Meet the Winners of NC State’s Sustainability Awards

The winners of the 2023 NC State Sustainability Awards were announced during the Celebration of NC State Sustainability on April 18. Meet this year’s honorees for outstanding sustainability achievements.


Alie Akins is a senior in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, in which she has published multiple papers, presented at prestigious conferences and developed an AI-based anomaly detection algorithm during an internship at the Argonne National Laboratory. Additionally, she serves as the resource conservation team coordinator for the Sustainability Stewards at NC State and has been part of significant projects, such as the solar bus stop on Dan Allen Drive and Solar Space at Gardner Arboretum. Alie is currently working to install a pollinator garden at Talley Student Union along with organizing multiple events to engage students in conservation, including the campus-wide Energy and Water Competition


Dr. Karen Leonas is a dedicated sustainability leader from the Wilson College of Textiles. With a background in textile chemistry and fashion management, she has a unique understanding of both the science and managerial aspects of sustainability in this field. Her work includes developing courses, research and promoting a circular economy in the textile industry.  Dr. Leonas also mentors both undergraduate and graduate students and serves on sustainability committees on campus and for industry organizations. She is dedicated to making textiles and apparel more sustainable and her efforts have had a significant impact at NC State and the global textile industry. 


Laurel Krynock is a GIS Administrator in the Facilities Division at NC State. Beyond her professional role which directly impacts campus sustainability, Laurel also mentors students for the GIS graduate certificate program on various sustainability projects. These projects include a GIS-based mobile application to manage campus trees, a GIS model to identify optimal locations for electric vehicle charging stations and a GIS-based tool to track and manage pollinator habitats on campus. Laurel’s mentorship efforts have had a significant impact on campus operations and maintenance, as these tools help to improve the health of campus green spaces and help determine optimal charging stations for electric vehicles. 


The NC State Turtle Rescue Team is a volunteer organization run by veterinary students at the College of Veterinary Medicine. These dedicated students provide medical, surgical and husbandry services free of charge to over 300 wild turtles, reptiles and amphibians each year in the hope of releasing them back into the wild. Additionally, the team is involved with various public outreach programs. The Turtle Rescue Team’s efforts directly impact the health and biodiversity of North Carolina’s natural environment.


Sustainability is a primary focus of the Landscape Services department at NC State, which oversees the maintenance of 1,200 acres on campus. With a team of 90+ professional landscape horticulturists, Landscape Services prioritizes sustainable practices of using native, pollinator and perennial plants, composting, employing integrated pest management techniques and using electric-powered equipment to decrease noise and air pollution. The department has started an on-campus greenhouse and whenever possible, materials removed from campus landscapes are reused in new projects. Students, staff and faculty seek out the resources and knowledge that the department provides to support curriculum and campus-wide enhancements. Landscape Services also engages with students through internships and support of student-led projects that improve the campus environment. 

The NC State Sustainability Awards are sponsored by the NC State Sustainability Council. Learn more about all of the 2023 nominees and previous Sustainability Award winners at