Elise Amel

Women in Energy: Elise Amel at University of St. Thomas

The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. CERTs is highlighting these leaders during the month of March in 2017, which is Women’s History Month.

As part of the series we interviewed Elise Amel, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at University of St. Thomas, to learn more about her work, what inspires her, and how other women can get involved in the industry. Read on to learn more!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in the energy world in Minnesota?

Women In Energy Series Elise Amel: I am the Faculty Director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives at the University of St. Thomas. Our primary initiative is the Sustainable Communities Partnership, through which we link St. Thomas courses with cities and government entities to foster systems-level change towards sustainability in the Twin Cities area. Many of our projects address energy efficiency from a variety of perspectives including engineering, economics, and psychology. For instance, students in my Psychology and Work course designed an organizational change program to help employees in the City of Elk River improve their energy efficiency, as well as transportation, water and waste-related behaviors.

How did you get into this work?

Elise Amel: In 2000 I realized how relevant psychology was for environmental problem solving and how important it was to prepare the next generation for our new environmental realities. Really, the problems we are trying to solve are the result of human behavior. It took several years and a sabbatical to build my knowledge base. My progress was also enhanced because two of my friends and colleagues also were actively working to apply psychology to environmental issues; I found collaboration to be an empowering activity. Over time I changed my own courses, helped others change theirs, and am now working to influence the broader curriculum and culture at St. Thomas.

What is a typical day like for you?

Elise Amel: Actually, there is no typical day, which is why my job is so satisfying. I do have a regular teaching schedule, but each class brings unique ideas and interactions. Outside of class I meet with students about coursework, research and careers, work with faculty and administrators on innovations, projects and grants, engage with networks of other institutions working on systems-level change, and write.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Elise Amel: Best part is working with students, contributing to their intellectual growth, and sparking their interest in environmental sustainability. The worst part of my job is that there are not enough hours in a day to work on all of the projects that I’d like to work on.

What about your job inspires you?

Elise Amel: Being a professor in general requires constant learning, which is invigorating. St. Thomas as an employer has encouraged and supported me to follow my passion, and for that I am grateful.

What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?

Elise Amel: There is a ton to do and the opportunities are growing so it’s a great time to be engaging in clean energy! But you don’t have to go it alone; find collaborators and leverage your allies. We are truly stronger together!

  About Elise


Elise L. Amel, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology
University of St. Thomas

Elise L. Amel, has a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Purdue University and has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas since 1997. She is an award-winning Professor of Psychology, past-Director of Environmental Studies, and Past-President for the Division 34 of the American Psychological Association: the Society of Environmental, Population, & Conservation Psychology. Dr. Amel recently co-authored a textbook, Psychology for Sustainability. She currently directs the St. Thomas Office of Sustainability Initiatives, which runs the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) linking St. Thomas courses across disciplines to city-identified, high-priority sustainability projects, advancing the common good by engaging students in real-world application of course content. Dr. Amel has successfully lead efforts at the University of St. Thomas to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, include sustainability as a strategic priority, and create a system for integrating sustainability across the curriculum.

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Women In Energy Series

The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries during Women’s History Month.

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