Alumni Association Board

Meet the alumni volunteers who are promoting the interests of YSE alumni and the School.

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    About the Alumni Association Board

    The YSE Alumni Association promotes the interests of the Yale School of the Environment by through dynamic engagement that builds goodwill and strengthens communication among YSE faculty, students and alumni. They raise awareness of YSE’s mission of creating knowledge and leadership for a sustainable future by encouraging participation in events, volunteer involvement, and philanthropic commitment to the School.

    Projects of the AAB include:

    • Developing field-based and continued learning experiences for fellow alumni
    • Supporting alumni and student diversity-focused initiatives
    • Strengthening international alumni connections
    • Guiding both the alumni award and student scholarship programs for the board

    The AAB meets about once a month from September through June, usually by video call. Members also participate on committees addressing issues such as communications, awards planning, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Newly elected AAB members will begin serving a three-year term each October, and most serve two three-year terms. AAB members are expected to travel twice annually — back to New Haven each fall and to either New Haven or another location in the spring.

    Alumni Association Roster

    If you would like to connect with a member of the YSE Alumni Association Board, please email the YSE Office of Development and Alumni Services for contact info.


    Tara Meyer

    Tara K. Meyer '15 M.E.Sc.

    2nd term ends 2023
    Missoula, Montana
    President, Member of Executive Committee

    Tara is a Wildlife Biology PhD student at the University of Montana in Missoula. For her PhD, Tara is examining the effects of climate change on elk, wolves, and grizzlies in the Canadian Rockies. Tara has a decade of experience working in wildlife conservation and management, both in the Western U.S. and internationally. She is a 2017-2018 Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders Fellow, technical advisor for the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, and founding Committee Member for the MK McCarthy-RW Worth Scholarship for Leadership in Conservation Science at YSE. 

    Jessica Leung

    Jessica Leung ’17 M.E.M.

    2nd term ends 2024
    Washington, D.C.
    Vice President

    Jessica is a Program Manager of Early Talent Diversity Programs at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) where she manages the internship program and leads engagement with academic institutions and programs to create pipelines of diverse talent for the environmental and conservation field. Previously, she was at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions where she published research and worked with companies to reduce their GHG impact in the electricity, thermal energy, transportation, and buildings sectors.

    Prior to YSE, she worked at Calpine, a natural gas and geothermal energy company. She supported environmental compliance and permitting, implemented the California cap and trade program, and analyzed water-energy nexus issues. At YSE, she discovered a love for service to her community as a Fresh and Salty SIG leader, EQUID member, Peer Mentor, GPSS Senator, and mentor to New Haven students interested in STEM. In Washington, D.C., she is a co-leader for the YSE in D.C. alumni network. She holds a BS in Managerial Economics from University of California, Davis.

    Hallie Metzger

    Hallie Metzger '75 M.F.S.

    2nd term ends 2024
    Illinois and Connecticut
    Secretary, Member of Executive Committee

    Hallie calls herself an “accidental forester.” She came to YFS to learn to manage forested family property in Connecticut. She faced challenges from the start restoring highgraded woodland. Hallie safeguards a critical wildlife corridor while growing the revenue stream by eradicating invasives and maintaining test plots for white pine and hybrid chestnut. It’s an YSE affair including son Matthew Black ’94 MES and YSE faculty and graduates. Heading the School’s first Public Information Office from 1976-1979, Hallie searched for a unique YSE image – and made Sage Boy a Yale icon! Hallie writes on forestry issues and administers the Connecticut Timber Producers Association (TIMPRO CT) scholarship program for future environmental leaders. When not in the woods, she is in a classroom teaching Latin and hieroglyphs. 

    Saleem Ali

    Saleem H. Ali ’96 M.E.S.

    2nd term ends 2023
    Newark, DE
    At-Large Executive Committee Member

    Saleem H. Ali is an environmental planner whose research and practice focuses on ways of resolving ecological conflicts through technical and social mechanisms, as well as exploring novel ways of peace-building between corporations, governments, and communities. He holds the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professorship in Energy and the Environment at the University of Delaware and is a Senior Fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Enterprise. He has also held the Chair in Sustainable Resources Development at the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute in Brisbane, Australia (where he retains professorial affiliation). His books include “Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future” (Yale University Press). Saleem is a citizen of Australia, the U.S., and Pakistan but appreciates that the most consequential role for us all must be as planetary citizens.

    Cathy McConnell

    Cathy McConnell ’85 M.F.S.

    2nd term ends 2024
    West Islip, NY
    Communications Chair

    As an Emmy award-winning environmental and natural history filmmaker, Cathy has shared her love of nature and inspired audiences around the world. At YSE she pioneered the use of video for environmental communications and researched the impact of documentaries on viewer attitudes toward conservation. As a writer and producer for the NATURE series on PBS, she became Series Editor and then went on to produce National Geographic Specials and head Natural History Co-Productions for National Geographic TV. Besides Emmys, her films have won the Ark Trust Genesis Award, Best Documentary at the NY Film and Television Festival and many other awards. Deeply committed to raising public concern about climate change since her time at Yale, she produced and wrote the film that kicked off the 2019 Climate Summit at the UN. Today she continues to work with filmmakers, write scripts, and advocate for climate legislation.

