Wente, Kopstain launch new Sustainability Advisory Council

Vanderbilt has established a new Sustainability Advisory Council to guide and support the university’s progress toward its comprehensive long-term sustainability strategy. The council will include students, staff and faculty selected by Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente and Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain.

Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)
Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)

The council will ensure the university is applying diverse viewpoints, varied expertise and a collective mindset to reach its sustainability goals, including Vanderbilt’s carbon neutrality by 2050 pledge and recent commitment to achieve zero waste on campus by 2030.

“I am grateful to the members of the council, who embody Vanderbilt’s dedication to shared governance, transparency and collaboration, for advancing sustainability and ultimately positioning our university and our region for long-term success,” Wente said.

The council will increase engagement as the university continues integrating and implementing the findings of its recent sustainability planning studies, such as the BlueSky Energy Vision Study, the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Study and the Zero Waste Study.

Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain (Vanderbilt University)

“Sustainability is an integral value of our campus culture,” Kopstain said. “As we continue our efforts to reach our sustainability goals, we must collaborate with our students, faculty and staff. Reaching this goal is only possible if there is a community-wide effort.”

The Sustainability Advisory Council will explore topics during its first year ranging from transportation and mobility; diversity, equity and justice in sustainability; zero waste; and energy and sustainable infrastructure.

Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR) and Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) worked with administrators to form this council.

“We first thought to develop this advisory council after the carbon neutrality efforts were announced in 2019, so we want to ensure the council plays a role in assisting different corners of campus with the changes necessary in order to achieve the projected milestones,” said SPEAR Executive Vice President Sydney Juda. “The university has never committed so much of its resources and energy to sustainability, so I believe that it is important to have people from all areas of Vanderbilt provide input and hold each other accountable to achieve these efforts.”

“The council will offer a unifying group that sees and ties together all of the varied pieces that make up the sustainability puzzle at Vanderbilt,” Keegan Campanelli, president of SPEAR, said. “We have had many different sustainability committees and initiatives, but there hasn’t been a singular group that ties together all of the diverse voices at Vanderbilt and allows them to craft and formulate a vision for how the university can be a leader in sustainability.”

VSG Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Andrew Harwell added that he believes the council is a keystone piece in solving the complex puzzle of institutional sustainability.

“In addition to keeping Vanderbilt accountable for its existing sustainable development goals, the council will also help envision creative new ways to mobilize our brilliant students, faculty and administrators towards a shared goal of a zero waste, carbon neutral campus,” Harwell said.

The Sustainability Advisory Council members are:

  • Robert Kell, graduate fellow, Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice, and Divinity Student Association
  • Kelsea Best, president, Graduate Student Council
  • Ariana Boyd, president, Vanderbilt Bar Association Energy and Environmental Law Society
  • James Sears, executive committee member, Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association
  • Keegan Campanelli, president, Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility
  • Sydney Juda, executive vice president, SPEAR
  • Frances Burton, president, Vanderbilt Student Government
  • Andrew Harwell, environmental affairs chair, VSG
  • Rishara Weerakoon, vice president, Multicultural Leadership Council
  • Maureen Ubani, AmbassaDore
  • Dan Morgan, principal senior lecturer of earth and environmental sciences and associate dean, College of Arts and Science
  • Joerg Rieger, Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair in Wesleyan Studies, distinguished professor of theology, and founding director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice, Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Florence Sanchez, professor of civil and environmental engineering, director of graduate studies in environmental engineering and associate chair of the department, School of Engineering
  • Yolanda McDonald, assistant professor of human and organizational development, Peabody College
  • Kathy Gould, Louise B. McGavock Chair, professor of cell and developmental biology, associate dean for biomedical sciences and director of Graduate Student Support, School of Medicine
  • Tyler Nelson, associate professor of voice, Blair School of Music
  • Mark Cohen, Justin Potter Professor of American Competitive Enterprise, professor of law and University Fellow, Resources for the Future, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law, director of the Program in Law and Innovation and co-director of the Energy, Environment and Land Use Program, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Carol Ziegler, professor of nursing, School of Nursing
  • David Hess, James Thornton Fant Chair in Sustainability Studies, professor of sociology and director of undergraduate studies, College of Arts and Science
  • George Hornberger, Craig E. Philip Chair in Engineering, University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Sciences and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, School of Engineering
  • André Churchwell, interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer
  • Steve Ertel, vice chancellor for communications
  • David Ter Kuile, executive director, Campus Dining
  • Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration
  • Erin Hafkenschiel, executive director of mobility
  • Mike Perez, associate vice chancellor for administration and chief facilities officer
  • Kelli Fager, senior director, Purchasing and Payment Services
  • Geoff MacDonald, head coach, Vanderbilt women’s tennis team
  • Andrea George, director, Sustainability and Environmental Management Office and Environmental Health and Safety

Learn more about Vanderbilt’s sustainability efforts on the FutureVU Sustainability website.