Wendy James Potrait

Wendy (Menard) James to Receive Shouldice Award

Wendy (Menard) James, CEO of The Better World Group, will receive the Kenneth J. Shouldice Professional Achievement Award at the annual Alumni Awards banquet during Great Lake State Weekend 2019 October 11. The Shouldice Award, established in 1994, honors individuals whose personal and professional successes serve as outstanding examples to LSSU graduates. Dr. Shouldice is, in many ways, the founding father of today’s Lake Superior State University. As the first chancellor and president (1965-1982), he guided the campus from a two-year branch of Michigan Technological University to an autonomous four-year college. Enrollment grew from 700 students in 1965 to more than 2,800 in 1983 under his leadership.

Better World Group

Wendy James established The Better World Group (BWG) in 1999. In the twenty years since creating BWG she developed unique expertise in the media, government, corporate and nonprofit sectors, with a special focus on environmental issues. She built a team that worked with environmental and equity groups, government organizations, businesses and other progressive organizations in framing their environmental strategies and implementing advocacy campaigns in support of a wide array of policies and projects. With BWG, she redefined coalition building to deliver a string of successful environmental policy achievements for California and beyond. She also served as a mentor to countless young advocates, many of whom have since moved into positions of authority. She retired from BWG at the end of 2018.

Wendy has unique expertise in the media, government, corporate and nonprofit sectors, with a special focus on environmental issues. She works with environmental and environmental justice groups, government organizations and progressive businesses in framing their environmental strategies and implementing advocacy campaigns in support of a wide array of policies and projects. She has extensive knowledge of climate change, clean energy and air quality policy issues and extensive experience with coalition management, complex public policy issue shaping, media relations and communications strategy. Wendy also possesses a highly regarded political acumen, relationship-building with elected officials.

Wendy has built and managed coalitions that were successful in numerous initiatives such as saving and strengthening California’s zero emission vehicle standards; plastic bag ban in California; implementing the state’s groundbreaking low carbon fuel standard; building nearly 30 state-of-the art playgrounds, designed to serve children 5 and under, in some of the most park-poor communities in the country located in Southeast Los Angeles; and building community gardens across Los Angeles County, serving disadvantaged communities.

Earlier Employment

Prior to forming The Better World Group, Wendy served as president of the nonprofit Environmental Media Association (EMA), working closely with the entertainment industry to support various environmental initiatives. While at EMA, she launched a program focusing on the operations and production side of the entertainment industry, harnessing the industry’s purchasing power and high visibility to broaden support for environmental products and practices. Wendy’s experience in energy and the environment includes both natural gas and electric technologies. She was on the forefront of advanced transportation initiatives, heading up Southern California Edison’s Electric Transportation Division, and led the natural gas industry’s environmental outreach at the American Gas Association in Washington, D.C.

Prior to her work in the environmental field, Wendy served as press secretary for former U.S. Representative Robert W. Davis (R-Michigan) and served that same role while Davis was Minority Leader of the Michigan Senate. She came to the state capital while still a college student, at the request of Michigan’s Governor, who selected her to create and direct a statewide youth highway safety program. She began her professional career as a reporter and weekly columnist for The Evening News, a daily newspaper in Northern Michigan.

Volunteer Service and Recognition

For nearly 20 years, she has served on the Board of Advisors for the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis. She also serves as a founding board member of the Sault Tribe Business Association, an organization of tribal-owned businesses. She served for 20 years on the Board of Trustees for the California State Parks Foundation where she led the organization’s effort to expand equity and access in state parks. In 2009, Wendy completed more than a decade of service on the Board of Directors for the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) and also served eight years, including as chair and vice chair, on the Board of Burbank Water & Power, a municipal utility serving more than 50,000 customers. She was selected by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce to represent the organization on the city’s Sustainability Commission.

Over the years Wendy was recognized by many organizations including lifetime achievement awards from the Coalition for Clean Air, Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and ClimateResolve. The Climate Action Reserve presented Wendy with the Mary D. Nichols Climate Action Champion Award in 2014, which identifies outstanding leadership and commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Among her other accolades, Wendy was honored by the California League of Conservation Voters in 2011 with an Environmental Leadership Award, was honored by the California Climate Action Registry in 2008 and named Small Business Woman of the Year for California’s 20th Senate District and 43rd and 44th Assembly Districts in 2006. Under her leadership, the company was named Small Business of the Year by the San Fernando Business Journal. She currently serves as a founding board member of the Sault Tribe, Inc., an organization of tribal-owned businesses.

Throughout her career, Wendy has served in leadership roles on countless nonprofit Boards including:

  • California League of Conservation Voters, Vice President
  • CLCV Environmental Leadership Forum, Co-Chair
  • Coalition for Clean Air, Chair
  • California State Parks Foundation Executive Committee Member
  • Burbank Water and Power, Chair
  • U-C Davis Institute for Transportation Studies Advisory Board member for 20 years
  • Burbank Sustainability Commission, Chair
  • UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Advisory Committee
  • Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters Board Member
  • Burbank Boys and Girls Club Board Member
  • Sault Tribe (Chippewa) Business Alliance Founding Board Member

Wendy attended Lake Superior State University before moving to Lansing at the request of Michigan’s governor.  She then graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism, with minors in political science and economics. She is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America and is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Wendy lives in Burbank, California with her husband Michael.

The Kenneth J. Shouldice Achievement Award will be presented at the Alumni Awards Banquet during Great Lake State Weekend on Friday, October 11 at 5:00 pm. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available on the GLSW website or in person at the Alumni office.

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About the Author

Susan FitzpatrickSusan Fitzpatrick
Director of Alumni Relations

Susan started working at Lake Superior State University one year after she graduated from Lake State with a bachelor's in English Language and Literature in 1987. She has held various positions for the Foundation and Alumni offices and has been Alumni Director since 2006. In her free time Susan enjoys reading, running, biking, hiking, kayaking and gardening, and cooking as long as someone else cleans up!