    Board Members

    Terry Baker

    Terry Baker ’07 MF

    2nd term ends in 2024 
    Washington, D.C.

    Terry Baker is the CEO of the Society of American Foresters. He oversees all of SAF’s programs and collaborates with his Board of Directors to establish a strategic vision committed to the scientific sustainable management of America’s forests. He strives to build strong relationships partners that leverage our unified voice as a profession. Terry serves on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) board of directors to maintain the presence of forestry professionals in sustainable certifications.

    Prior to his selection as SAF CEO in September 2018, Terry served in various roles within the USDA Forest Service. His almost 20-year federal career started in his home state of Florida on the Apalachicola National Forest. From there, he held positions on several other national forests in the western and southeastern US. He has been a wildland fire fighter, forester, and administrator of over 1 million acres. 

    Terry earned a master’s degree in forest management and policy from YSE in 2007, and a bachelor’s degree in forest resources and conservation at the University of Florida in 2004. While a MF student at YSE, Terry was heavily involved as a Forestry Club and Student Affairs Committee member. Terry values the connections and communities he was part of as a student and considers these relationships one of the most important aspects of his time at YSE. Terry has maintained that sense following graduation serving as a class agent, returning for guest lectures, and advising prospective and new students. Scholarships, awards, leadership mentoring, and strengthening international connections all lead back to creating a more diverse and inclusive YSE student and alumni body. As someone who “stumbled across” the profession of forestry and natural resources, Terry takes every opportunity to broaden awareness of this amazing field.

    Gary Barrett

    Gary Barrett '96 M.F.

    2nd term ends in 2024
    Washington D.C. Area

    Immediate Past President, Member of Executive Committee, Yale Alumni Association Delegate (Ex Officio)

    Gary is an Acting Director for the USDA Forest Service National Partnership Office. Over the past 26 years, he has served in a variety of roles in international development and disaster assistance, including: Deputy Director of USAID’s Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad; Senior Program Advisor for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Afghanistan; and Head of Office, UN Joint Logistics Centre, for the UN World Food Program in South Sudan. He developed a specialization in emergency management and disaster relief after spending 12 years working for the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

    Portrait of Uma Bhandaram

    Uma Bhandaram '15 MESc

    2nd term ends in 2025
    Brooklyn, New York

    Uma Bhandaram is the Deputy Chief of the Data Systems and Analytics team for the Environment and Planning division for NYC Parks. She leads a team that supports the division’s mission of building and protecting thriving and resilient community green spaces and natural areas via data-driven management, operations, planning, and research. She is deeply committed to urban greening and championing nature in urban spaces.

    At YSE, Uma discovered her passion for public and community service while working to plant trees and cultivate nature during a summer internship at the Urban Resources Initiative. She continues to work in the public sector and has been at NYC Parks for the last 5 years. 

    Uma is an MESc from the class of 2015 and holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Environmental Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.  

    Portrait of Prerna Bhat

    Prerna Bhat '19 MEM

    2nd term ends in 2024

    Prerna Bhat is an Austin, Texas native who, after studying evolutionary biology and wildlife conservation in college and at YSE, entered the political world to help elect and support leaders who actually believe in climate change and the need for equitable environmental justice solutions. 

    She is currently the Climate, Energy, and Environmental Policy Legislative Aide for Senator Elizabeth Warren. Prior to her current role, Prerna served as Deputy AAPI Coalitions Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Coordinated Campaign for the Senate Runoff elections, and other AAPI organizing, fair redistricting efforts, and other advocacy initiatives in her home state and nationally. 

    At YSE, she served as a MODS TA and looks forward to bringing these and other experiences to the work of continuing to strengthen our global YSE community and keeping alumni informed, involved, and working with YSE leadership in the ongoing development and betterment of the school.

    Paloma Caro

    Paloma Caro '16 MEM

    1st term ends 2023
    Santiago, Chile

    Paloma is a consultant for landscapes and forest policy issues in international development, and has experience in different countries, sectors, and topics of Latin America. As a consultant, she has worked with teams researching, and supporting environmental projects on capacity building, rural development, and global environmental policy and governance. Currently, Paloma works at the World Bank, and prior to joining the organization, she worked for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WWF at their Chile offices. Paloma studied Agronomy in the Universidad Católica de Chile, and holds a Master of Environmental Management from YSE.

    While at Yale, she supported several efforts to create platforms that foster broader connections and dialogue, including the Conference on Sustainable Development in LAC and the Graduate Latinx Network.

    Sue Ely

    Sue Ely ’07 MESc

    2nd term ends 202
    Portland, ME

    Sue is the Clean Energy Policy Advocate and Staff Attorney for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). Prior to joining NRCM, Sue worked as an Attorney-Advisor in the Office of the Solicitor at the United States Department of the Interior where she advised the Department on matters related to environmental, natural resource, and administrative law. Sue has also worked for several environmental nonprofit organizations in Alaska on grassroots organizing and environmental and energy policy. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Mount Holyoke College and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. 

