Green well growing up towards a window
Category: University News

Title: Sustainability Expert Working at ‘Intersection of Social Justice and Environmental Issues’ Joins Georgetown as V.P.

Date Published: September 15, 2021
Meghan Chapple headshot in front of green wall
Meghan Chapple joined Georgetown on August 23 as the first vice president of sustainability.

Chapple will oversee Georgetown’s Office of Sustainability and lead the implementation of goals that reflect our Catholic, Jesuit heritage, leverage our core mission of creating knowledge in the service of justice and the common good and engage our student community.

A highly regarded multi-sectoral expert with master’s degrees in business and public policy, Chapple most recently served as sustainability director and senior advisor on sustainability at The George Washington University.

“Meghan’s strong experience in higher education and her business and public policy fluency made her an excellent candidate to be the inaugural holder of this new executive role,” says David Green, interim senior vice president and chief operating officer. “Georgetown has ambitious sustainability goals, and we look forward to partnering with Meghan to achieve them.”

Green called the naming of a vice president “an important step,” which builds upon Georgetown’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels, launch of a power purchase agreement that ensures two-thirds of the university’s electricity needs are sourced through solar power and establishment of an energy partnership that promotes sustainability and energy conservation. As a part of its existing Spirit of Georgetown values, the Office of Mission & Ministry recently added “Care for Our Common Home,” a name inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which is subtitled “on care for our common home.”

“Georgetown is kicking up its sustainability efforts by bringing on Meghan,” says Peter P. Marra, director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative and the Laudato Si’ Professor of Biology and the Environment. “With Meghan’s hire, Georgetown is now quickly advancing as a leader in environment and sustainability among higher ed institutions.”

Chapple, who began this position on August 23, took some time to share her thoughts as she starts her time at Georgetown.

 

Q&A With Meghan Chapple

“My career in sustainable development has been at the intersection of social justice and environmental issues in different sectors – community-based organizations, global nonprofits, entrepreneurial startups, global corporations and higher education in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.”

– Meghan Chapple, Vice President of Sustainability

What would you like to share about your background, in terms of education and professional highlights, with the community?

My intention with my work has always been to create change through systems and through institutions so that all people can thrive in relationship with the planet. Each of those words are really important to me: thriving, relationship with the planet and all people.

Sustainability cuts across sectors from public to private, and the solutions to sustainable development require interdisciplinary thinking. My educational background spans disciplines. I received my bachelor of arts in environmental sciences from Northwestern University, and my master of business administration and master of science in environmental policy from the University of Michigan.

Interdisciplinarity and systems thinking are the signature of my background. I’ve worked on issues from human rights and social justice to green buildings, renewable energy, clean transportation, urban agriculture, circularity, responsible textiles and fashion, climate resilience, health access, environmental justice, fresh water and biodiversity. On these issues I apply a lens of justice and equity, and strive to include a diversity of voices in the conversation and the implementation.

My career in sustainable development has been at the intersection of social justice and environmental issues in different sectors – community-based organizations, global nonprofits, entrepreneurial startups, corporations and higher education in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

What would you say attracted you to come to Georgetown, generally, and this position, specifically?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Georgetown students in the past, and I found them to be absolutely brilliant and engaged. They have inspired me and made me more curious about Georgetown’s potential to make an impact on sustainability. I’m looking forward to getting to know the students and alumni, and working closely with them.

By creating the vice president of sustainability position, the university has signaled that it is committed to sustainability as part of day-to-day decisions and plans. I intend to work with the Georgetown community to unleash a culture that promotes a regenerative relationship with the planet. My hope is that we can have a sustainability mindset that will permeate daily life and work at Georgetown.

At Georgetown we can make a threefold impact: take action on sustainability solutions, provide education and living experience for students who are future change agents and offer faculty expertise and thought leadership in the public realm. This combination makes higher education an exciting place to create the change we want to see in the world.

– Meghan Chapple, Vice President of Sustainability

What do you see as some opportunities and challenges in the higher education space with respect to your field of sustainability?

Higher education has a unique role to play in sustainability. I’ve worked on sustainability in the corporate sector and the nonprofit sector. And I’ve worked on local community development and on global development. Most recently, I have focused on sustainability in higher education because I believe this sector can create systemic, long-term change for the world by educating and empowering each next generation.

At Georgetown we can make a threefold impact: take action on sustainability solutions, provide education and living experience for students who are future change agents and offer faculty expertise and thought leadership in the public realm. This combination makes higher education an exciting place to create the change we want to see in the world.

We in the higher education sector are facing new challenges as the world is rapidly changing. Global disruptions, such as the pandemic or the climate crisis, provide opportunities for transformation. We have learned that the planet is resilient, and that we as humans can survive and thrive on planet Earth when we focus on positive changes together.

How do you expect you’ll spend your first few months in this new role at Georgetown?

I’m going to spend my first few weeks and months listening to members of the Georgetown community and understanding the efforts and accomplishments the university has made. This is not Georgetown’s first foray into sustainability.

I will ensure that we are moving forward in a way that sustainability is inclusive at Georgetown. We know that most sustainability problems and environmental issues disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. That could be anything from microplastics in fish to flooding from the climate crisis. In order for Georgetown to be effective, our sustainability vision and strategy going forward will be inclusive of a diversity of voices on campus and from the communities that the university impacts.