2018 Illinois Sustainability Awards Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Jacob MadsenJacob Madsen is Director of Sustainability at SC Johnson with more than 19 years of experience in sustainability strategy and execution including product sustainability and green chemistry. Jacob helps set the company’s industry-leading agenda on transparency; ingredient disclosure, the SC Johnson Greenlist™ program and the commitment to creating winning products, ensuring less waste, reducing the carbon footprint and making life better for families around the globe. Prior to joining SC Johnson in 2016, Jacob worked at Deloitte Consulting, managing sustainability challenges for high-profile clients in consumer products, retail and other industries. Previously, Jacob was a senior consultant with ERM in Oxford UK and Chicago. Jacob earned his master’s degree in environmental engineering from Aalborg University in Denmark. He lives with his wife and son in Chicago, Illinois.

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Cathy SteppCathy Stepp serves as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 5. Her responsibilities include overseeing environmental protection efforts in the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as 35 federally recognized tribal governments. One of her roles is manager of EPA Great Lakes National Program, in which she leads restoration and protection of the largest freshwater system in the world. Before joining Region 5, she was principal deputy regional administrator for EPA Region 7.

Ms. Stepp served as the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from 2011 to 2017. As state cabinet secretary, she led the third largest state agency with about 4,000 employees and was responsible for state enforcement and protection of wildlife, fisheries, state parks, trails, forests and environmental permitting.

Ms. Stepp also served as a Wisconsin state senator from 2003 to 2007, where she represented nearly 160,000 constituents and authored and advanced legislation on regulatory reform, job creation and other issues. Prior to entering public service, Ms. Stepp owned a small business, a home-building company.

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Water/Energy Nexus Panel

Randy ConnerRandy Conner is the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM). Appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June 2017, Commissioner Conner has more than two decades of experience in urban engineering and infrastructure. He formerly served as the First Deputy Commissioner at both the Chicago Department of Transportation (COOT) and the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS).

At the Department of Water Management, Commissioner Conner oversees the system that delivers high-quality drinking water to more than 40% of Illinois' residents daily. This system includes over 4,300 miles of water main, 4,450 miles of sewer mains and two of the world's largest water treatment facilities and over 2,100 employees. He manages an operating budget of approximately one billion dollars and a capital budget of approximately 750 million dollars annually.

Commissioner Conner has created a Division of Performance Management charged with documenting procedures, identifying training needs and establishing measures of success to bring heightened efficiency and accountability to the department. He has mandated EEO training for all employees- including senior management- and made it a condition of ongoing employment. He oversees implementation of Mayor Emanuel's ambitious 10-year Building a New Chicago capital plan which represents a six billion dollar investment in water infrastructure to support the city's future growth.

Commissioner Conner is an ordained deacon and has logged thousands of service hours with many community and civic service organizations including Prince Hall Masonic Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. He is the recipient of the Man of Honor Award from the Chicago Defender and he sits on the board of directors of both the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

Commissioner Conner attended Purdue University, where he studied Engineering and Construction Principles, and is certified in Emergency Action Planning by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A lifelong Chicago resident, he resides in the West Pullman neighborhood and is the father of one daughter.

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Aaron Durnbaugh, M.A., LEED AP is the Director of Sustainability for Loyola University Chicago. In this role, Mr. Durnbaugh supports the 16,000 students, over 3,000 faculty and staff across 5 campuses and 3 academic centers in creating a transformative experience which prepares global and sustainable citizens focusing on mission-driven sustainability action. Under his leadership, Loyola has integrated sustainability throughout the institution, was recognized as a Gold rated school through the Sustainability, Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS) and is consistently listed in the top 10 for sustainability in higher education in North America.

Before joining Loyola, he served as the Deputy Commissioner with the City of Chicago where he oversaw the City’s climate adaptation strategy and the Natural Resources and Water Quality Division. Mr. Durnbaugh volunteers on a number of boards and committees including the STARS Advisory Committee, US Green Building Council – Illinois’ Carbon Drawdown Advisory Council, and Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s Nature and Wildlife Advisory Committee. Mr. Durnbaugh is a father of two and is a life-long resident of the Chicagoland region.

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Kim LeftwichKim Leftwich is president and CEO of two Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative subsidiaries: CMEC Connect, a broadband service provider, and CMEC Services, which provides technological and operational services to municipalities; member, Prairie Power, Inc. (G&T) Board of Directors; member, Illinois Electric Cooperative Managers Association; founder, The Center for American Rural Energy (CARE), an energy innovation research and development consortium of three universities, an economic development entity and Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative; one of six CEOs developing the NRECA Serve Our Co-ops/Serve Our Country veterans employment initiative.

Mr. Leftwich’s former occupations include Lt. Colonel (retired), U.S. Air Force; Vice President of the Shared Services Business Group, Illinois Power Company/Ameren Illinois; President & CEO (and owner), ICI Midwest, LLC, a hazardous materials transportation company.

Mr. Leftwich serves on the University of Illinois' Illinois Sustainable Technology Center Board of Advisors; Eastern Illinois University Professional Science Master's Degree Advisory Board; Lake Land College Geographic Information Science Advisory Board; Lake Land College Perkins Grant Program Development Board; Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Services Foundation Board of Directors.

