Anna J. Siefken is the inaugural executive director of the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University. She has received numerous accolades for her leadership in sustainable community work and as a role model for women and girls. A native of Charlotte, N.C., Siefken lives in Mt. Lebanon with her husband Paul, who is president and CEO of Fred Rogers Productions, their daughters, Ella and Ruby, and their dog, Sadie.
What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh will be the most sustainable, resilient, equitable and energy- and water-efficient city, becoming a model — a living laboratory — to others for how good urban planning and implementation strategies can solve the biggest energy and sustainability challenges, regardless of whether it’s by a city, a university or a neighborhood. Every Pittsburgher will play a role.
Best part of your job?
Learning every single day. Casting a wide net for strategic engagement with companies, faculty, students, government agencies, et al., to tackle challenges related to energy, resiliency and sustainability, and helping to make unexpected opportunities come together. In short, connecting with other people who are working on the same passions.
Bridge you LOVE to walk or bike over?
The Smithfield Street Bridge — as a lower bridge, it’s so close to the action, and there are things to look at in every direction. I like that you can see every mode of transportation from that one spot — pedestrians, bikers, cars, trains, boats, kayaks, paddle boards, the T, the inclines …
Write three words to describe Pittsburgh:
Resilient, energized, innovative.
Where do you always take out-of-town visitors?
It’s Thursday happy hour: Where are you?
If you could expand the T to one neighborhood, where would it go?
From east of Pittsburgh all the way to the airport, with a cross point for the blue and red lines to connect.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the past year and why?
I was part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Energy Executives Leadership Academy this past summer, so I spent a lot of time at NREL in Golden, Colorado. It’s an energy geek’s paradise, and beautifully rugged.
Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?
If Grant Ervin, the city’s chief resilience officer, is too busy to say “yes” to this role, perhaps I could be a stand-in. I really love it here in Pittsburgh.
What issues do you rally around?
I’ve spent most of my career tackling issues related to energy efficiency for products, commercial buildings and residential living. In my roles at CMU, I am adding systems thinking, cutting-edge smart technologies, renewable energy generation and capacity building, entrepreneurship, economic development and next-gen energy district systems.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your new position?
Prioritizing between so many transformative and catalytic opportunities for the university, for the Scott Institute and for Pittsburgh.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
I just returned last week from the 2030 Districts Network Board of Governors meeting in Stamford, Conn., and “36 Hours at Duke” at my alma mater Duke University in Durham, N.C. Created by legendary leadership visionary Tony Brown, it was an opportunity for 20 alums in a particular field — in this case, energy — to connect with 20 students from a variety of Duke grad and undergrad programs and schools over a weekend to talk about career, passion and opportunity. It was inspiring.
Next up: the TransTech Energy Business Development Conference for cleantech startups (we proudly co-sponsor this event) Oct. 23-24, followed by the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance‘s eighth annual PA Energy Efficiency Conference October 25 in Harrisburg, where I’ll be moderating the plenary panel on “Resiliency, Energy & Efficiency.” October is a busy month in energy.
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