Dartmouth Names First Director of Institute of Energy and Society

  • Elizabeth Wilson has been named the inagural director of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth College. (Dartmouth College - Eli Burakian)

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, June 05, 2017

Hanover — Elizabeth Wilson, a professor of energy and of environmental policy and law at the University of Minnesota, will be the inaugural director for Dartmouth College’s Arthur L. Irving Institute of Energy and Society, administrators announced Monday.

Wilson not only will lead the Irving Institute, a center on energy policy launched with an $80 million gift from the family behind Irving Oil, but also will join Dartmouth’s faculty when she starts work on Sept. 1, a news release said.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Dartmouth faculty and leading the new Irving Institute,” Wilson said in the announcement. “It is a fantastic opportunity to engage in new conversations, research, and educational opportunities on campus and beyond.

“I would like the institute to become a world-renowned center for cutting-edge interdisciplinary energy research. In addition to pursuing academic excellence, we will meaningfully engage academics and practitioners on real-world energy issues. I look forward to much input from faculty, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community.”

Wilson, who was in Europe on Monday, was not immediately available for an interview.

Her studies, which lie at the confluence of “energy, technology, law, business, and policy,” according to the release, dovetail with the interdisciplinary mission of the Irving Institute: “to bring scholars, policy makers, and industry leaders to campus to advance understanding and promote change at the intersection of energy and society from four main perspectives: technology and science; society and the environment; business and economics; and geopolitics.”

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Wilson received a master’s degree from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium, and a doctorate in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

Wilson maintains appointments at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the University of Minnesota Law School, and has also served on the board of the university’s Institute for Advanced Study.

Beyond the United States, she has served as a visiting professor at Chinese universities.

She also has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and for the Peace Corps in Burundi.

The unveiling of the Arthur L. Irving Institute, this past fall, prompted both praise from advocates of energy policy research and criticism from environmentalists who felt that the center’s mission was undermined by the source of its funding — the family behind a major fossil-fuel conglomerate.

Arthur Irving, the institute’s namesake and a co-owner of Irving Oil, made the founding gift along with his wife, Sandra, and their daughter, Sarah, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2010 and from the Tuck School of Business in 2014.

Dartmouth officials say the donors will have no control over how the money is spent.

The institute will need a total of $160 million or so to reach full funding, administrators have said, and also will require the construction of a new building near Tuck and the Thayer School of Engineering.