As chief sustainability and resilience officer for the City of Evanston, Illinois, Kumar Jensen ’12 says he relies on his Earlham education nearly every day.
“I have a wide range of responsibilities,” he says. “I’m responsible for city operations of its own buildings and vehicles and city purchasing. The other side has to do with the entire community — what policies do we need to have in place and how best do we educate our residents.”
He’s also in charge of tracking data on energy and water usage on 500 properties.
“There are a lot of parts to my job, and I like that,” he says. “The one that feels most rewarding is seeing community members advocate for the things they feel are important.”
In 2018, while working for the City of Evanston, Illinois, the city council adopted a Climate Action and Resilience Plan, making it the first city in Illinois to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and the first with a community carbon neutral goal for 2050.
Jensen is not a stranger to remarkable community commitments and living life in response to them. He grew up on a commune in the woods outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. It’s a way of life that perhaps helped him take less for granted than the average American.
“I think that is when I first began thinking of myself as environmentally focused,” he says. A gap year in Argentina and coming to Earlham confirmed this.
At Earlham, economics and environmental studies courses pointed him to think beyond individual behaviors about how institutional decisions are made and how they differ from individual decisions.
“Perhaps the most influential factor in getting me to where I am now is the Bonner Scholar program,” he says. “I developed deep connections with the people in my cohort that I spent four years with. This has been a thread in my life that I’ve continued to explore and deepen.”
Earlham is one of two dozen schools selected by the Bonner Foundation to host the Bonner Scholar Program, which offers scholarships in combination with a service and leadership program.
As a Bonner Scholar, Jensen spent a year in a classroom teaching, more than a year at Richmond’s Amigos Latino Center, and more than a year working with Richmond’s Metro Planning Office.
“Bonner also allowed me to spend all of my summers in Richmond, and I was also able to develop longer relationships there,” he says. “I got to see how decisions played out. One of the ideas I worked with was bike lanes. I got to see the informal reasons they could or could not happen in certain areas.”