Shalanda Baker to lead academic efforts on sustainability


Shalanda H. Baker, a policymaker and academic with expertise in energy justice, environmental policy and climate change mitigation, will serve as the University of Michigan’s first vice provost for sustainability and climate action.

Currently the director of the Office of Energy Justice and Equity and the secretarial adviser on equity at the U.S. Department of Energy, and formerly the department’s chief diversity officer, Baker will advance sustainability education and research across U-M schools and colleges.

Shalanda H. Baker
Shalanda H. Baker

The Board of Regents approved her appointment June 20.

“Shalanda Baker is a preeminent voice for energy justice and climate action, and I’m proud and honored to welcome her to our university community,” President Santa J. Ono said.

“As we endeavor to boldly address the climate emergency, Baker’s work will support sustainability research and engagement and will complement the efforts of other U-M leaders committed to a more sustainable and equitable world. I’m excited for our collaborations to come.”

The vice provost for sustainability and climate action will lead interdisciplinary engagement on environmental topics, explore opportunities to integrate sustainability within core curricula and support critical research that addresses the climate crisis.

The position also will advance U-M’s role as a living-learning lab toward climate solutions, in collaboration with Business & Finance, the Office of Campus Sustainability, Student Life Sustainability, the Graham Sustainability Institute, Michigan Medicine, and schools, colleges and units.

“I’m so delighted to take on this inaugural role and join U-M’s rich tradition in the fields of climate and sustainability,” Baker said. “I can’t think of any university better situated to address the urgency and complexity of the climate crisis and serve as a force-multiplier for justice. Academic institutions are critical incubators to accelerate equitable climate solutions. I’m excited to get to work.”


Baker will assume a five-year appointment Sept. 1, reporting to the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. She also is expected to be recommended for appointment as a professor of environment and sustainability, with tenure, at the July board meeting.

“Shalanda Baker has been tackling challenges related to sustainability on the largest possible stage,” said Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“As an academic expert on law and public policy and a seasoned public servant, Ms. Baker combines scholarly expertise with firsthand knowledge of advocating for climate action in a complex, high-stakes landscape. She is an exemplar of the pursuit of climate justice in action, and we are fortunate to have her join the university.”

Baker has served in the Biden administration since 2021, when she became the nation’s first deputy director for energy justice at the Energy Department. She has played a pivotal role in various initiatives designed to advance an equitable energy transition, including the department’s framework for the White House’s Justice40 initiative, which distributes more than $100 billion in climate and clean-energy funding to communities throughout the country.

Baker also oversaw an expansion and renaming of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity to the Office of Energy Justice and Equity and led departmental efforts to increase funding to underrepresented universities and businesses.

Previously, Baker was a professor of law, public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University, and held various faculty positions at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law and University of Wisconsin Law School.

She also has authored numerous publications related to energy justice, climate change and sustainable development, including the book “Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition.”

Baker holds a Master of Law degree from the University of Wisconsin, a juris doctorate from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The appointment comes as U-M works to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and foster a universitywide culture of sustainability. As part of these efforts, U-M also hired its first associate vice president for campus sustainability, Shana Weber, in September 2023.


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