Reed’s First Sustainability Coordinator Begins

Rachel Willis will focus on community and equity-minded sustainability practices.

By Nora Hickey | March 1, 2022

Reed has named Rachel Willis as the school’s first sustainability coordinator. This new position was created after students, professors, staff, and trustees came together for a Reed Union in 2020 to discuss community responsibility in a time of climate crisis.

After the forum, President Audrey Bilger announced that the board of trustees had asked her to explore the prospect of adding a full-time sustainability coordinator staff position and pledged their financial support to fund the position.

Willis will help develop and support sustainability initiatives on campus, including tracking and analyzing energy, water, and carbon usage. "I am excited about this new role because the Reed community has an opportunity to set the tone and pace for creative sustainability action," she says.

Reed's efforts have been led by a sustainability committee of staff, faculty, and students; Greenboard (the student environmental sustainability club); and many other individuals and programs. The college's commitment to sustainable practices is guided by a mission statement approved in 2007. It has undertaken ambitious initiatives such as restoring the 28-acre watershed, investing in resource-efficient equipment, developing operations that contribute to environmental health, and building the Trillium dormitory, which received the top LEED certification. And, importantly, the college educates and mentors the next generation of environmental and climate researchers through programs such as the environmental studies major and career-opportunity support available through the Center for Life Beyond Reed

The creation of this new staff position, which was made possible by a group of Reed trustees and a Reed parent who stepped up to ensure the financial stability of the role by helping endow it, will advance these endeavors. “I’m very excited that Reed is engaging a sustainability coordinator,” says parent donor Katherine Freygang. “I believe that the coordination of facilities management, the board of trustees, and academic programming is the integrative approach that is essential at this time in our climate history. It is a particularly laudable example for other colleges as well."

Willis says that her priority is to center equity-based, relational leadership to engage students and the campus community. "I use sustainability as a lens to critically examine complex systems – environmental, social, cultural, and economic."

She previously worked as a sustainability coordinator at Skidmore College, where she co-led a comprehensive strategic planning process and managed student leaders in a variety of campus programs, like a campus garden, Eco-Reps, and land stewardship program. She holds a BS from Allegheny College in Environmental Science, and a MS from Portland State University in Leadership for Sustainability Education, with a concentration in the School of Gender, Race, and Nations.

"As a sustainability educator, I come alive when I can help people access resources to understand, navigate, and reimagine these complex systems to effectively enact change.”


Tags: Campus Life, Climate, Sustainability, Environmental, Institutional