Submitted on Monday, 6/16/2014, at 1:12 PM

Amherst College is establishing an Office of Environmental Sustainability and will be launching a national search for the office’s first director, marking a major milestone in the college’s longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability.   

Solar panels on the roof of Mayo-Smith House

“Amherst College, as well as generous alumni who have provided the initial funding for the office, recognize the critical importance of establishing a highly placed and visible organization to guide and coordinate institutional sustainability efforts,” said the college’s president, Biddy Martin. “This new structure will keep sustainability at the fore of our institutional consciousness and build critical synergies between sustainability projects, programs and initiatives.”

The new office was proposed by Jim Brassord, Amherst’s chief of campus operations, who said its unique structure will include an advisory board composed of faculty and alumni with backgrounds of expertise and achievement in sustainability initiatives.

“I’m tremendously excited about this initiative,” Brassord said. “I envision that the Office of Environmental Sustainability will forge strong connections with programs across the college that include academics, facilities, dining services and student affairs.”

“This is an exciting moment,” said Jan Dizard, the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor in American Culture and co-chair of environmental studies at Amherst. “In our environmental studies courses, we necessarily focus on the many environmental challenges we face, but we also endeavor to make clear that, as complex as the problems are, there are also many opportunities to meaningfully address the problems—seeking sustainability is key. 

“Having an Office of Sustainability will keep us all focused on the need to improve our practices—in our personal lives, in our teaching and in the goals we set for the Amherst College community,” Dizard said.

Students planting at Book and Plow farm Book & Plow Farm

The new office’s charge will be to reduce the rate at which the college depletes resources, while integrating campus sustainability initiatives into research and teaching and creating opportunities for students and faculty to participate in the “greening” of the campus.

The office also will have the responsibility for launching a self-perpetuating Revolving Green Energy Fund to encourage the adoption of energy-saving initiatives proposed by the campus community.  Additionally, the new office will oversee the college’s Book & Plow Farm, a unique working farm that links local farmers to students, faculty and dining services.

“This will enhance Book & Plow’s connection to the college, so we can foster even more community interest and participation,” Brassord said.

The search for the director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability will begin in May in order to support a fall 2014 opening of the office.

According to the description for the position, the new director, who will report to the chief of campus operations, will work with campus constituents to develop innovative programs and projects that ensure that the college is a mindful environmental steward, and integrate sustainable values and practices into the college’s strategic planning, management of resources and operations, facilities planning and design, and curricular and co-curricular activities.

The new office will eventually be housed in the new science building, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Until then, the office will be co-located with the Facilities Department in order to establish strong programmatic linkages with Campus Operations.


About Amherst College

Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with approximately 1,800 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B.A. degree in 38 fields of study. Sixty percent of Amherst students receive need-based financial aid.