Director Named to Lead Arthur L. Irving Institute

Elizabeth Wilson is an internationally known scholar of energy systems, law, and policy.

Elizabeth Wilson, a leading scholar who works at the intersection of energy, technology, law, business, and policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has been appointed the inaugural director of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, President Phil Hanlon ’77 and Provost Carolyn Dever announced today.

Wilson, who will also hold the rank of professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth, will begin work on Sept. 1.

“I am delighted that Elizabeth Wilson has agreed to become the institute’s inaugural director,” says President Hanlon. “She will be an outstanding leader as Dartmouth prepares future generations to advance humanity’s understanding of the field, driving change in the intelligent production, supply, and use of energy with the potential to alleviate poverty and foster economic growth across the globe.”

At the University of Minnesota, Wilson has worked for a decade with the Institute on the Environment, which supports a wide range of initiatives and projects related to land and water use, food diversity, sustainable enterprise, and the integration of economics and ecology. A professor of energy and environmental policy and law, Wilson studies how energy systems are changing. As a 2015 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, she researched how policies and institutions are co-evolving and responding to climate change by incorporating new technologies into existing energy systems at the Danish Technical University.

Dever says Wilson’s scholarship reflects her pragmatic understanding of the way environmental science, economics, and policy are shaping the future of energy production and consumption. “Elizabeth will foster a culture of creativity and innovation at the institute, which will be a hub for collaborative solutions to real world problems,” says Dever.

In September, a lead gift of $80 million was made to launch the institute by Irving Oil, the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation, and Arthur L. Irving, his wife, Sandra Irving, and their daughter, Sarah Irving ’10, Tuck ’14. It will be housed in an energy-efficient building between the Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Dartmouth faculty and leading the new Irving Institute. It is a fantastic opportunity to engage in new conversations, research, and educational opportunities on campus and beyond,” says Wilson. “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 is eminently suited to direct the work of the institute, says University of Vermont President Thomas Sullivan, who knows Wilson from his time as university provost and senior vice president of the University of Minnesota.

“I have known Professor Wilson since we recruited her as a faculty member at the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota when I served as provost. I have watched her academic accomplishments grow over the years. She is a true star in all respects: a first-rate scholar, a very gifted teacher, and a wonderful, engaged colleague. She will make all at Dartmouth very proud,” says Sullivan.

Under Wilson’s leadership, the Arthur L. Irving Institute will 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. The institute will be a hub for collaboration involving faculty and students from across academic disciplines and will prepare the next generation of energy experts who have a deep understanding of North American and global energy issues.

Wilson says she sees the institute as an incubator, “a space to explore nascent ideas and introduce different ways of thinking about old problems. We will aim to be a home where collaborations large and small can take shape and grow. I also see the institute as a disseminator of information through a variety of platforms, including publications, seminars, readings, and colloquia, and also new media, art installations, videos, and innovative theater projects, to engage the community in an ongoing dialogue about creating a sustainable energy future.”

The institute will engage scholars and students—undergraduates, graduate, and professional school students—across disciplines at Dartmouth, bringing together the arts and sciences, engineering, and business.

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

In addition to her duties at the Humphrey School and an affiliated faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota Law School, Wilson, who has been at Minnesota since 2005, was on the board of the Institute for Advanced Study and a fellow and member of the Faculty Leadership Council at the Institute on the Environment. She was selected as a McKnight Land Grant professor and spent the 2009-2010 year as a visiting professor at Tsinghua University’s Public Policy School and Center for Industrial Development and Environmental Governance in Beijing, and was for three years a visiting scholar at Nanjing University’s School of the Environment in Nanjing, China. She also spent six years as an environmental scientist at the EPA and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burundi.

Wilson has co-authored or edited four books, most recently Smart Grid (R)evolution: Electric Power Struggles (Cambridge), in 2015, as well as many journal articles, law review articles, book chapters, and other publications. She has received numerous research grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and state, industry, and private donors. She serves on the Committee for Earth Resources at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and was selected as a Leopold Leadership fellow in 2011 and Kavli Fellow in 2014.

The College expects to complete the Arthur L. Irving Institute building by 2020. The Canadian firm KPMB Architects is designing the building.

Dever thanked the director search committee, co-chaired by Robert Hansen, a professor of business administration at Tuck, and F. Jon Kull ’88, dean of the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.

Committee members were Susanne Friedberg, professor of geography; Richard Howarth, professor of environmental studies; Margaret Karagas, professor of epidemiology; Rosalie Kerr ’98, director of sustainability; Frank Magilligan, professor of geography; Erin Mansur, professor of business administration; April Salas, executive director of the Revers Energy Initiative; Mukul Sharma, professor of earth sciences; Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck school; Jonathan Smolin, associate professor of Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures; Roberta Stewart, professor of classical studies; Charles Sullivan, professor of engineering; Dale Turner, associate professor of government and of Native American studies; and William Wohlforth, professor of government.