Conference & Research Symposium Speakers Bios 2023

Tuesday, October 17, 3:30 PM EDT

Ross Gay in an interview with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Note: The interview with Ross Gay will be prerecorded; Aimee Nezhukumatathil will be live online.

Ross Gay

Ross Gay is interested in joy.

Ross Gay wants to understand joy.

Ross Gay is curious about joy.

Ross Gay studies joy.

Something like that.

Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller. His new collection of essays, Inciting Joy, was released by Algonquin in October of 2022.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of the New York Times best-selling illustrated collection of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments, which was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year and named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. She also wrote four previous poetry collections including Oceanic. Her most recent chapbook is Lace & Pyrite, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay.

Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. In 2021, she became the first-ever poetry editor for Sierra magazine, the story-telling arm of The Sierra Club. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program and her forthcoming book of essays is called Bite by Bite.

Wednesday, October 18, 3:30 PM EDT

Parker McMullen Bushman

Parker McMullen Bushman is Chief Operating Officer of Inclusive Guide and founder of Ecoinclusive Strategies. She is also the Board President for the National Association for Interpretation. Listed by Outside Magazine in 2022 as one of the 20 Most Influential People in the Outdoor Industry, Parker is a dynamic speaker and facilitator that engages audiences in new thinking around what it means to be a diversity change-agent and create dynamic organizational change. Parker’s background in the non-profit leadership, conservation, environmental education and outdoor recreation fields spans over 24+ years. She has a passion for equity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. Her interest in justice, accessibility, and equity issues developed from her personal experiences facing the unequal representation of people of color in environmental organizations and green spaces. Parker tackles these complex issues by addressing them through head-on activism and education. 

Marc Bereijka

Marc Berejka has served as REI’s lead for government affairs and philanthropy for over a dozen years. REI is a national outdoor retail cooperative with over seven million active members and annual sales exceeding $4 billion. The co-op’s mission is “to connect every person to the power of the outdoors and engage them in the fight to protect it.” In the advocacy realm, Marc has guided the co-op’s engagement in federal, state and local issues. In recent years, he has worked with teammates to expand their coverage, relying not just on their talents but also the collective action of our community (via the co-op’s new grassroots Cooperative Action Network). Marc also has overseen the co-op’s community grants program, which over the past 50 years has reinvested more than $125m in nonprofit partners across the country. Most recently, the philanthropy program has been re-imagined as the REI Cooperative Action Fund. This is a public charity that allows members, vendors and others to co-invest alongside REI in efforts to make the outdoors more equitable. Annually, the co-op’s philanthropic efforts support hundreds of organizations of various types with cumulative support exceeding $10m.

Before joining REI, Mr. Berejka served as technology policy advisor to then-Secretary Gary Locke at the US Department of Commerce. Prior to that, he worked for 12 years in various public policy roles at Microsoft, both in Washington D.C. and in Washington State. He spent the first part of his career as a telecommunications attorney. He holds a J.D. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Princeton University. Marc is also overseeing REI's new Outside in 5 campaign, which is an effort to get more than 100 million folks Outside in 5. They are supporting local projects and urging Congress to pass the Outdoors for All Act to create more green spaces and get everyone closer to fresh air, rustling trees, and time outside.

Thursday, October 19, 3:30 PM EDT

Tiya Miles and Sara St. Antoine in Conversation

Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles is the author of seven books, including four prize-winning histories about race and slavery in the American past. Her latest history, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, was a New York Times bestseller that won eleven historical and literary prizes, including the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2022 Cundill History Prize. All That She Carried was named A Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, NPR, Publisher’s Weekly, The Atlantic, Time, and more. Her other scholarly works include: The Dawn of Detroit, Tales from the Haunted South, The House on Diamond Hill, Ties That Bind, and the forthcoming Wild Girls: How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation. Miles publishes essays in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, and other media outlets, and she has consulted with colleagues at historic sites and museums on representations of slavery, African American material culture, and the Black-Native intersectional past, including, most recently, the Fabric of a Nation quilt exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her work has been supported by a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Miles’s newest book is her debut time-bridge novel, The Cherokee Rose, a ghost story set in the plantation South and based on historical events. She was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and she is currently the Michael Garvey Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard University.

