Vassar College has named Micah Kenfield, formerly Sustainability Programs Manager at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as its Director of Sustainability. Kenfield will start his new job July 22.
Kenfield was chosen by a nine-member search committee composed of students, faculty and administrators chaired by Marianne Begemann, Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources.
Begemann said Kenfield was chosen from an outstanding field of candidates following a four-month, nationwide search. She said she and others on the search committee were impressed with Kenfield’s breadth and depth of experience in coordinating sustainability initiatives at an academic institution. Prior to becoming Sustainability Programs Manager in 2017, he served for nearly three years as the university’s Coordinator of the Student Sustainability Committee, overseeing $1.1-million a year in grant funding. “Micah possesses the requisite knowledge and skill to dig deeply into the challenges the college faces to achieve the goals we have set,” Begemann said.
Kenfield said he sought the Vassar post in part because he was impressed with the ambitious goal the college has set for achieving carbon neutrality. While many institutions, including his former employer, have set 2050 as the goal, Vassar’s is 2030. “The fact that Vassar has an ambitious and aggressive strategy to achieve that target date certainly attracted me,” he said. “It’s clear to me that we need to be more aggressive in addressing climate change, and during my visit to the campus I saw how committed everyone at Vassar is in seeing that this will happen.”
One of Kenfield’s first duties will be working with students, faculty and administrators to choose the best options for implementing the recommendations of a carbon neutrality study that will be finalized this fall, Begemann said. He will also take part in the planning and coordination of two major “green” construction projects, including Vassar’s Institute and Inn, a hotel and conference center. The College will break ground for the project in 2020.
In leading both operational and strategic initiatives that advance the College’s commitment to sustainability, Kenfield’s immediate duties will also include working with student interns on ongoing energy metering and conservation projects and collaborating with Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana in the establishment of a peer-sustainability educator initiative in Vassar’s student residences.
Kenfield said he was eager to get started. “One of the most important things for me to focus on initially is establishing rapport with my student interns,” he said. “The students are really the drivers of many of our initiatives. Once you’ve got them on board, you’ve got that energy that we in the administration can use to drive our projects forward.”
Kenfield was raised in rural Texas. (“The nearest major grocery store was 45 minutes away,” he noted.) He received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree, with Honors, from the University of Houston in 2009 and earned a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the University if Houston in 2011.