To her regret, Ellen Kirk has a history of polluting. That’s how she began her career, working for a major oil refinery in El Segundo.
Instructor Profile: Ellen Kirk, Environmental Regulatory Compliance
“Whenever we violated one of our permits, I was the one writing letters to various authorities explaining what had happened,” she said.
“And I’d promise that it would never, ever, ever happen again…until the next week, when we did the same thing and I had to write the same letter again.”
Strong words, but as Kirk reflects on her former life, she’s proud of her current role as a UC San Diego Extension instructor in Environmental Regulatory Compliance.
She’s where she wants to be, educating students and management teams on how best to integrate environmental awareness into the every-day running of a company.
“As I tell my students, we need to have strict regulations so people and companies will know what not to do,” said Kirk. “But we also need more people to stop being so stupid.”
California’s environmental laws are not only strict, they’re exceptionally complex, she says.
“I believe I’ve succeeded in making the course not boring,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I can make it not complicated.”
Kirk holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Rice University, as well as a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
She later served in marketing, strategy, and regulatory roles at SnapTrack, a Silicon Valley startup that was ultimately acquired by Qualcomm. Through her career, she has held various senior executive positions in investment banking and wireless technology.
In addition to her instructor role, she’s a financial strategy and marketing consultant.
“I feel like teaching this course is my chance to help save humankind,” Kirk said, “by reaching one student at a time.”