Enterline said. “We’re certainly not the leader in sustainability. But we do want to get closer to the front of the pack. I feel like there is a certain amount of urgency. I think we really need to make changes.”
Enterline has also made changes to his eating habits by going vegetarian.
To promote his healthy habits, Enterline will be a guest chef at Esker Dining Hall tonight. He will serve Quesadillas to provide all the student vegetarians an option on Steak and Shrimp Night.
This appearance will be in between the many events that Enterline will attend for Earth Week.
“It is like a holiday season,” Enterline said. “It gets pretty crazy. I have a to-do list that’s 30 points long. But it’s great because everyone identifies with it. This year we got pretty ambitious with it and tried to broaden it out. We wanted to try to hit a range of different interests. I hope that people see it as worthwhile.”
This career choice has become very worthwhile for Enterline, something he didn’t see coming 10 years ago.
“I wanted to focus on my little slice of the timeline: My 60, 70, 80 years I’m going to be here,” Enterline said. “I [hadn’t] really looked at the legacy we’re leaving for future generations and how that’s going to be sustainable.
“It became an ethical argument for me. What would I do the rest of my life? Am I going to help people fix their computers and stare at a screen? [Or] can I at least make my work have a greater meaning and purpose.”