Message from the Director

Welcome to the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy (ESE)! I am thrilled to join ESE as its director and look forward to many years serving its students, faculty, staff and stakeholders. ESE is the heart of transdisciplinarity at NIU, with five joint appointment faculty and another 35 faculty associates spanning 15 departments and centers across four colleges. They are productive, innovative scholars committed to community engagement and they mentor and advise our nearly 100 students pursuing our undergraduate major, minor or certificate. We boast alumni/ae who are making a difference in both the public sector and private sector—state and local governments, nonprofits and NGOs and corporations. It's invigorating knowing I get to work with so many passionate people.

The 2022-2023 academic year will once again be an exciting and impactful time at ESE for our faculty, staff and students. Our newsletter, which we'll be publishing twice per semester, will help you keep up to date with everything ESE is doing. Some of the bigger highlights include:

  • Partnering with Illinois Department of Natural Resources on a nearly $1 million grant to fund 10 undergradudate and five graduate Research Fellows, plus a variety of ESE initiatives. These students will be frontline grant reviewers helping to bring $56 million to communities statewide for parks and open space, especially those that have been systematically under-resourced and disadvantaged.
  • Revitalizing our curriculum, which will now include emphases in environmental justice, sustainable food systems, biodiversity and environmental restoration, sustainability and energy, and environmental law and policy. we are also adding our first general education course accessible to freshman and sophomore students, ENVS 200 - Introduction to Sustainability.
  • Committing nearly $60,000 in external resources to Sustainable Food Systems, including strengthening our Communiversity Gardens (one of the DeKalb County Community Gardens sites) and collaborating on efforts at NIU to combat food injustice and insecurity.

Our faculty are also spearheading a writing group and multiple working groups accessible to graduate students. These will ensure we can grow our impact as an institute in cutting-edge research, while continuing to be a home for student success.

Before signing off, a little bit about me. My own work matches the transdisciplinary, student-centered ethos that motivates ESE. I have been recognized both at NIU and at my prior institutions for my commitment to diversity and inclusion, to transformative undergraduate research experiences, and to hands-on, lifelong learning. Getting to help undergraduate and graduate students (regardless of where they come from or where they hope to go) to realize their dreams is why I work in academia.

At NIU, my faculty position is in the Department of Public Administration, where I focus on local government management in a program that ranks third globally. I teach courses in urban planning, law, governance and performance management to help educate the next generation of public servants about how to better pursue the three E's of sustainability—equity, economy and environment. Public service organizations—governments, nonprofits and NGOs—are essential to sustainability, and I hope to significantly expand ESE's ability to support the planning and implementation of sustainability in these organizations. My education and background are in both planning and law from University of Michigan and Michigan State University. You can learn more about my research on my website, or review my CV. I live in DeKalb with my husband, and love piano, gardening, hiking and camping.

If you are interested in learning more about ESE or joining us as an associate or affiliate, please reach out to me at You can also visit me at our offices in Montgomery Hall, suite 325.

Thomas Skuzinski 

Contact Us

Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy
325 Montgomery Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: 815-753-6563
Fax: 815-753-2902
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