2018 CASL Alumnus of the Year: David Norwood ('89 B.S.)

October 30, 2018

David Norwood was selected as this year’s CASL Alumnus of the Year. Norwood spent much time on this campus in the 70’s (he calls it his “former playground”) and now reflects on his time here as a student, and what receiving this award means to him.

David Norwood (’89 B.S.) is the sustainability coordinator for the City of Dearborn where he is responsible for developing, implementing and coordinating the city’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, the city's Initial Climate Action Plan, Sustainability Plan, and energy efficiency projects.

Norwood was selected as this year’s CASL Alumnus of the Year. He spent much time on this campus in the 70’s (he calls it his “former playground”) and now reflects on his time here as a student, and what receiving this award means to him.


CASL: As a CASL grad, how has CASL impacted you personally and professionally?

DAVID NORWOOD: Personally, my entire perspective on life and how life interacts with each other was profoundly changed through my coursework with Dr. Gelderloos.  First, I spent many hours in the Science Building labs. I learned the complex processes that create and sustain life through embryology, genetics, and botany. But, it was through Dr. Gelderloos’s Field Biology class that I learned the remarkable and interdependent web of life that develops and overcomes the challenges of existing near a very polluted watershed- the Rouge River. For one of my very last classes, Dr. Gelderloos directed me to analyze over 45 different middle school science books on one simple teaching point -- how are the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy presented. For the record, it was not presented very well and many times it was not mentioned at all. It became very clear to me that if you truly understood these fundamental laws, then you would succeed in the environmental science/studies world. The personal lesson that he ingrained in me was that nothing is ever just “thrown away” -- It goes somewhere or becomes something and that somewhere or something is what I and the rest of us should always be thinking about. Ultimately, we are stewards of a closed loop system -- earth.

So, this translated to my professional life as a teacher and lawyer.  Through my teaching career I impressed on my students that life is not just a one dimensional journey.  But, rather they should think that their actions have consequences on the world around them regardless of age or experience.  As a lawyer, I brought Dr. Gelderloos’s perspective to my colleagues in law school and throughout my career in the City of Dearborn.  Since I understood my role to be a steward of our planet, I could assist Ford Motor Company as they rebuilt the Rouge Plant into one of the most sustainable manufacturing plants in the world.  In my current role as Sustainability Coordinator for the city, I get to practice and implement all of the concepts presented by Dr. Gelderloos.


CASL: What do you think is a misconception about CASL/Liberal Arts and in what way(s) do you work to address/correct that misconception?

DN: I would argue that the primary misconception about CASL/Liberal Arts is that the degree is too general and a graduate cannot jump into a career unless the student goes to graduate school or gets some type of additional certificate.  This is a false and lazy thinker’s perception of the college. As a contributing member of society, it is my belief that a person should have a broad view of the human condition. Technical competency is a valuable and important component and I completely understand that British Literature or Ancient Roman History is not for everyone. But, exposure to these topics makes one have compassion or patience with our fellow travelers.  The bottom line for me is that the a liberal arts degree is exactly where one should start if they are pursuing higher education as path to a career. Throughout my career I have advocated through the hiring process to bring on colleagues that have studied topics that are not just technical or practical. It makes a great interview if the person in front of you can have a logical discussion about philosophy and the context of the particular position they are seeking.


CASL: What does it mean to you to be CASL Alumnus of the Year?

DN: I am thankful, humbled, and honored that I would ever be considered for this award.  I never look at what I do professionally as something that is worth noting. My time teaching and working and serving the citizens of Dearborn has been very rewarding for me. Although I worked very hard to get my degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and it’s been a privilege to come back to campus and guest lecture students about sustainability, local government, and my experiences on the Rouge River, it is my responsibility to apply what I learned.  My education from the University of Michigan-Dearborn allowed me to have this career. To be recognized by an institution that I so deeply respect for my work is beyond anything I could have ever expected.

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