Leadership Transition in the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems

Side by side portraits of John Crittenden and Beril Toktay.

Side by side portraits of John Crittenden and Beril Toktay.

John Crittenden will be stepping down as executive director of BBISS effective August 31, 2022. Beril Toktay, Professor of Operations Management, Brady Family Chairholder, and Regents’ Professor, will serve as BBISS’ interim executive director. Beril said, “John took the inclusion of the word ‘Systems’ in BBISS’ name to heart at a time when large interdisciplinary research collaborations at Georgia Tech were still a rarity. The bold vision now coming out of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan 2020-2030 and the Sustainability Next strategic plan initiative can be directly linked to John’s leadership and his challenge to ‘go bigger.’ I am delighted to accept the baton and run the next leg in advancing BBISS’ mission in collaboration with the Georgia Tech sustainability community.”

John will continue as a faculty member, educator, mentor, and researcher at Georgia Tech in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, maintaining his appointment as GRA Eminent Scholar in Sustainable Technologies. John has led BBISS since 2009, when the prior Institute for Sustainable Technology and Development (ISTD) was renamed in honor of Brook Byers (a Georgia Tech alumnus, sustainability advocate, and founding president of the Kleiner Perkins venture capital firm).

As a world-renowned researcher, John has made, and continues to make, critical contributions in the fields of water treatment (having co-authored the preeminent book on the subject which is used by 300 universities around the world), pollution prevention, energy harvesting technologies, the food-energy-water nexus, sustainable materials, sustainable urban infrastructure, sustainable engineering pedagogy, advanced modeling of urban systems, and urban form and policy.

Among John’s many awards and honors are: Member of the National Academy of Engineering; Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Member of the European Union Academy of Sciences; Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering; American Institute of Chemical Engineers 100 Eminent Chemical Engineers in Modern Times; Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize from the National Water Research Institute; Simon W. Freese Environmental Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers; and the Chinese Friendship Award. The American Chemical Society will host a special symposium series to honor John’s long-term accomplishments in sustainability and physical chemical treatment processes for engineered water infrastructure systems at the Fall 2022 ACS meeting in Chicago.

As the leader of BBISS, John also fostered a dedicated team of staff, students, and faculty. The many students who have participated in sustainability research inherited his systems perspective and have carried it into their careers. He oversaw the development of several programs to support career development and collaboration, including the BBISS Graduate Fellows, the BBISS Faculty Fellows, and the Brook Byers Professors, all made possible with donations from Brook and Shawn Byers. He has been a tireless sponsor of early- and mid-career researchers, nominating them for awards and memberships on committees, and providing valuable advice. He has hosted visiting scholars from all over the world, engaging them in interdisciplinary research and the development of solutions to global sustainability challenges.

Julia Kubanek, Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research, shared the following comments: “Thank you, John, for the many programs you have initiated and the research that you have supported and inspired while leading BBISS. On behalf of all the faculty, students, and staff at Georgia Tech, I look forward to continuing to engage with you as a faculty member of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.”

Beril Toktay has made varied high-impact contributions to sustainability at Georgia Tech since she joined the Institute in 2005. She is the founding faculty director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in the Scheller College of Business. Beril served as the co-architect and co-executive faculty director of Serve-Learn-Sustain, Georgia Tech’s campus-wide academic initiative offering students opportunities to collaborate with diverse partners on key sustainability challenges to help create sustainable communities. She was also Scheller College’s ADVANCE Professor, a role dedicated to the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities in academia. Beril is currently serving as co-chair of Sustainability Next, the sustainability and climate-focused strategic planning initiative of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan 2020-2030.

Beril is regarded as one of the most influential scholars in the field of sustainable operations management. Her research helped to introduce sustainability into the field of operations management, and she has had a significant hand in shaping its ongoing development, including serving as area editor in Environment, Energy and Sustainability for Operations Research, co-editor of the Business and Climate Change special issue for Management Science, and as department editor in Health, Environment and Society in Manufacturing and Service Operations Management (MSOM). For her pioneering role in advancing sustainable business scholarship and her leadership in building a sustainable operations community, respectively, she was elected Distinguished Fellow of the INFORMS MSOM Society in 2017 and received the MSOM Distinguished Service Award in 2018.

Beril values interdisciplinary research and education. Earlier in her Georgia Tech career, she served as the coordinator of ECLIPS (Georgia Tech Focused Research Program on Expanding Closed-Loops in Production Systems), an interdisciplinary group of faculty from management, engineering, and public policy interested in circular economy solutions. Her NSF-funded research on circular economy enterprise solutions involved collaborators from mechanical engineering and industrial and systems engineering. For her translational work in this area, she received the 2021 Sustainability Champion Award from the Global Electronics Council (formerly known as the Green Electronics Council). In 2017, Beril co-developed the Carbon Reduction Challenge program in collaboration with the Georgia Tech Global Change Program. This program challenges undergraduate student interns to identify a project that achieves significant reductions in carbon emissions and yields cost savings for their host company.

Through her role in the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, Beril has been instrumental in creating the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, a statewide, business-led, collective action initiative aimed at achieving a just, prosperous, and sustainable transition towards net-zero carbon emissions in the state by 2050. In 2019, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce selected her as an E3 Impact Award Finalist, an award that recognizes “visionary individuals advancing sustainability in Atlanta.”

“Beril’s sustainability and business expertise as well as her experience leading teams and initiatives will ensure that BBISS remains on a strong footing and can continue to grow its impact,” said Julia Kubanek. “I’m especially excited about new ideas coming out of the Sustainability Next strategic planning effort that can contribute to the evolution of BBISS.”

Beril will lead BBISS until a new executive director is selected through a process that will be announced by the Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research later this year.

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Brent Verrill, Research Communications Program Manager