Office of Sustainability staff and students

Ellen Dux

Office of Sustainability Programs Manager

Throughout her career in sustainability, Ellen Dux has garnered significant experience working on a broad range of renewable energy, clean power, and cleantech initiatives. Her primary focus is stakeholder engagement and communications, grant fundraising, and program development.

Most recently, Ellen worked closely with the Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office to help launch the Clean Power Alliance, Southern California’s new clean energy utility. She also has partnered with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to develop and source funding for a large-scale energy efficiency buildings retrofit program. From 2014 – 2016, Ellen worked extensively with the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute on the Department of Energy’s Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Smart Grid Regional Demonstration Project. She began her sustainability career working in utility-scale PV.

Prior to transitioning to sustainability, Ellen held a number of senior positions in the entertainment industry, including Executive Director of 20th Century Fox’s mobile content division. She also co-founded a filmed entertainment production company with musician Peter Gabriel.

Ellen holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, and an M.B.A from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.


Joshua Sierra

USC Office of Sustainability Program Specialist, Zero Waste Coliseum and Campus Initiatives

Josh recently joined USC’s Office of Sustainability as the Zero Waste Diversion Coordinator, working to ensure the continued success of the University’s Zero Waste initiatives at the Memorial Coliseum for Trojans and Rams games, in addition to helping to develop waste diversion strategies and programs across campus. Josh is a staunch advocate for environmental sustainability with a broad range of experience in the field,from local and state policy research and development, to the assessment and monitoring of corporate social responsibility benchmarks for private enterprise.

Most recently, Josh worked at the Walt Disney Company’s Environmental Assessment division, evaluating companywide environmental impacts and mitigation measures, and assisting in the management of Disney’s Climate Solution Fund and the company’s carbon offset investments. Prior to Disney, Josh worked for The Association of California Cities-Orange County, where he was tasked with researching, tracking, analyzing, and briefing local policy makers on emerging environmental issues and related legislation.

Josh holds an M.S. in Environmental Studies with a specialization in Sustainability from California State University Fullerton. His Master’s thesis examined waste diversion practices and strategies at large-scale venues and high attendance events.


Farris Sukkar

Sustainability Programming Specialist

Farris supports the USC Office of Sustainability with the successful integration of sustainability programming across the University.

While working with the Sustainability team, Farris is also pursuing an M.S. in Integrated Design, Business, and Technology at USC’s Iovine and Young Academy. He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Energy Management from the University of Denver.

Before joining the Office of Sustainability, Farris worked for three years at the Energy Coalition, where he helped to implement the Southern California Regional Energy Network Public Agency program in Los Angeles County. He supported cities, counties and utilities in the implementation of energy efficiency projects, including benchmarking, data analysis, audits, design, finance, engineering, and construction. Project types included lighting, mechanical, street lighting, and water/wastewater pumping and process optimization.

Prior to the Energy Coalition, Farris worked in ENGIE’s Utility Solutions practice for two years, helping to develop a SoCal Edison + SoCalGas strategic energy management partnership focused on empowering commercial and industrial businesses in facilitating enterprise-level transformation and developing a long-term strategic energy/water management plan.


Office of Sustainability Student Staff

Gemma Geist

Gemma recently joined the USC Office of Sustainability and is one contributor responsible for updating the 2018 USC Sustainability Annual Report.

Gemma brings writing and media skills developed in the nonprofit and private sectors with businesses supporting environmental issues and social causes.  Prior to joining the Office of Sustainability, Gemma supported media outreach and special programs for Global Inheritance, a 501 (c)3 non-profit that seeks to foster public activism on environmental issues and social change. Additionally, Gemma authored internet blogs and supported event management for SPBX | soapbox PR in Santa Monica, a creative agency specializing in PR, brand development and social media for cause focused enterprises.  

Gemma is currently a second year student pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Economics. She aspires to a professional career in environmental sustainability upon graduation.


Adam Novak

Adam Novak is a new member of the USC Office of Sustainability working to develop a USC alumni network while maintaining the department’s website.

At USC, Adam is a member of ECore, the Association for Computing Machinery, and Cru. In high school, he was heavily involved in Student Council as class and student body president, led the construction of a rain garden on campus, and was a captain of the Public Forum Debate team. Adam loves to spend his time outside appreciating and exploring nature, and he is an avid swing dancer.

