We are excited to have Tanja Srebotnjak join the Zilkha team as the new director this coming January. We will share more from Tanja at that point, but for now, here is a brief note:
My name is Tanja Srebotnjak and I’m the incoming Director of the Zilkha Center. While January 4 will be my official start date, I can’t wait to connect with you—virtually or in-person—and advance sustainability at Williams! You might ask who I am and how I got into the sustainability field? Let me start by sharing a couple of important life markers. I grew up in a small community near Berlin, Germany, surrounded by pine forests, a commercially important river, and a splattering of lakes, farms and some manufacturing. From a young age I developed a love for the outdoors while also noticing the effects of industrial pollution and over-development in fragile aquatic ecosystems. I also had an influential high school biology teacher who introduced me as much to environmental science as to the role of activism in protecting nature’s gifts. When I came to the U.S. in 2000 to work on environmental statistics at the United Nations, I expanded my local perspective on humans and the environment to see the larger system of global governance and the need for shared but differentiated responsibilities towards our global commons. In 2003, I decided to return to school and get my PhD in environmental statistics and policy at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (now the Yale School of the Environment). Equipped with an interdisciplinary arsenal of tools, theories and skills in collaborative problem-solving, I then worked on a wide range of environmental issues: from conceptualizing the determinants of local community vitality to developing EU environmental threshold indicators and from developing methods for small area estimation of environmental risk factors to investigating the environmental and health risks of fracking. Most recently this journey took me to Harvey Mudd College near Los Angeles and the Nueva School in the San Francisco Bay Area. During that time, I also became more deeply aware of and involved in calling out the connections between sustainability and racial equality & social justice as well as the need for systemic change to address them. Looking ahead to joining the Williams College community, I’m excited to partner with you to advance the trust and belief in our shared humanity—together on one planet Earth.