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Penn State University Names Chief Sustainability Officer: 3 Things to Know

May 29, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

Lara B. Fowler (pictured, top of page) a professor at Penn State Law and researcher with expertise in water, energy, agriculture and dispute resolution, has been named director of the Sustainability Institute at Penn State and the University’s chief sustainability officer.  Fowler had served in both roles on an interim basis since July 2022.

1. Focus and Recent Milestones: The Sustainability Institute provides multiple programs at Penn State. Public-facing programs include the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, which focuses on developing University partnerships around community-identified projects, and the Local Climate Action Planning process, which helps communities conduct greenhouse gas inventories and develop a climate action plan.

Fowler since mid-2022 has transitioned the Sustainability Institute fully into the Office of the Provost, and has focused on assessing the University’s position by interviewing more than 100 stakeholders and fostering dialogue with the Sustainability Councils. She worked on numerous events, including the first-ever student-led sustainability summit, which included United Nations Youth Ambassador AY Young, the university said.

2. Next Moves: Fowler will focus on identifying opportunities for the Sustainability Institute to continue partnering with units across Penn State to apply for operational grants to improve waste management, acquire heavy-duty electric vehicles and more.

Justin Schwartz, executive VP and provost, Penn State University

3. Key Perspectives: In a prepared statement, Justin Schwartz, Penn State’s executive vice president and provost, said: “Fowler’s exceptional leadership and dedication to advancing sustainability at Penn State has been evident throughout her time as interim director of the Sustainability Institute and chief sustainability officer. Her vision, expertise and tireless commitment to sustainability will continue to inspire our communities, foster innovation, and advance transformative initiatives across all of Penn State’s campuses that will propel the University toward a more sustainable future.”

Added Fowler: “It is an honor to continue leading our University’s sustainability efforts and building upon the progress we’ve made since the institute’s inception about a decade ago. Sustainability broadly impacts the lives of all Penn Staters and deserves to command our attention. Together, we will forge new pathways, inspire innovation, and cultivate a culture of sustainability that extends across our statewide and international footprint. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and look forward to the transformative journey ahead.”

Fowler succeeded Paul Shrivastava, who stepped down to return to research and teaching on the faculty of the Department of Management and Organization in Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.

Why Technology Partners Should Care

By 2027, 25% of Global 2000 companies will have assigned a chief sustainability officer responsible for meeting their organization’s ESG goals and making ESG-related IT purchasing decisions, according to IDC. Sustainable Tech Partner believes that trend will extend into the higher-education market.

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