Adam is a freshman studying Computer Science with a minor in Environmental Studies. He hopes to apply his knowledge in the fields of computer science and business to create a more sustainable society.


Kelsey Knoche

Kelsey is a current graduate student at the Viterbi School of Engineering in the Green Technologies Program. Green Technologies is a highly interdisciplinary degree program that emphasizes green systems and the environment, energy technology and efficiency, and sustainability and society. She also holds a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Missouri.

Prior to her graduate studies she worked as an account manager in the semiconductor industry managing an OEM account base across consumer, industrial, and military market segments.

Kelsey is focusing on clean energy and energy storage in her graduate degree and is a zero waste advocate.


Cassidy Cunningham

Cassidy is a recent addition to the USC Office of Sustainability and is one contributor responsible for the coordination of the periodic restoration of Exposition Park. He also works on researching the optimal organization of the Office of Sustainability’s Newsletter, which disseminates new information regarding the state of campus sustainability to the public.

Cassidy provides research and organizational skills developed in laboratory and symposium settings. Prior to joining the USC Office of Sustainability, Cassidy conducted two years of research at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, CA, an institution focusing on pacific marine organism analysis and the importance of public education in coastal conservancy. Cassidy worked with the Ocean Institute, and local conservancy organizations, in the disbursement of valuable research to drive progressive sustainable action.

Cassidy is currently a second year student pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a minor in International Relations. After graduation, he will go on to a professional career in Environmental Law and Policy.

Campus Sustainability Partners

Gina Whisenant

Waste and Recycling Manager, Facilities Management Services

Gina Whisenant has considerable experience creating and implementing waste diversion and recycling programs for large commercial operations. Formerly at Republic Services, she participated in the launch of RecycLA, Los Angeles’ new municipal trash collection and recycling program aimed at reducing waste in local landfills.


Zelinda Welch

Energy Manager, Facilities Management Services

As the Energy Manager at USC, Zelinda directs the implementation of the City of LA Existing Building Energy and Water Efficiency Program, tracks Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from the building portfolio, and acts as the point of contact for the utilities.

Zelinda comes to the Sustainability Team with ten years of experience in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Prior to joining USC, she worked as a Program Manager at Partner Energy, an energy efficiency and sustainability consulting firm, where she oversaw large-scale commercial and residential energy audits, retro-commissioning, and sustainability projects.  Additionally, she worked on both commercial and utility-scale solar projects and initiatives, and has run utility-funded programs such as SCE, SCG, and SDG&E’s Continuous Energy Improvement Program, which helped companies building long-term strategic energy plans.

Zelinda holds a B.A. in International and Intercultural Studies from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, and an M.B.A from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.


Nichelle Mitchell-Huizar

Sustainability Program Manager, Auxiliary Services

Nichelle comes to the Sustainability Program Manager position with an extensive background in retail operations, university logistics, and supply chain management. She partners with all Auxiliary Services business units on sustainability programming, including the USC Bookstores, USC Hospitality, Radisson Hotel, USC Housing, USC Transportation, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In the 2018-2019 academic year, Nichelle will focus on student engagement in Housing and Hospitality, waste diversion management across all units, and sustainability-related communications.


Sustainability “Green Teams”

Zero Waste team, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the two-time winner of the Pac-12 Sustainability award for a zero waste sports venue. Coliseum Program Director Brian Grant,  and Jeffrey Farrell, the Assistant Director of Facility Operations, partnered with former USC Sustainability Manager Halli Bovia, Waste Program Specialist Daniel Redick, Legends Concessions, Marsden Custodial Services, Athens Waste Management, BASF, and Fox Sports to create USC’s first zero waste program, diverting over 260 tons of waste from local  landfills during the 2017 football season.


Zero Waste team, USC Hospitality

Capitalizing on the success of the Coliseum’s award-winning zero waste program, Erik Russell, USC Hospitality’s Associate Director for Residential Dining formed a strategic planning coalition with USC’s Undergraduate Senate Government, Environmental Student Assembly, Environmental Core, Facilities Management, Office of Residential Education, and the Office of Sustainability to go “zero waste” by 2020.  The team’s first accomplishment will be to eliminate straws from Residential Dining facilities in the fall 2018 semester. Prior to this initiative, this USC Residential Dining went “tray-less” in 2012.