Sara St. Antoine

Sara St. Antoine is an author and editor with a longstanding interest in nature, kids, and story. She's written educational materials for World Wildlife Fund, Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation International; compiled book lists and family adventuring ideas for the Children and Nature Network; and created the Stories from Where We Live series of "literary field guides" for Milkweed Editions. Her novel Three Bird Summer (Candlewick Press, 2014) was a 2014 Boston Globe Best Book for Children and ALSC Notable. Her newest novel, Front Country (Chronicle Books, 2022), was the runner-up YA honoree for the 2023 Green Earth Book Award. Sara holds a BA from Williams College and a master's degree from the Yale School of the Environment. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Emily Polk

Dr. Emily Polk teaches and writes about community-led responses to climate change, the mobilization of social movements, and climate equity as part of the faculty in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University. She also directs the Notation in Science Communication—a mini minor that provides students the opportunity to develop their science communication expertise, and she co-directs the university’s Environmental Justice Working Group—an interdisciplinary cross-campus effort devoted to integrating environmental justice into curricula, courses, research, and community engagement. Dr. Polk developed and taught some of the first courses at Stanford on Gender and Climate Change, Communicating Climate Change, and Environmental Justice. Prior to getting her doctorate, she worked as a human rights and environment–focused writer and editor for nearly ten years around the world, helping to produce radio documentaries in a Burmese refugee camp, and facilitate a human rights-based newspaper in a Liberian refugee camp. She has also worked as an editor at Whole Earth Magazine and at CSRwire, a leading global source of corporate social responsibility news. Her own writing and radio documentaries have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, the Boston Globe, The National Radio Project, AlterNet, Central America Weekly, the Ghanaian Chronicle, and Creative Nonfiction, among others. Her book, Communicating Global to Local Resiliency: A Case Study of the Transition Movement, was released in 2015. Her recent article, "Communicating Climate Change: What went wrong, how can we do better?" was published in the Handbook of Communication for Development and Social Change and is used in classrooms in the US and around the world.

She has a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Masters in Human Rights from Columbia University.

Friday, October 20, 3:30 PM EDT

John Barry

John Barry is a father, a recovering politician, and Professor of Green Political Economy in the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action at Queens University Belfast. He is also co-chair of the Belfast Climate Commission, a member of the Committee on Climate Change’s Economics Advisory Group on Adaptation and Resilience, and a member of the Sustainable Future Committee of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.
What keeps him awake at night is the life opportunities and future well-being of his and other children in this age of the planetary emergency and intersecting social and economic injustices within and between countries. What also keeps him awake at night is the following question: Why it is easier for most people to believe in the end of the world than the end of capitalism and economic growth?
His areas of academic-activist research include post-growth and heterodox political economy; decarbonisation and decolonisation; the politics, policy, and political economy of climate breakdown and climate resilience; socio-technical analyses of low carbon just energy and sustainability transitions; climate injustice-based nonviolent direct action and social mobilisation; and the overlap between conflict transformation and these sustainability and energy transformations.
His latest book was The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon-Constrained World (2012, Oxford University Press), and he is currently writing a book provisionally entitled, The Greatest Story Never Told?: The origins, tyranny and end of ecocidal economic growth (Agenda Publishers).

Carol O'Donnell

Educating for Sustainable Development: Perspectives of U.S. and Global Educators

The Smithsonian Science Education Center partnered with Gallup to conduct a global survey of K-12 teachers and school administrators across 5 countries (United States, Canada, Brazil, France, and India) to better understand teachers’ attitudes toward, and demand for, education sustainable development, and the role curriculum, standards, and professional development play in advancing or impeding education across 11 of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), including climate action. In this lightning talk, Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Principal Investigator of the study, will summarize three key findings outlined in the report, “Educating for Sustainable Development: Perspectives of U.S. and Global Educators.” The findings highlight gaps that exist in the global landscape, but also demonstrate that educators are hungry for support and resources to teach about Sustainable Development.

Research Symposium
Thursday, October 12, 11:00 AM EDT

Dr. Christina Kwauk

Research Director, Unbounded Associates

Christina Kwauk is a social scientist with an interdisciplinary focus on education for climate action. She is an expert on girls’ education in developing countries, 21st century skills and youth empowerment, and the intersections of gender, education, and climate change.

Christina co-edited (with Radhika Iyengar) Curriculum and Learning for Climate Action: Toward an SDG 4.7 Roadmap for Systems Change and co-authored (with Gene Sperling and Rebecca Winthrop) What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the World’s Best Investment. She has published numerous policy papers, including “The new green learning agenda: Approaches to quality education for climate empowerment,” as well as academic articles on topics in climate change education, gender, health, and international development and education.

Christina works as an education consultant and is Research Director at Unbounded Associates. She also serves on the Cosmos of Stars for RegenIntel, Girl Rising’s Advisory Council, the International Jury for the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, and the Judging Academy for the World’s Best School Prizes. Formerly, Christina was a Fellow at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, Associate Director of the Monitoring and Evaluation of Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project, and Head of Climate and Education at the Education Commission.