Yale appoints new Sustainability Director

After two months without a director, Yale’s Office of Sustainability will soon have a new leader in Virginia Chapman.

Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith and Associate Vice President for Facilities John Bollier announced Chapman’s appointment in a Thursday email to the Yale community. In the same email, Highsmith and Bollier announced the creation of the Sustainability Advisory Council, a faculty-led group tasked with integrating different approaches to sustainability throughout the University and advising University President Peter Salovey on ways that Yale can be a global leader on environmental issues. Chapman’s appointment, the creation of the new council and the continuation of current initiatives will renew Yale’s commitment to sustainability, Highsmith and Bollier said.

In her new role, Chapman will oversee an office charged with coordinating environmental sustainability efforts — from both policy and operational perspectives — across the University. Chapman, who will step into her new role on Nov. 18, currently serves as the Director of Facilities Sustainable Initiatives.

“Under [Chapman’s] leadership, the Office of Sustainability will continue its close partnerships with dining, purchasing, finance and business operations, transportations, the professional schools, and other key academic and administrative units across campus,” Highsmith and Bollier said in the email.

Chapman did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday.

Highsmith and Bollier said Chapman has been a “key participant” in sustainability efforts at Yale. She previously worked on “green” laboratory renovations at the Yale School of Medicine and led the committee that established Yale’s “Sustainable Design Requirements,” which provide guidelines for future Yale buildings.

Chapman also served on the Advisory Committee for Environmental Management, a committee that pushed for more emphasis on sustainability at Yale. In 2005, the committee was instrumental in establishing the Office of Sustainability.

The office has been without a leader since mid-August, when former director Julie Newman left to become director of sustainability at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Newman had served as Yale’s first sustainability director since 2004.

Unlike many offices at Yale, students play a significant role in the Office of Sustainability, where they can work as paid staff members alongside permanent employees, largely through the Sustainability Service Corps, a cohort of 26 students that aims to expand a culture of sustainability throughout Yale.

Carlos Gould ’15, who leads the group’s efforts on energy issues, said that to his knowledge, members of the Sustainability Corps had no role in Chapman’s selection.

Most office staff members and students involved did not respond to requests for comment, and two students said members of the group are not supposed to speak to the media about the office. Still, one member said the new director would have little impact on his day-to-day work.

“I honestly didn’t even know we hired a new director,” said Landon Acriche ’15, the Saybrook sustainability coordinator, in an email to the News, adding that the recent lack of a director has not affected his work.

Nevertheless, Landon said he hopes the Office under Chapman’s leadership will consider moving forward on several initiatives to improve sustainability and heighten the office’s profile at Yale. Among these, he said, are developing a compost plant on campus, improving the cleanliness of the fuel source at the Yale Power Plant, expanding collaboration with New Haven officials and reaching out to more members of the Yale community.

Thirty-two students from Yale College and the University’s graduate and professional schools also work in the office as research assistants.

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