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Liz Christiansen to Retire as Director of the UI Office of Sustainability

Liz Christiansen recently announced she will retire as director of the UI Office of Sustainability, effective Feb. 15, 2017. 

Over the past eight years, Christiansen has developed and coordinated UI programs to enhance and enlarge the UI community's understanding of sustainability from ecological, social and financial perspectives.

The Office of Sustainability and position of director were results of a wide-ranging sustainability initiative announced by UI President Sally Mason in April 2008.  Christiansen was named director in November, 2008.

 “Following a nation-wide search the University of Iowa was very fortunate to recruit Liz as the first director of the newly created Office of Sustainability in 2008.   Liz brought to the position a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience and molded the Office of Sustainability into a high performing, student-centric hub for education, outreach, and engagement related to the challenges facing this generation of students.  Building on her vast network of colleagues and her state-wide reputation, Liz has had a great impact on preparing Iowa students to serve as future leaders in addressing the challenges that are impacting our global social, economic and environmental wellbeing.”

In 2010, Christiansen led the effort to develop the UI’s 2020 Sustainability Targets, a slate of ambitious goals to reduce the campus’ environmental impact and expand sustainability-related education, research and partnerships. The formal adoption of the goals culminated with the signing of a special sustainability agreement between the UI and the U.S. EPA.  Christiansen noted, “We felt it was important to make a public commitment of our goals and to ask the EPA to be a partner in that effort. They agreed and we’ve enjoyed a strong and supportive relationship with the agency.” 488 Lizretirement

Reflecting on her work, Christiansen said, “I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to be involved with many exciting projects and to work with very talented people throughout my career, but the most gratifying work of all has been with students at the University of Iowa.

The young people who walk through our doors care deeply about people and the planet,” said Christiansen.  “I always tell folks that if they can’t take another depressing story about climate change, stop by our office to see these students working hard and you’ll feel much better about the future.” 

Christiansen previously served as deputy director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR) from 2002 to 2008, managing a department with 1,100 employees and an operations budget of $100 million. She served as the project manager for Honey Creek Resort State Park, Iowa’s first sustainably-designed state park resort. From 2000 to 2002 Christiansen worked as the administrator for the Iowa DNR's Land Quality and Waste Management Assistant Division. From 1998 to 2000 she was grants manager for Linn County. And from 1994 to 1998 she was the recycling/education coordinator with Bluestem Solid Waste Agency.

A celebration for Liz is in planning and more information will be shared as it becomes available.

Sara Maples, Research Support & Sustainability Manager at the Tippie College of Business, has been appointed to serve as interim director of the Office of Sustainability on a part-time basis.

494 maples saraMaples currently serves as the Sustainability and Research Support Manager at the UI Tippie College of Business. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the college-wide initiative to integrate sustainability into research, curriculum, operations, student life and outreach. She initiated the Tippie Impact Competition, now co-sponsored by Frontier Co-op, which encourages students to develop sustainable business models that must include accounting for societal costs and benefits. She also recently completed the college’s sustainability report, in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (G4) standards.

 Prior to working at TCOB, Maples worked as a Project Manager in the UI Office of Sustainability and developed the Energy Sustainability Index. The index was designed to inform Facilities Management leaders regarding the sustainability impact of fuel choices at the Main Power Plant. The project was funded in part by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

From 2011 to 2012, Maples was the Program Coordinator for the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and from 2009 to 2011, was the Program Associate for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Sea Grant Network. She worked with coastal communities on education programs that addressed the potential impacts of climate change in the Great Lakes region.

Maples graduated from the University of Kansas with joint degrees in Journalism and History. She received her Master of Science from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment with focuses in Behavior, Education and Communication and in Environmental Policy and Planning. 



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