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Top Gun for the environment

January 12, 2009

Ron Sega's resume includes flying two missions as a NASA astronaut, which fascinates people who meet him in his roles as Colorado State's Woodward Professor of Systems Engineering and vice president of Energy, Environment, and Applied Research at Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF. Though he'll occasionally talk about space flight, his focus is on energy and the environment.

Focus on energy, environment

As senior energy official in the U.S. Air Force, Sega and his team helped change the Air Force culture, resulting in a savings of 3.3 trillion British thermal units of energy, purchasing about 1 million megawatts of renewable energy, and testing synthetic fuel in airplanes – all in one year.

Mention the overall Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management that his team received in 2007, and Sega’s face lights up. “We worked hard and made real progress,” he says.

(Photo at right:  Ron Sega, the vice president of Energy, Environment, and Applied Research, celebrates Homecoming with his wife, Ann, and sons Jack (at left) and Matt. Cam the Ram anchors the crew)

Reducing CSU's carbon footprint

He’s now brought that success to Colorado State, where he serves as special adviser to Colorado State's president on energy and environmental issues. He’s charged with maintaining the University’s multidisciplinary research focus on solving some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems and reducing the university’s carbon footprint in a rapid time frame.

When he’s not busy teaching in the College of Engineering, he’s thick in the action at CSURF, a separate nonprofit that manages the University’s real estate decisions and technology transfer activities such as licensing. “We want to provide leadership in energy and the environment through initiatives in education, innovation, supply, demand, and management,” Sega says. “It’s a systems approach used for years in aerospace that’s now being applied at CSU to the areas of energy and the environment. To do that, we need to have as many people on our team as possible – on campus as well as alumni and friends.”

Balancing responsibilities with young family

His growing list includes some influential friends around the state. A sample from his calendar lists back-to-back meetings with government leaders and executives including Gov. Bill Ritter – Sega accompanied him on a trade mission to Canada – and major employers such as Lockheed Martin, Woodward Governor, Merrick, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Sega also has strong Colorado ties. He taught at the Air Force Academy and is a former dean of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs engineering college. He travels frequently and often has lunch in the car or at his desk. And there’s keeping up with the family – wife, Ann, and sons Matt and Jack, who are 5 and 6 years old, respectively – and occasional public appearances as a former astronaut.

The right thing to do now

This spring, officials at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum honored Sega as part of an exhibit called “Colorado’s Astronauts: In Their Own Words.”  Sega acknowledges his past is full of many different roles – pilot, astronaut,  key government administrator, professor, scientist, dean, vice president. But he looks ahead to making the university and the state of Colorado world leaders in developing technological solutions to global challenges.

“Our increasing focus on energy and the environment is consistent with the mission of a land-grant institution,” Sega says. “Colorado can be viewed as a microcosm of the nation in terms of addressing energy and the environment. This new emphasis is the right thing to do.”

Original story published in Colorado State Magazaine, Fall 2008.

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336