SEAS names inaugural director of sustainable climate action engagement


The School for Environment and Sustainability has announced the selection of Liesl Eichler Clark as the University of Michigan’s first director of sustainable climate action engagement.

Clark will lead a new initiative aimed at linking the university’s expanding sustainability research, collaborations and engagement with external partners to accelerate climate action across the state of Michigan and beyond.

Photo of Liesl Eichler Clark
Liesl Eichler Clark

She previously served in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s cabinet as the director of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“This first-of-its-kind initiative will transform the impact of higher education through external engagement and is focused on having the University of Michigan step up to put an end to the climate crisis,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and the Samuel A. Graham Dean at SEAS.

“It’s time for universities to build out beyond their own carbon neutrality goals, which are critically important, and look at the broader landscape of how we can make a lasting difference in the state of Michigan. Clark will play an instrumental role in developing the new initiative from the ground up, putting environmental justice and equity at the core.”

Clark has spent more than two decades advancing public policy solutions that move Michigan, the Midwest and the United States toward carbon neutrality, climate resilience and environmental sustainability while supporting economic growth and environmental justice. Her professional career has been split between the public and private sectors.

“I’m always ready and willing to take on the most complex and consequential policy issues,” she said. “I have focused on both energy and clean water, with a priority on supporting solutions that lift, involve and benefit all people. The University of Michigan is poised to accelerate its leadership in sustainable climate action, and I’m thrilled to lend my skills to the task.”

In her four years with EGLE, Clark helped the organization play a lead role in the state’s response to historic floods and high water levels. She also managed record-breaking, bipartisan investments in water infrastructure, established the state’s first drinking water standards for PFAS, guided the city of Flint in establishing a backup water supply, and supported the city of Benton Harbor as it replaced its lead water service lines in less than one year.

In addition, Clark helped develop and launch the MI Healthy Climate Plan to create jobs, lower energy costs and advance equity while putting Michigan on the path to carbon neutrality. She also created and elevated the MI Advisory Council on Environmental Justice and accelerated efforts focused on electric vehicle deployment.

Prior to EGLE, she co-founded a clean-energy consultancy, 5 Lakes Energy. Her work focused on clean mobility, renewable energy and grid integration, among other priorities needing state-level deployment through legislatures and public utility commissions.

Clark has held leadership roles on the executive committee of the Environmental Council of the States, made up of the United States’ 50 key environmental leaders, and for three years was president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a trade association whose membership grew from 40 to 115 companies under Clark’s direction.

She also has chaired numerous councils and commissions, including the Michigan Council on Climate Solutions, Michigan Dam Safety Task Force and Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force.


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