The Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk is rebranding with a new name and a new executive director for 2016.
Maureen Kotlas, who is replacing Russell Furr as executive director of the department, is returning to the University of Maryland since leaving the department to pursue other opportunities in 2009, Kotlas said. However, as soon as Kotlas saw this position open, she decided to apply, she said.
“Having worked here before, [I knew] it was such a great institution — so full of energy, so vibrant, so interesting,” Kotlas said. “I felt like I still had more to offer, and when the position became open, I thought maybe I can come back and keep going from where I left off.”
The future of the ESSR department, formerly known as the Department of Environmental Safety, will see changes that include a focus on enterprise risk management, or working with the university to control broad risks, and informing students about the department’s features, such as fire safety and environmental management, Kotlas said.
The new name, implemented in January, is one way to reflect these changes, said Scott Lupin, associate director of the ESSR department.
Originally, the department focused on environmental management and occupational safety; however, this name change and a new emphasis on risk management “reflects the expansion of what the department scope and mission is,” Lupin said.
The addition of the Office of Sustainability in 2007 and its growth thereafter also contributed to the decision to change the department’s name, Lupin said.
“We had no idea where this program was going to go, how it would grow or how it would be ultimately incorporated as part of the culture of the campus,” Lupin said. “I think it really exceeded both of our expectations.”
Kotlas said her goals for the department’s future include creating a more strategic role with the university so that “it is embraced and ingrained in the university” to facilitate a “safe environment,” as well as getting to know the students and their perspectives on various issues.
“I hope we can have a lot of good conversation and contact with students, as well as faculty and staff,” Kotlas said.
Michael Levy, a senior film studies major and the department’s fire inspector, said everybody in the department is excited about Kotlas’ return.
Kotlas not only has practical skills and knowledge about environmental risk, but also is “the ultimate professional environmental health and safety leader,” said Alan Sactor, university fire marshal and the department’s assistant director.
Sustainability is a high-profile topic that the university should continue to lead the way on, Kotlas said.
“We want [sustainability] to become something that we’re not only known for, but that other institutions emulate us for how we run our sustainability program,” Kotlas said.