Less than a week before leaving her position, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability Emilie Rex calmly summarized her reason for resigning.
“Five years felt like a really good round number,” Rex said.
Emilie Rex is resigning as assistant director of the Office of Sustainability after serving in the position for five years.
Before becoming assistant director, Rex worked as an eighth-grade teacher. Her interest in obtaining a graduate degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs led Rex to getting involved in sustainability work.
“When I got to SPEA, I heard about sustainability and I was like, whoa, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for, that’s this very systems oriented way of thinking about problems,” Rex said.
The Office of Sustainability seeks to foster “environmental health, economic prosperity and social equity” by creating a culture of sustainability, according to the website.
Rex began her work in the Office of Sustainability , created in 2009 by collecting data regarding the state of sustainability at the University.
“We were still, I think, at that point spending a lot of time trying to figure out where we are,” Rex said. “So, you can’t measure your progress towards something unless you have a sense of where you are.”
Today, the office is involved in more than two dozen sustainability projects across campus and has influenced the master plans of the University, which serve as the blueprint for the University’s physical features.
Director of the Office of Sustainability Bill Brown said the inclusion of sustainability on campus is part of a larger phenomenon.
“I would think, over the five years that I’ve seen, change is just the general perception of the population in sustainability and sort of an elevation of the discussion,” Brown said. “Not just here on campus, but society, they just seem to be more accepting.”
The Office of Sustainability will add three new positions to their workforce. Rex said she is optimistic the new employees will continue promoting the mission of sustainability at the University.
“It’s so challenging to work for change in such a large decentralized institution and maintain your perspective on where you’d like things to go,” Rex said. “Have that perspective and keep it and see it and remain patient, but know when to push.”
Upon her departure, Rex seeks to focus on playing music and promoting sustainability in other universities. Although new employees will fill the vacant positions, Brown said Rex will be missed.
“We are going to miss her,” Brown said. “Her contributions have been huge and the ripple effect is tremendous.”