After years of experience in the field of campus sustainability, Julie Newman will take on a role as the first director of MIT’s new Office of Sustainability.
The Office of Sustainability was created in mid-August by MIT Executive Vice President Israel Ruiz, and currently consists of a three-person staff of Newman, Steven M. Lanou and Susy Jones. Newman’s position was created to address ecological, economic and social equity problems and provide effective solutions. This includes but is not limited to issues such as water, waste, and energy management.
“As director, my role is to build upon an already existing foundation of MIT’s commitment to sustainability,” said Newman.
Newman sees her role as threefold. First is her commitment to focusing on the operational campus system. “I need to know how to integrate sustainability across all our operational systems across campus,” she said.
From there, Newman plans to engage the MIT community, and lastly, to develop partnerships within the university, across the cities of Boston and Cambridge, and beyond. Despite the small size, Newman is confident that the office will have a significant impact.
After earning her PhD from Tufts University in 1995, Newman went on to begin work in campus sustainability, eventually becoming the founding director of the Office of Sustainability at Yale University. “We established a very robust roadmap that cut across all operational divisions of the university,” she said.
While she enjoyed success at Yale, Newman wants to make a distinction between her previous work and her work here.
“What I do at Yale, I’m not going to do at MIT, because MIT is its own entity. I want to bring a wealth of experience to MIT, want to make sure the framework that I develop reflects the culture and mission of MIT. There will be so much that will be similar, but also opportunities for different types of leadership,” said Newman.
She hopes that the dedication to new models and innovation will translate well into sustainability research, paving the way for a cutting-edge approach to sustainability. “A robust, innovative sustainability program here is going to approach all of these issues from a systems perspective first; we will figure out where is the best leverage point for the biggest impact, and that really changes the game,” said Newman.
Newman hopes to use her experience to “bring a new voice to the table, asking different questions and having new ideas.” For Newman, the excitement comes from the complexity of the situations and her ability to solve them systematically. This includes analyzing each realm of sustainability, and then bringing the proper expertise in to provide a resolution.
Newman is already busy assessing the current infrastructure of the university, engaging faculty to find new approaches to sustainability, and planning out a comprehensive roadmap for sustainability at the institute.
“In a couple of months people will start to see a framework for the office that’ll interact with folks around campus; I hope to engage people and say, ‘Can we think of this differently?’” said Newman.