Syracuse University’s Center for Sustainable Community Solutions and Environmental Finance Center Announces New Directors

The Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science has announced two new directors at the Center for Sustainable Community Solutions – Environmental Finance Center (CSCS-EFC). Melissa Young takes on the title of director, resource conservation initiatives at CSCS-EFC, while Khristopher Dodson takes on the title of director, water resiliency initiatives. Each director brings more than 15 years of experience managing teams of environmental professionals and are experts in their respective fields of sustainable materials management and water resource management.

As it approaches its 30th year anniversary in 2023, Syracuse University’s CSCS-EFC is poised for growth. Since 1993, CSCS-EFC has used a unique community-based approach to assist hundreds of municipalities across EPA Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight Native Nations. CSCS-ESC acts as both a training center and a bridge, bringing together various governmental and nonprofit actors to collaborate on sustainability issues, including water infrastructure management, water equity, climate resiliency, and resource conservation, including waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and sustainable resource management. Since 2015, CSCS-EFC has managed more than $10 million in federal, state and local grants to support its municipal and county government partners.

“We are excited for Syracuse University’s CSCS-EFC to continue growing under the leadership of its two new directors,” says J. Cole Smith, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “Our mission includes serving communities by bringing our research and technical abilities to assist in crafting new and innovative solutions. CSCS-EFC is a critical component of how we fulfill that mission. The continued growth of their team reflects the value of how we help empower local leaders to drive change in their communities.”

Melissa Young previously served as an assistant director at CSCS-EFC, where she has worked since 2008. In that role, Young led public engagement, outreach and educational programs, resource development, and technical assistance related to sustainable materials management, including waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. In 2010, she spearheaded development and launch of the Center’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Stewardship program, which to date has engaged hundreds of college students and thousands of K-12 students and teachers across New York, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, educating them about waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting and empowering them to conduct local outreach projects. In 2015, she helped develop the first NYS Organics Summit and helped NYSAR3 receive an Environmental Champion Award from the USEPA for her work co-leading the Re-Clothe NY Campaign. “We are at a critical turning point right now in EPA Region 2,” says Young. “Local leaders and communities are realizing the need and value of transitioning their materials management operations into a system that’s based on waste prevention, resource conservation, the highest and best use of materials, and circular economics, all of which help to benefit the social, environmental, and economic wellbeing of their local communities. I’m proud of the work our team has done in leading sustainable materials management initiatives and I look forward to what we can accomplish as we continue expanding our services in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, New Jersey, and here in New York State.”

Khris Dodson previously served as an associate director at CSCS-EFC, managing a team of professionals to assist rural communities and other underserved populations on water and wastewater infrastructure challenges, and connecting the Syracuse University EFC with the national EFC network. “As our team continues to grow, we are excited to bring on new talent and find new ways to support our local leaders,” said Dodson. “We are committed to supporting every community in EPA Region 2 with technical assistance and continuing to work with our many national and statewide partners. We recently added new staff with cultural competency to support Native Nations, we’re planning to hire more staff to meet new demand for our services especially on climate resiliency, and we’re evaluating new ways to continue integrating our work with other institutes and academic centers across Syracuse University and at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, like the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.”

For both Dodson and Young, key reasons to increase programming include investments at the state and federal levels. At the state level, the NYSDEC has invested more than $6 million towards the new NYS Center for SMM, of which CSCS is a major partner in the development of the center and in conducting all public engagement, education, and outreach activities. At the federal level, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) passed in 2021. Over the next five years, the law will provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with more than $100 billion in funds that can be awarded to states to support clean water infrastructure and climate resiliency. This year in New York State alone, $426 million is available for local municipalities and Native Nations to address climate resiliency and long-overdue upgrades to public infrastructure. “There is a tremendous amount of funding on the table right now,” says Dodson. “Our mission is to work with our partners at EPA and state agencies to make sure underserved communities have the training and skills they need to access new funds. Climate, water, and resource conservation issues are quickly becoming priorities for governments at all levels. The Center for Sustainable Community Solutions here at Syracuse University is well-positioned to convene groups working on these important issues and will ensure that this historic funding is distributed in a way that’s equitable and just.”