Spotlight Julie Morris

Q&A with Julie Morris; Sustainability Coordinator, Kent State University Office of Sustainability, City of Kent

We are thrilled to welcome Julie Morris, the new Office of Sustainability and City of Kent Sustainability Coordinator! A new joint Sustainability Coordinator position was created between Kent State University and City of Kent, where time is split equally between the City of Kent and Kent State University.

Julie Morris
  • What sparked your interest in sustainability in both your professional and/or personal life? 

My interest in sustainability first originated as a deep love of and connection to nature when I was a child growing up in northern California. As part of earning my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies during the late 1990’s at Sonoma State University, in Rohnert Park, CA, I pursued a concentration in Environmental Studies, which formally introduced me to the long and storied histories of the environmental movement, and also to the pressing issues that a warming planet would have across environmental, economic and social sectors if left unchecked. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of helping create solutions and resilience in the face of these wicked problems!

In 2014, I decided it was time to align my career path with my passion for issues of sustainability, and I entered a Master of Sustainability program offered through the Falk School of Sustainability and Environment at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. I was particularly interested in learning how to work with institutions, organizations, and their associated policy and/or programmatic development to help address issues of sustainability, and more specifically, how community input is best integrated into those processes such that they are reflective of articulated community needs.

Upon graduation in 2016, I applied to fill a vacancy on the City of Kent’s Sustainability Commission, and was appointed by City Council to same in July of the that same year. I served as a volunteer on the commission from 2016 to 2019, also serving on the Ad Hoc subcommittee that was working to start the green house gas inventory and climate action planning processes for the City of Kent until 2020. I continued to work in the Kent community on a variety of sustainability initiatives from 2020 through the beginning of this year, and I was thrilled to have applied for and be offered the Sustainability Coordinator position, which I started at the beginning of March.

  • What is your favorite part of your position?

I am excited to help bring the initiatives outlined in the City of Kent’s Climate Action plan and Kent State’s Sustainability plan to life. These plans really outline the work that I want to and will be doing. I love collaborative work, and it will be wonderful to get to connect with all the folks who are already doing great work in our communities around the areas of action the plans call for and to work together to develop what is needed to implement the suggested initiatives.

  • What do you want the people of Kent State to know about you and your position as Sustainability Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability and at the City of Kent? 

The Sustainability Coordinator position is a single, fulltime position that is shared between both the City of Kent and Kent State University, such that roughly 20 hours of work is done for the City and 20 hours of work are done for the University each week, and I work onsite at both entities for a part of each day.

I work to help implement the City of Kent’s Climate Action Plan, which is in process of being formally adopted by the city, and to help implement Kent State’s Sustainability Plan which is currently in draft stages. I will mainly focus on assisting in areas where the respective plan initiatives overlap, or are shared between the City and Kent State, but I will also provide support to both entities for areas of their plans that are unique to each entity. This work involves areas of shared initiatives to address greenhouse gas reduction and other sustainability goals, data gathering and sharing, education and outreach, funding opportunities, as well as collaborative communication and oversight.

As this is a brand-new position, a lot of the work and the position itself is being shaped day-to-day as we begin to move through various aspects of implementation.

While there may be issues that arise related to differing or conflicting areas of institutional needs and requirements, having at least one person in a dedicated position learn and be familiar with and able to provide a perspective that encompasses both the City and University processes and needs in relation to the plans helps to streamline communication and inform problem solving as we work through the various initiatives.

  • What sustainability initiatives is the Office of Sustainability and/or the City of Kent working on this year? 

The focus this year will be related to bringing the City of Kent’s Climate Action Plan and Kent State’s Sustainability plans online. In other words, our work will be related to having the respective plans reviewed and formally adopted by the City and the University. Through collaboration between the City and Kent State, as well as collaboration within the entities separately, in addition to collaboration with the larger Kent community, we will work to prioritize which areas of the respective plans will be worked on first and/or concurrently, setting up working committees and other structures as needed to develop the prioritized initiatives, and will focus on seeking funding to help support the various initiatives. .

  • Where is one of your favorite spots to visit on campus? And what makes it your favorite? 

I really enjoy the portion of the Portage Hike and Bike path that starts near the Child Development Center (CDC) on campus and ends at Dix Stadium. I have many fond memories of walking and biking on that segment with my family over the years, starting from when my daughter was very little and attending preschool at the CDC (she is now a freshman in high school) to the present. I love the different landscapes that section of the path travels through and I find it to be very peaceful.


Thank you Julie Morris!