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Catherine O'ConnorCatherine O’Connor is the Director of Engineering for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (District). The Engineering Department is responsible for planning, design and construction of projects prioritized in the Capital Improvement Program and projects in the Stormwater Management Program (together the programs are $800 million). The department also administers the county-wide Watershed Management Ordinance and regulates the construction and maintenance of local sewers which are tributary to the District’s intercepting sewers. Catherine is actively involved in the efforts to manage stormwater in a manner that provides multiple benefits to a community and efforts to transform District operations from waste treatment to resource recovery operations, particularly with water reuse, phosphorus recovery, and methane utilization projects. Catherine is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Illinois and has earned a Doctoral degree in Environmental Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. Her doctoral research focused on removal and recovery of silver from dilute solution to support water reuse in industry.

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Additional Speakers and Moderators

Bob Flider Bob Flider serves as Director of Community & Government Relations in the Office of Chancellor Robert Jones at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Flider previously served on the cabinet of Gov. Pat Quinn as Illinois Director of Agriculture from 2012-2015. In that position, he was Illinois’ representative on the Mississippi River / Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and was president of the Illinois Grain Insurance Fund. In 2014, he served as host of the North American Tri-National Accord Agricultural Trade meeting between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Flider also directed development and oversight of Illinois’ first medical marijuana cultivation center licensing process.

Flider served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2003-2011. As chairman of the electric generation and commerce committee, he was instrumental in negotiating and passing energy reform legislation and was chief sponsor of legislation that required electric and gas utilities to offer electric efficiency programs to their customers. Flider worked in the utility industry for 20 years. He was project leader for the electricity restructuring and regulatory reform initiatives at Illinois Power, where he also served as Director of Regulatory Affairs.

Flider was a newspaper reporter and columnist for Mid-Illinois Newspapers in Charleston and Mattoon, Illinois from 1980-83, where he received awards for Community Service Reporting and Spot News Reporting. A 1979 graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Flider served eight years as Mayor of Mt. Zion, Illinois. He and his wife, Jean, have three adult children and five grandchildren.

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Deb Jacobson Debra Jacobson, CSP, Associate Director, manages the Technical Assistance Program at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. She has over 25 years of experience working as an environmental engineer providing technical, environmental, and safety compliance assistance to industrial facilities within Illinois. In addition to her work within Illinois, Ms. Jacobson is an ISO 14001-2015 lead auditor and a certifying auditor for the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership. Ms. Jacobson is an active member of numerous national, regional, and local professional and trade associations, including the Air & Waste Management Association.

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Shantanu Pai is an Assistant Sustainability Researcher at ISTC's Oak Brook Office. At ISTC, he manages several waste reduction projects through the Zero Waste Illinois Program. Projects range from large-scale manufacturing assistance, to ancillary material recycling (nitrile gloves), and to assisting the Chicago Department of Aviation in waste reduction.  Most recently, Shantanu worked with the Illinois Department of Military Affairs in creating their first integrated solid waste plan to meet the diversion goals within EO 13693. Shantanu was a research assistant at the Center for Land Use and Planning as well as the Center for Waste Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. While there, he worked with Marathon County, Wisconsin on a zero-waste program and other waste reduction projects. He received his BS in Soil and Waste Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Mark Ryan Mark R. Ryan is the Executive Director of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. Prior to that he spent 31 years at the University of Missouri. There he held the William J. Rucker Endowed Chair in Wildlife Conservation and a Curator’s Distinguished Teaching Professorship at the University of Missouri (MU). For his last 10+ years he served as Director of MU’s School of Natural Resources.

Dr. Ryan holds a B.S. in Wildlife Science from the University of Minnesota, a M.S. in Wildlife Biology and Ph.D. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University. At the University of Missouri, Dr. Ryan received the prestigious Wm. T. Kemper Award for Teaching Excellence in 1993. And, in 2001 he was recognized with U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching. He received MU’s President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2004 and, in 2006, the MU Alumni Association awarded him their Faculty Alumni Award.

Dr. Ryan’s research program is focused on the ecology and conservation of birds in grassland, wetland, and agricultural ecosystems. His primary research foci since the early 1980’s has been related to endangered bird ecology and conservation (with special emphasis on Piping Plovers) and on the impacts of federal farm legislation on the population dynamics of grassland birds. He has published over 75 refereed journal articles, including several related to teaching and learning. Dr. Ryan was elected as a Fellow of The Wildlife Society, the international professional society of his discipline in 2012.

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Ashlynn Stillwell Dr. Ashlynn S. Stillwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a member of the Environmental Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering faculty, and also among the faculty in the Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability program. Dr. Stillwell teaches courses on water resources engineering, stochastic hydrology, and water policy. Her signature course, CEE 433 Water Technology & Policy, synthesizes engineering and policy content pertaining to water in an interdisciplinary educational setting, focusing on both technical concepts and communication. Dr. Stillwell has authored many publications on the energy-water nexus, including her award-winning master’s thesis, and has a growing research program at UIUC.

She earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri (2006), and an M.S. in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering (2010), M.P.Aff in Public Affairs (2010), and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (2013) from The University of Texas at Austin. Her previous work experience includes consulting engineering at Burns & McDonnell (2006-2007) and policy research at the Congressional Research Service (2009). Dr. Stillwell received the 2015 Girl Scouts of Central Illinois Woman of Distinction Award in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and has been among the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and Faith in Place. Her research interests include urban water and energy sustainability, water impacts of electric power generation, green stormwater infrastructure, and environmental policy.

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