We'd like to introduce you to one of the newest members of the Carleton community, Martha Larson, who serves in a newly-created role at the College as the Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability. Martha and her husband, Nat (also a new member of the Carleton community), recently moved to Northfield from Chicago.
Explain the responsibilities of your position on campus.
As Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability, I will work with Carleton's students, staff and faculty to foster Carleton's ongoing sustainable initiatives, define a vision for future actions to reduce our campus's impact on the environment, and then implement the steps to get us there. Practically speaking, I am still very much a project manager, shepherding major project efforts such as the second wind turbine and campus Climate Action Plan. I also work with our student sustainability assistants (aka the "STAs") to guide their annual project initiatives and coordinate their assistance on pieces of our larger projects. I also chair and report to the Carleton Environmental Advisory Committee, a group of staff, students and faculty who offer guidance and serve as liaisons to the campus at large on current sustainability efforts. Ultimately, I hope to be seen as a resource for all things related to energy and sustainability—from wind turbine data to steam plant tours to study abroad ideas in service to the environment.
Briefly describe your background (and why you're "pumped" for this position!)
I have a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University that led first to a career in acoustics. Working on large-scale projects such as theaters and concert halls really fueled my interest in architecture and construction, so I later moved into a project management position working primarily on museum and higher education projects. The environment has always been my big "cause" in life and core to my personal values, so while working in project management I became a LEED Accredited Professional and took graduate courses at IIT's Center for Sustainable Enterprise. Initially, I envisioned a career in sustainable business—but the opportunity to work in an academic environment opens up the chance to work with a very broad group of informed people on a very diverse pool of sustainability initiatives. Combining forces with Carleton's students, staff and faculty to improve the world we live in is certainly the most exciting prospect of my future work at Carleton.
I grew up in the Twin Cities, and have always had a high level of respect for Carleton as a premier academic institution. When my husband was offered a position in Carleton's Gould Library last winter we figured it was fate stepping in with the perfect opportunity—a new chapter in life, closer to family, an idyllic college setting...what could be better? We had been thinking it was time to take a break from the pace of Chicago and couldn't imagine a better place to be.
Because that's where Carleton is! But truly, Northfield is an extremely unique setting that enjoys a wealth of academic and cultural richness blended into a quaint small town atmosphere. We were really excited to experience that balanced ideal. Northfield has proven to be all that and more.
What do you miss most about Chicago, compared to life in Northfield?
Of course I miss friends and favorite places I left behind, but most of all I miss my neighborhood. It was part of the Chicago boulevard system so there was always a diverse group of people out sharing our communal "front yard" together. The area was having a bit of a renaissance during the time I lived there, so local neighbor-owned restaurants and businesses were really starting to flourish. I'm also a musician (on the side) so the opportunity to see and play with Chicago's great local musicians really shaped who I am today.
What are you most looking forward to, living and working in Northfield?
I love the strong sense of community—both on campus and off. I can meet someone from the Northfield community on campus to talk about local sustainability initiatives, and then see them at the co-op that very weekend buying kiwi berries. I'm also a huge proponent of self-propelled travel, so being able to walk and bike everywhere is a big plus.
Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability by day...what about by night? Anything else you'd like to share?
I'm a rock / jazz cellist by night, and I used to study and play quite a bit with folks in the Chicago gypsy jazz community. Now that my Chicago quintet has turned to a quartet (located 400 miles away), I've been exploring the area for opportunities to start something new here in Northfield. I've certainly seen quite a sampling of local music so far, and I look forward to diving in. Another interesting fun fact might be that I live with a 12 inch long (counting his tail) African Gray Parrot named Felix. He is my best bud and likes to follow me all around the house whistling broken versions of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (either that or the Kentucky Derby theme—another top hit...!)