Position: Director of Sustainability & Transportation Operations
Years of Service: 7
Resides: Holbrook, NY
James O'Connor, the Director of Sustainability & Transportation Operations, can go on and on and on, sustaining conversation by discussing any of a multitude of projects, plans, and operations he oversees that cover the entire campus. His primary focus concerns transportation and improving efficiency, but that covers a broad spectrum. There is the fuel consumption analysis of campus vehicles. The bike share program. Lighting surveys. Dining hall waste reduction initiatives. Recycling efforts. Renewable energy. For a large campus like Stony Brook, transportation and sustainability issues, and thus James, are everywhere.
James started working at Stony Brook University 7 years ago as the Director of Transportation & Parking Operations, having come from the United States Tennis Association in Queens where he was an operations and transportation coordinator. He is a native Long Islander from Sachem High School, with a bachelorís degree in Civil Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. He traveled to the deserts of Arizona to get his MBA from Arizona State University but soon returned to his home island.
In James' initial transportation, automotive and parking responsibilities at Stony Brook, he enjoyed tackling the financial numbers to find more efficiencies and greater cost savings. That interest segued nicely into the earliest campus environmental stewardship initiatives that have now become known as sustainability programs. That meant a growing umbrella of responsibilities, a challenge that James enjoys.
"Every day is different," he describes. "Some days we move forward with different sustainability programs already in discussion, such as investigating renewable energy for the campus or making specific buildings become more efficient in the use of utilities." Other days involve planning for new programs.
It is very much a campus-wide effort for James, with programs that encompass the entire campus and entail direct relationships with many different parts of the University. James has regular interactions with Campus Operations & Maintenance, Custodial Services, Recycling, Campus Residences, Transportation, Automotive, Parking and Utilities. There are meetings with students and their studies in the academic Sustainability Studies Program or through using student EcoLeaders to survey, observe, and report on sustainability opportunities across the campus. Lighting surveys on the adequacy or over-abundance of lighting in specific buildings are one student-led example that can lead to greater efficiencies.
There is no specific motto above the door to James' office but he likes to lead by example, starting early, working hard, and staying till the job is done. He greatly values the opportunity he has had to grow in his role at Stony Brook, growth that has allowed him to develop skills in areas that are not only interesting but that also are for the betterment of the campus and the planet. His hard work has not gone unrecognized, both on and off campus. Recently, James was named to the steering committee of the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education (NYCSHE), a group of higher education administrators who aim to advance sustainability. James has also led Stony Brook University to two recent first place finishes, with Stony Brook triumphing over 600 other colleges and universities across the nation in the RecycleMania e-waste campaign (computers, batteries, printers, cables, etc.) and, for the second year in a row, coming in first among all SUNY schools in volume of gorilla recyclables (bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard).
Away from Stony Brook, James thoroughly enjoys spending time with his wife and almost-1-year-old son. A former hockey player, James is an avid sports fan these days, with a passing interest in the Arizona State basketball and football teams in season, but his primary focus is on local sports teams. With a local focus on sports but a job that impacts the well-being of the entire planet, you could say that James cheers locally but works globally. Just ask him about it.