College Hires New Director of Sustainability
Issue   |   Wed, 10/29/2014 - 01:35

Laura Draucker started work as the college’s first ever director of environmental sustainability this month, leading the recently founded Office of Environmental Sustainability.

A search committee of faculty, staff and students discussed specific skills and experience required to serve as the director of sustainability. The committee searched for a leader that could “integrate sustainable practices and values into the college’s strategic planning, management of resources and operations, facilities planning and design and serve as a source for curricular and co-curricular activities,” said Jim Brassord, the chief of campus operations.

While the committee reviewed many competitive applicants during the national search for the position, Draucker stood out as the most qualified candidate.

“What differentiated her from others was her ability to work with multiple constituents in a collaborative manner and lead change,” Brassord said. “She was the ideal candidate to integrate sustainability more fully into the life of the college.”

Prior to accepting the director of sustainability position, Draucker spent five years at the World Resources Institute, a highly regarded environmental think tank in Washington, D.C. At the organization, she collaborated with multi-stakeholder groups to develop greenhouse gas accounting.

Before her career at the World Resources Institute, Draucker also worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she assessed the net environmental impacts of specific goods and services.

Draucker said that she found many similarities between the director of sustainability position and her previous jobs.

“I was drawn to this position because similarly, it takes a holistic approach to campus sustainability – working with students, faculty, dining services, facilities and others to incorporate environmental awareness and practices into our daily operations as well as curricular and co-curricular activities,” she said.

Draucker said that the college is doing well at actively taking on green initiatives. Some recent sustainability projects on campus include green building design strategies, the college’s relationship with Book and Plow Farm and a 40 percent carbon footprint reduction since 2006.

However, according to Draucker, there is still room for improvement.

“Having the Office of Environmental Sustainability in place will really help to coordinate and communicate the great work we are already doing, as well as identify new projects and initiatives to make us a leader in higher education sustainability,” Draucker said.

As the new director of sustainability, Draucker has outlined a comprehensive agenda of both short and long-term goals. In the long run, she wants to help establish OES as an office that actively incorporates environmental sustainability into the daily lives of members of the college community. Draucker said her goal is that “students leave Amherst with a strong awareness of the synergies between a thriving and flourishing environment, economy and society.”

In the short term, Draucker said she hoped to forge strong interest and engagement in the OES and to raise awareness about sustainability projects the college has already begun. Furthermore, Draucker believes that the college must do some benchmarking in order to determine its sustainability-related strengths and weaknesses.

Draucker said she hopes this process will help to “focus our efforts and identify a few initial projects we can run with to get the whole thing off the ground.” Some possible projects include student eco-reps and innovation competitions.

Since the OES is a recent addition to the college, only having been open since the beginning of this fall, it remains unclear how the office will collaborate with other sectors of the college administration. However, Draucker said that interdepartmental collaboration will be important to the OES, and has already begun to work together with different offices and departments.

“I am working closely with facilities, design and construction and dining services to understand what we are already doing well and help communicate that,” Draucker said. “I am also working with the environmental studies department to identify student projects and help organize seminars.”

Draucker said she is also working with the Book and Plow Farm and can envision working with the Center for Community Engagement in the future.

Draucker also hopes to solidify the connection between the OES and student organizations that have already been doing environmental work. She has been in touch with the Green Amherst Project, an active club that raises environmental awareness on campus. Draucker said she wants to continue reaching out to other groups and students.

“I think there may be other groups out there [that] have a connection to environmental sustainability that they haven’t even realized yet,” Draucker said. “I am very excited to be here and help foster that awareness.”

Draucker expressed optimism about the college’s role in the global environmental movement.

“Although efforts on campus may seem small compared to the large environmental issues our society faces,” Draucker said. “We have a unique opportunity to test innovative approaches that can inform the actions of towns, cities, corporations and even national governments.”