Sustainability has been Debbie Namugayi’s long-time passion, and working in higher education gives her an opportunity to communicate the importance of creating a sustainable future to broad audiences from all walks of life.
As Eastern Kentucky University’s new sustainability manager, Namugayi is charged with leading many initiatives and programs intended to affect the University’s impact upon energy use, recycling, waste management and other areas, as well as to advance the University’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, which aims to create a carbon-neutral EKU by 2036.
Born in Uganda, Namugayi moved to the Washington, D.C., area as a young child. She earned a degree in environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2011 and earned her master’s from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in 2014.
Most recently she worked at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania as its first sustainability manager. There, she established the Office of Campus Sustainability to advance the campus’ 2030 carbon neutrality goals as a signatory of the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment. Transformative first steps toward a sustainable Bucknell included the formation of a sustainability outreach team in a peer-to-peer model of student leaders, a sustainability website, and leadership of the interdisciplinary and collaborative drafting of an institutional sustainability plan.
Prior to Bucknell, Namugayi was a sustainability associate at the University of Maryland, where she managed the campus-wide green office program consisting of 3,000 faculty and staff participants, and a sustainability outreach team of 14 student interns. Before that role, she worked on green building projects in the Washington, D.C., area as a sustainability analyst at the consulting firm Paladino and Company.
“Sustainability is broad in its definition,” Namugayi said. “People look at it as three parts: social, environmental and economic. The goal is to look at these three pillars and work toward meeting current needs in the present while making it possible for future generations to meet their needs.”
Her first goal at EKU “is to really get a lay of the land and gain an understanding of the programming that has been done in the past,” she said.
She’s already begun some work on outreach around campus. “I’ve been reaching out to campus partners to work on programming. Education and outreach is such a big thing when it comes to sustainability, because if you want to change behavior or give people a new perspective, it makes sense when you can actually speak to their reality and speak to their day-to-day life.”
Namugayi is proud of EKU’s campus STARS Bronze rating, which is awarded by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and makes the campus one of only 299 schools worldwide to earn either a platinum, gold, silver or bronze rating. “It’s amazing that we’re a STARS institution. And thinking down the line, getting to silver or even higher would be a great accomplishment,” she said.
Namugayi is a LEED Green Associate and serves on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Advisory Council. She recently opened the AASHE 2018 conference to nearly 2,000 attendees as the master of ceremonies.