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Executive Director, Office of Sustainability

Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey
Date posted
Oct 1, 2023

Princeton University seeks a highly relational, collaborative, and experienced leader to serve as the Executive Director of The Office of Sustainability

The Opportunity

Princeton University demonstrates exceptional strengths in teaching, collaborative research, and operational innovation. These strengths position Princeton to be a vibrant example of sustainability inquiry and demonstration in action, where research, teaching and operations collaborate in problem solving. As such, Princeton’s sustainability vision is to “cultivate an exceptional experiential learning environment where their students become justice-oriented actors and advocates for healthy people and planet.”

Reporting to the Assistant Vice President for Strategy Management with a dotted line to the VP of Facilities, the Executive Director of Sustainability will continue to strengthen the University as a leader in sustainability across higher education and as a reflection of the mission and identity of Princeton University. The Executive Director will form and articulate institutional strategic direction in sustainability, in partnership with academic and administrative leadership, and be responsible for overall sustainability plan implementation and progress reporting on initiatives, actions and research, including annually to the Board of Trustees. The Executive Director will support Facilities operational, planning and capital projects priorities, and provides administrative coordination and funding for campus-wide initiatives, while engaging both locally, nationally, and internationally at the cutting edge of the rapidly evolving sustainability discourse.

Primary Responsibilities

Planning and Program Administration (40%)

  • The Executive Director is responsible for leading and managing the Office of Sustainability staff and an associated budget of $827,000, with additional endowed fund management. The Office consists of six full time administrative staff (including one post-graduate fellow), and part-time staff for special projects with duties ranging across curricular, co-curricular and organizational efforts toward implementation of the sustainability action plan. Staffing also includes part-time student employees to support student-facing initiatives and programs.
  • Through the Office’s Campus as Lab program, the Executive Director supports campus- and community-based student research efforts, as well as limited faculty research funded by either the Office-administered High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund or in collaboration with other departments and funding sources.
  • The Executive Director periodically updates the University’s strategic approach to sustainability and associated goals by integrating key recommendations from both internal and external experts and stakeholders. The Executive Director manages an ongoing process that evolves comprehensive evidence-based sustainability goals and metrics, also drawing on academic research and innovation.
  • The Executive Director provides leadership on the integration of sustainability process and practice across all campus planning efforts, in partnership with the University Architect and the Office of Capital Projects. The Executive Director is also responsible for developing and implementing an integrated sustainability strategy for administrative and academic operations. Part of this responsibility includes the championing of projects or project components with strong culture-change, programmatic, educational and/or research value to the University, in addition to those with environmental, energy, carbon-emissions reduction, and/or financial benefits. A principal role for the Executive Director is as Chair of the Sustainability Advocacy Committee which recommends the allocation of substantial financial resources to improve energy and sustainability performance in capital projects.

Internal and External Partnerships (30%)

  • The Executive Director collaborates with key administrative units across campus to actively implement the University’s sustainability goals. The Executive Director partners with academic and non-academic departments and centers to provide leadership and experiential opportunities for students.
  • Other partnerships include active engagement with the town of Princeton, through collaboration with the non-profit group Sustainable Princeton, as well as other local entities as appropriate. The Executive Director actively participates in local, state, regional, national, peer, and international networks on behalf of the University. These networks may include the NJ Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS), the NE Campus Sustainability Consortium (NECSC), the Ivy+ Sustainability Consortium, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN). Engagement in these networks and others is critical to advancing Princeton’s objective to exchange knowledge and scale effective strategies beyond the campus.

Governance (20%)

  • The Executive Director serves in a key leadership role in University governance processes associated with sustainability and is responsible for associated administrative support needs. These include the monthly Princeton Sustainability Committee (PSC) meetings, biweekly Sustainability Advocacy Committee meetings, and as-needed Sustainability Steering Council and Sustainability Leadership Group meetings. These committees uphold the sustainability principles adopted by the University, assess strategic direction, review and recommend high-level goals, and (where appropriate) review and recommend resource allocations. These duties also include an annual update to the Board of Trustees.
  • The Executive Director also cultivates distributed leadership across a host of partner organizations across campus, working with senior leadership to operationalize and embed sustainability expertise in critical areas.

Communications (10%)

  • The Executive Director is responsible for advancing sustainability communications both on campus and across the higher education sector, within the context of an ongoing communication planning process. It is expected that diverse communication formats will be employed that root global challenges in place-based local application, including students and the campus community as key audiences.

Candidate Profile

This is a unique opportunity in the sustainability field in higher education. As a organization, Princeton is much further ahead in the strategic efforts that drive achievement of sustainability goals than most comparable Universities. As a result, this role will focus heavily on implementation and achievement of goals. We are therefore seeking candidates with the following skills and attributes:

  • Minimum of ten years of directly relevant experience in the sustainability field.
  • Extensive knowledge and experience working with sustainability theories and practices.
  • Professional experience should include a demonstrated track record in:
  • Executive leadership
  • Initiating and managing change in a large and complex organization
  • Developing and implementing organizational sustainability strategies
  • Sustainability program management and the ability to convert vision and strategy into action
  • Program administration
  • Exceptional collaboration skills
  • Evidence-based impact
  • Ability to work effectively with and influence high-level academic and administrative partners across a variety of disciplines
  • Ability to balance visionary thinking with pragmatic approaches to implementation and achievement of goals
  • Change leadership
  • Exceptional interpersonal and people management skills.
  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) in environmental studies, sustainability science or studies, planning, or a related field is required.
  • Prior experience working at a top-tier research institution in the sustainability profession.
  • Prior experience in a sustainability leadership role.

Diversified Search Group have been exclusively retained for this search. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume by filling out our Talent Profile.

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