With his thoughtful approach to community and tireless dedication, Phil Valko has helped to transform Washington University into a sustainability leader, and St. Louis into a better place to live. As Assistant Vice Chancellor for Sustainability, Phil works with senior administrators, faculty, staff and students to incorporate sustainable practices into the university’s strategic planning, operations, and resource management. His leadership has resulted in the publication of a comprehensive 5-year strategic plan for sustainable operations. Simultaneously celebratory, visionary and actionable, the plan will guide the university’s efforts and influence positive changes while cementing the institution’s role as a national champion of sustainability.
After graduating from Washington University, Phil worked as a climate change researcher before his passion for community development called him back to St. Louis to create The Urban Studio, a nonprofit in Old North focusing on arts, community building, and social entrepreneurship. Concurrently, he worked at the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance (now Rise), a nonprofit developer. Phil then served as the Active Living Program Manager at Trailnet, a nonprofit working to create walkable, bikeable, and livable communities.
Phil’s idea of an ethic of service is one that listens carefully to collaborators in the community, champions their stories, and encourages those around him to “think big.” His commitment to the Old North neighborhood through university projects like the Sustainable Land Lab and his own service, advocacy, and residency there has helped strengthen this vibrant urban community. Phil has served as board president for the Healthy Youth Partnership (HYP), a collaborative of more than 80 organizations that works to eliminate youth obesity in the St. Louis region.
His commitment to the university, his neighborhood, and the city of St. Louis has made each a more sustainable and dynamic place. As his nominator and colleague Cassie Hage notes, “Because of Phil’s leadership and hands-on work in the region, less waste will go to area landfills, the air will be cleaner, fewer greenhouse gasses will be emitted, partnerships will be forged, and countless individuals will discover their place in bringing about a sustainable future.”