Ann Erhardt - Chief Sustainability Officer at Michigan State University
Ann Erhardt is currently Chief Sustainability Officer for campus facilities and Director of Strategic Initiatives at Michigan State University.
After serving 4 years as Director of Campus Sustainability at Michigan State University, her focused changed to a more strategic role that concentrates on core business integration of sustainability into all infrastructure systems. Formerly the Director of Energy Programs for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Ann received her sustainable business/environmental science degree and masters of management and organizational leadership from Aquinas College. She also achieved an advanced study certificate in design and innovation from Ferris State University. Ann‘s 12+ years of experience in the sustainability field and her contagious passion for sustainability make her an invaluable resource and natural leader.
Ann has built collaborative relationships with key leaders in administrative and academic divisions as well as external organizations and developed and implemented communications, outreach, and marketing strategies resulting in widespread campus participation in energy conservation and waste reduction initiatives. She effectively engages and brings together diverse stakeholders to implement sustainability best practices and cross disciplinary programs.
Ann Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:
The importance of systems thinking skills in sustainability leadership
Adaptive operating systems in sustainability
Using AASHE STARS to guide sustainability reporting
Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders
Ann's Final Five Question Responses:
What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?
More anecdotally, I'd tell them to be open minded and bring their passion to their work. I think also it's good to have a specialty. If someone's really passionate about food systems, focus on food systems and come to the table with that. There aren't many generalists out there, or positions for generalists like myself. I'm kind of Jack of all trades, basically, but I think it's good to know you have a specific passionate interest in one area, whether it's an industry or topic, and focus on that. You'll find the connections through that.
What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?
Two things. I'm really excited about this We're Still In movement. As you know, the United States has pulled out of a lot of these commitments globally, but there are so many universities and organizations that are part of this We're Still In movement and still committed to climate goals and making change. I think that's really exciting. I'm also really excited about the talk of SDG, sustainable development goals, in higher ed. That's been around for awhile, but more conversations within higher ed, or how to apply those on campus and use that as a baseline for moving forward. So, finally seeing this larger impact of what we're doing beyond our own community.
What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?
One of the seminal books that I read years ago that got me hooked, was by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind. I do read a lot of texts on sustainability and trends, but the systems thinking and how to approach problems from a different perspective is so important. I read that book and it really changed my perspective on what I do and how I do it. So I definitely recommend most of Daniel Pink's book, but specifically that one.
What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?
Reading and networking. I read a lot of magazines, not just sustainability, but Harvard Business Review, books on engagement, leadership development and all of this ties in. I'm also part of several organizations including AASHE, the Association for Climate Change Officers and the International Society for Sustainability Professionals are just a wealth of resources and contacts. Even more valuable are the people I've gotten to know in this industry because they're always providing insights, information and best practices and just kind of developing this next level of awareness to sustainability.
Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at MSU?
Our main website is msu.edu, but our sustainability page is sustainability.msu.edu, where you'll see a lot of what we're doing from a campus perspective. I also suggest our facilities website, which is ipf.msu.edu, which really gets into the sustainability infrastructure that we're working on. So there's a lot of layers, a lot of places to find information. I am also found on Linkedin, and will connect and be happy to answer any other further questions that anybody has.