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Tonk hired as director of energy department

Megan Doyle | Thursday, March 25, 2010

Former director of Strategic Planning for the University Heather Tonk will assume the role of director of Sustainability in order to continue Notre Dame’s goal for a more energy conscious campus.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity and that the University feels so strongly about this initiative,” Tonk said. “Not all universities are willing to invest this kind of money and resources to focus on this, and we are in a unique position to be a leader in this field and in the Midwest.”
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1998 with a degree in chemical engineering, Tonk worked in engineering and management before her desire to participate in non-profit work brought her back to the University.
Tonk will transition from her current position as the director of Strategic Planning into the Office of Sustainability to replace interim director Robert Zerr beginning April 1.
“Heather is really passionate about sustainability,” Office of Sustainability Education and Outreach coordinator Rachel Novick said. “She has proven through her other positions at the University that she is very effective at consensus building and getting things done on the ground.”
The Office of Sustainability is a relatively new office for the University, and part of her position as its director will involve determining exactly what the department will mean for Notre Dame, Tonk said.
“There is tremendous interest in sustainable initiatives across the campus from faculty and staff as well as from students and alumni,” Novick said. “Our biggest challenge is harnessing that enthusiasm from such a large and diverse constituency.”
Student involvement is a major contributor to the work of the Office of Sustainability.
“We are continuing to refine how we communicate with students, how we involve them and how we really do our best to make sustainability as relevant and as much a part of the fabric of Notre Dame life as possible,” Novick said.
The office employs student interns and integrates student environmental clubs in many of its projects, Tonk said.
“One of the things I am personally more excited about is that the Office works strongly with the students,” Tonk said. “I am really looking forward to hearing new ideas and what they want for the University that they love.”
Novick also cited the particular need to work closely with the Department of Utilities to improve the buildings on campus and construct the University’s energy plan.
Director of Utilities Paul Kempf called the relationship between his department and the Office of Sustainability a “good partnership,” and he said Tonk is “a great hire for that position.”
“I see them as taking a leadership role for all things sustainable for the University,” Kempf said. “And energy is a major part of that. We appreciate that they can take that leadership role and let our group take a technical role.”
Novick said some other goals for the Office are enhancing its relationship with the sustainability commissioners in residence halls and continuing building a relationship with student government.