Johnson Center for
Environmental Innovation

Mission and Goals

The Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation supports environmental sustainability on the Gustavus Adolphus campus and in the surrounding communities while equipping students to continue that work in their lives beyond Gustavus. To accomplish this mission, the Johnson Center works as a catalyst for environmental innovation on and off campus with the broadest understanding of innovation: not only technical innovation, but also business, policy, and social innovation.

The Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation was established thanks to the generous support of Glen and Lavonne Johnson. Glen Johnson attended Gustavus for one year until financial difficulty halted his pursuit of formal education. He went on to a distinguished career as a newspaper editor, government official, and money market fund executive. In addition to a career in business and finance, LaVonne has been an ardent supporter of education and the arts. Both have been strong supporters of Gustavus over the years, with Glen having served on the Gustavus Board of Trustees. A restored wetland on Glen’s family farm has also been made available as a field laboratory for Gustavus students.


Kari Wallin and Darsa Donelan have directed the Johnson Center since July of 2023. In that role they support campus sustainability efforts and lead the President's Environmental Sustainability Council. Kari Wallin is Gustavus' Sustainability Manager and Darsa Donelan is a senior continuing assistant professor in Physics.

Darsa Donelan is a senior continuing assistant professor at Gustavus. They have a strong background in physics, mathematics, and the fine arts, having earned an A.A. in Fine Arts from Berkshire Community College in 2006, a B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Math from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2009, and both their M.S. (2011) and Ph.D. (2016) in Physics from the University of Florida. Their Ph.D. thesis focused on the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Learn more about Darsa's work on thier page here.

Kari Wallin is the Sustainability Manager at Gustavus, based out of Facilities, and co-director of the Johnson Center. Kari joined the community at Gustavus in late 2020 in this collaborative position in which she works towards campus sustainability goals with members of the Johnson Center, the PESC, the sustainability interns, staff, and the student body. Kari collaborates with these groups on waste diversion and energy reduction goals, renewable energy, and education and training, as well as supervises Big Hill Farm. Kari grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from Bethel University in 2017 with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Before starting at Gustavus, she worked in various positions in the environmental field, most recently as a volunteer coordinator for the MN Department of Natural Resources. 

Activities and Accomplishments

  • Leads the President's Environmental Sustainability Council and supports campus strategic planning in sustainability.
  • Developed campus food waste composting facility and integrated greenhouse.
  • Worked with student-initiated effort to develop the Big Hill Farm student garden and supports its ongoing development.
  • Obtained partial funding for, and constructed, a demonstration solar thermal system on the Melva Lind Interpretive Center.
  • Coordinated the installation of 5 renewable energy installations on campus.
  • Johnson Center Director regularly teaches ENV 399 ES Senior Seminar. 
  • Consulted with numerous students on class sustainability projects.
  • Supported curriculum development work on an NSF-funded grant project to incorporate renewable energy laboratory exercises across the science curriculum.
  • Serves on the Kitchen Cabinet advisory board for Dining Services.


Kari Wallin: 

Darsa Donelan: