May 25, 2019  

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Catching Up with Jonathan Williams

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Hattiesburg native Jonathan Williams is a visiting professor in the College of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi and was recently named Chief Sustainability Officer.

Williams, who holds a law degree from Washington University, recently took a few moments to outline his sustainability goals for the university and reflect on his joy of teaching.

Q.Where were you working before you became Chief Sustainability Officer?

A.I was in California where I did compliance work for the bio-tech industry and I also started a non-profit for youth interested in careers in the new economy.

Q:How did you get the sustainability position at Southern Miss?

A:My dean in the College of Business (Dr. Lance Nail) approached (USM President) Dr. Saunders because he knew that sustainability has always been one of her priorities. Dr. Nail was aware that prior to moving back to Hattiesburg I was leveraging my law degree and years of experience as an MBA to consult and develop non-profits in the sustainability industry in California. While working as a visiting professor in the College of Business, my common interest found a home with Dr. Saunders’ vision and after interviewing with her executive team members, I received the appointment.

Q:Do you think there is a general malaise among Americans about “green” issues?

A:I think there is a sense of eagerness and skepticism about green issues. I think we are all eager to see job creation, and I see a common positive link around the new green economy.

Q:What is your primary objective as the new sustainability officer at Southern Miss?

A:To create a curriculum that will prepare our students for jobs in the new green economy. A major part of that is ensuring that our students get access to new opportunities created by the green jobs from solar, bio-diesel, and other green businesses moving to our state.

Q:Do you enjoy being in the classroom teaching students?

A:Engaging students is a unique challenge that takes you through every emotion sometimes within one hour. You live and thrive off of their curiosity and energy. I enjoy when it works and try to change my approach when the connection is not there.

Q:What, if anything, scares you?

A:The thought of doing a job for a living that I don’t feel as passionate about as the environment and teaching.

Q:When you’re not working, where can you be most likely found?

A:I have four classes and this new position, so, is sleeping a fair answer? I also like tennis and picked up soccer recently.

Q:What is the best advice you ever received?

A:The poem “If” (by Rudyard Kipling) is the best heap of advice you can get.