Harvey Mudd Establishes New Professorship in Sustainable Environmental Design

Harvey Mudd College has hired Tanja Srebotnjak for the inaugural Hixon Professorship of Sustainable Environmental Design.

Srebotnjak, a statistician with an interest in protecting the natural environment and in improving people’s health and well-being, will help the College expand student and faculty experiences in sustainability and will promote cutting-edge environmental science and design within the Claremont University Consortium. She will work with the Harvey Mudd community and with external organizations on initiatives related to course development, student and faculty research and experiential learning.

In addition to teaching and research, Srebotnjak will build momentum around sustainable environmental design through campus-wide support initiatives. Over time, she will found the Hixon Center for Sustainable Environmental Design (SED), which will expand student and faculty opportunities and will invite external interest in education, research and problem-solving. Harvey Mudd’s first “all-college” faculty position, the Hixon Professorship initially will be affiliated with the Department of Engineering.

“The College seeks to create sustainable design initiatives with lasting impact,” says Jeff Groves, vice president and R. Michael Shanahan Dean of the Faculty. “As a forerunner in the field, Tanja brings a unique opportunity to educate and invigorate the Harvey Mudd student body on the importance of sustainable design. We believe that she can increase the College’s presence in this area and enable broad collaborations that differentiate the College.”

Srebotnjak, hired at the associate level in recognition of her extensive experience, worked previously as a public health research fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco and as a senior fellow at the Ecologic Institute in San Mateo, California, and Berlin, Germany. She also worked for the United Nations and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Trained as both an environmental statistician and a biostatistician, she uses her statistical and analytical skills to address a broad range of environmental and public health policy questions. Her research interests focus on the development and application of statistical methods for assessing environmental performance, benchmarking environmental and public health objectives, and more recently the health risks of unconventional energy development.

Past projects include the measurement of anthropogenic environmental pressures at national and EU levels, an evaluation of the World Health Organization’s environmental burden of disease methodology, the characteristics and drivers of sustainable communities, the identification of ecological threshold phenomena, the role of local and regional authorities in developing sustainable rural-urban energy systems, and the evaluation of climate change targets and associated policies.

A native speaker of German, Srebotnjak is fluent in English and has the United Nations certificate of proficiency in Russian. She completed her PhD in environmental statistics and policy in 2007 at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and her MSc and Diploma in statistics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (2001) and Dortmund Technical University, Germany (2000).

Adelaide Hixon established the Hixon Professorship of Sustainable Environmental Design in 2013, in memory of her husband, Alexander. The Hixons, including grandson Dylan Hixon, a Harvey Mudd trustee, have been generous donors to the College, supporting a scholarship, a humanities forum and professorships.

Endowed faculty positions allow the College to attract and retain faculty members capable of teaching and mentoring students at the highest level while ensuring that the College’s faculty-student ratio remains low.