Home Energy A passion for the environment: App State energy manager Jonathan Pierson

A passion for the environment: App State energy manager Jonathan Pierson


BOONE, N.C. — Working and living in Alaska for a decade allowed Appalachian State University alumnus Jonathan Pierson ’06 ’08 to see how energy efficiencies and initiatives can impact individuals and communities. Now as Appalachian’s energy manager, Pierson helps Facilities Operations ensure Appalachian moves toward a more efficient and environmentally friendly campus.

“Having a proactive energy manager on board sharpens the focus on our challenges and, more importantly, ensures we are creating solutions to meet those challenges,” said Gary Carter, director of Facilities Operations.

Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Pierson managed weatherization assistance projects within a rural community action program to reduce energy costs and improve safety in residents’ homes. He then served as lead project manager for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Rural Energy program, which he described as “a unique experience.”

“I worked in communities that were accessible only by boat or small plane, in a climate that would hit temperatures of 60 degrees below zero,” Pierson said. “It is very expensive to provide water and sanitation systems in these conditions, and my job was to work with a team to implement energy efficiency projects to make the systems affordable for everyone in the community.”

“The addition of Jonathan to the Facilities Operations team is a game changer. Having a position that exclusively focuses on energy management will strengthen our campus climate action efforts that focus on energy use reductions.”

Dr. Lee F. Ball Jr., Appalachian’s chief sustainability officer

Pierson and his wife, Kelly Ingram Pierson ’09, moved to Anchorage after graduating from Appalachian to serve for a year in AmeriCorps. Both outdoor enthusiasts, the Piersons enjoy hiking and exploring in their spare time.

“Seeing the recession in some of the glaciers from the time we first arrived to a few years later was pretty mind blowing. Also, in my job I worked with communities of people who were forced to move because of the impacts of climate change, which made a strong impression on me,” he said.

Coming full circle to Boone

Pierson, who grew up in Atlanta, earned a B.S. in cultural anthropology through Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences and an M.A. in industrial technology with a concentration in appropriate technology through the university’s College of Fine and Applied Arts.

“Studying cultural anthropology helped me understand the interaction of people and the environment — identifying problems that piqued my interest in practical solutions involving sustainable technology,” he said.

While a graduate student, Pierson was a project manager for Appalachian’s Renewable Energy Initiative (REI) — a student-led, student-funded organization that installs renewable energy and energy efficiency projects on campus. In this role, he helped install the solar photovoltaic array located in front of Kenneth E. Peacock Hall.

In addition to prioritizing and managing energy projects, Pierson’s job includes outreach — educating the campus community about the importance of energy efficiency. He is working closely with Appalachian’s Office of Sustainability in developing and implementing the university’s new Climate Action Plan — a roadmap toward carbon neutrality.

Dr. Lee F. Ball Jr., Appalachian’s chief sustainability officer, said, “The addition of Jonathan to the Facilities Operations team is a game changer. Having a position that exclusively focuses on energy management will strengthen our campus climate action efforts that focus on energy use reductions. Investments in campus energy efforts are critically important because they reduce the cost of operations and support our campus sustainability goals at the same time.”

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About Appalachian’s Facilities Operations

Facilities Operations at Appalachian State University manages operations of campus buildings, systems and utilities, as well as water treatment and steam plants that serve the campus. Services provided by Facilities Operations include housekeeping, landscaping, moving furniture and other items, and managing motor pool fleet rentals. The campus unit employees over 275 skilled technicians — including engineers, locksmiths, electricians, painters, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, welders, controls programmers, housekeepers, landscapers, mechanics and HVAC technicians. Learn more at https://facilitiesoperations.appstate.edu.

About the College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university’s strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.

About the College of Fine and Applied Arts

Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.

About Appalachian State University

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

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