Niki Frantzeskaki appointed new Scientific Director of Pathways to Sustainability

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As per 1 August 2024, Niki Frantzeskaki will be appointed the new Scientific Director of the university-wide Strategic Theme Pathways to Sustainability. Niki Frantzeskaki currently holds a Chair in Regional and Metropolitan Governance and Planning at the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning at the Faculty of Geosciences. Due to ongoing commitments she will start the position of Scientific Director on 1 August 2024. Up until that time, she will be closely involved in the strategic course of the Pathways to Sustainability programme.

Niki Frantzeskaki’s expertise lies in urban transitions and transformations, their governance and planning, with a focus on achieving climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainability, and resilience. Her research also focuses on the governance and planning of nature-based solutions for contributing to climate change resilience and more just urban futures. "Niki Frantzeskaki has a strong passion for and commitment to sustainability research and education", says Henk Kummeling, rector magnificus of Utrecht University. "We believe that this, in combination with her devotion to interand transdisciplinarity, makes her the right person to further develop the UU sustainability community via this strategic programme."

Over the past two years Frantzeskaki has been one of the co-leads of the Pathways to Sustainability Transforming Cities Community and is involved in a wide range of international research projects. She is currently Lead Coordinating Author in the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Transformative Change Assessment, and in the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN). She is a widely recognized author on issues of sustainability, transitions and urban governance.

I am honored to take up this position. To put energy and passion into further expanding the sustainability community of our Utrecht University, and co-shape new pathways for just sustainable futures.

Prof. Niki Frantzeskaki

Niki Frantzeskaki joined Utrecht University in January 2022. From 2019 to 2021, she was a Research Professor and Director of the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. She has a rich international research experience with a portfolio of ongoing projects in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States of America. From 2010 to 2019, she was an Associate Professor at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions with Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Taking over the helm

Niki Frantzeskaki is taking over from Maarten Hajer, who will step down as Scientific Director on January 1st 2024, after he led the programme’s strategic direction for over seven years. In the interim period until August the Programme Board of Pathways to Sustainability will make sure the theme continues to thrive.

Under Maarten Hajer’s leadership, the scope extended, the connection with and between the alpha, gamma and beta sciences was consolidated, and more scholars and faculties became involved. The focus shifted towards radical innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, futuring and transdisciplinary research and education. Maarten Hajer: "I am proud where we now stand with Pathways to Sustainability. The originality of the current collaborative efforts, the type of events and the overall spirit are what I wanted to achieve. I have enjoyed leading the Strategic Theme but I also think you should not hold on to such positions for too long. I am really happy that Niki is ready to now take the helm.’