    Genora Givens

    Genora Givens '18 M.E.M. — 2nd term ends 2025
    Oakland, CA 

    Genora is a Program Research Analyst at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. She supports the Climate and Land Use strategy teams on monitoring, evaluation, and learning and leads efforts to incorporate principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice into grantmaking. Prior to joining the Foundation, Genora was an Environmental Grantmakers’ Association Fellow at Clean Water Action researching the impact of oil and gas production on U.S. water quality and quantity. Her interests include land use law and watershed protection, as well as the development of methods to incorporate understandings of social vulnerability and inequity into analysis of geographic risk and watershed management and planning. 

    Shafqat Hussain

    Shafqat Hussain '02 M.E.M., '05 M.Phil., '09 Ph.D. — 1st term ends 2023

    New Haven, CT

    Shafqat is a professor at Trinity College where he teaches environmental anthropology. Most of his work is focused on understanding the social dimensions of conservation, specifically snow leopard conservation in northern Pakistan. A resident of New Haven, he has been active in the Environmental Leadership Mentoring Program and has participated in the annual YSE Reunion Weekend. During his time on the board, Shafqat intends to support efforts to increase the diversity of representation at YSE at every level, as well as opportunities for collaboration between the YSE Alumni. 

    Grace Kankindi

    Grace Kankindi ’16, MEM

    1st term ends 2024
    Hamburg, Germany

    Grace Kankindi is an investment professional at Aquila Capital, an alternative-assets investment manager based in Hamburg, Germany. Before joining Aquila, she worked for the Rwanda Development Board ('RDB') where she negotiated major deals on behalf of the Rwandan Government in key sectors including energy and infrastructure. Prior to RDB, Grace worked in several roles in the Structured Finance team at Sol Systems, a solar energy investment firm based in Washington, DC, US. Grace has a master's degree from YSE in Environmental Management and BSc in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Manitoba.  

    Cilla Leavitt

    Cilla Leavitt ’74 B.A., ’81 MFS

    2nd term ends 2023
    New Haven, CT
    Yale Alumni Association Delegate

    Cilla is the Program Director of the wilderness orientation at Yale for undergraduates known as FOOT, or First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips. Created with Jamie Williams ’86 BA, ’89 MES, 33 years ago, she now puts over 500 students in the woods every August. During the year she oversees the training of 140 FOOT Leaders. At the Hopkins School in New Haven, Cilla initiated, developed, and taught environmental science, wrote the environmental plan for the school, and headed its sustainability committee. In addition, Cilla taught a seminar at Yale on environmental education. While at YSE, she interned at the Weyerhaeuser Company in Oregon. Cilla began her career in outdoor environmental education at Hollins College in Virginia, where she created the Hollins Outdoor Program, and was an Outward Bound instructor in North Carolina. Working with Yale University Press, she completed her late husband Professor Stephen Kellert’s (’71 PhD) last book, Nature by Design, on biophilic design.

    Luisa Lema Velez

    Luisa Lema Velez ’06 MEM

    2nd term ends 2023
    Bogota, Colombia

    Luisa is a Senior Sector Specialist for the Environment, Rural Development & Disaster Risk Management division at the Inter-American Development Bank. Her career is built around international cooperation and policy for conservation and sustainable development. She has worked for multilaterals, NGOs, and government on diverse issues, including sustainable tourism, protected areas, mining, the policy process and the relation between environment and peacebuilding. Her career includes working for the United Nations Environment Programme, the U.N. Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank. She also served as Secretary of Environment of Antioquia, and directed a Master’s in Development Practice at the Universidad de Los Andes. Luisa is an MEM from Class of 2006, a Forest Engineer (U. Nacional de Colombia) and a Biologist (U. Antioquia), with a graduate degree in Environmental Law (U. Externado).

    Michelle Lewis

    Michelle Lewis '13 MDiv, MESc

    2nd term ends 2025
    New York and North Carolina
    Yale Alumni Association Delegate

    Michelle holds a MESc from YSE and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and a certificate from Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She's very interested in the intersectionality between justice issues and spirituality. Her doctoral work focused on food justice, faith, and creating healthy communities on micro and macro scales. Michelle has worked in New Rochelle, NY as part of the city's energy and sustainability Commission and is currently the executive director of a non-profit that she founded called the Peace Garden Project, which has three gardens in NY with another two set to open in NC this year. Michelle is passionate about equity and inclusion and has worked with communities in NY and NC to create more equitable systems.

    Monica Nunez Salas

    Monica Nuñez Salas '18 MEM

    2nd term ends 2025
    Twin Cities, MN / Lima, Perú

    Monica is a Political Ecology PhD student at the University of Minnesota Department of Geography. Formerly a professor at Universidad del Pacífico (Perú), where she taught Environmental Law and started an Environmental Management Clinic. Trained as a lawyer, Monica has worked in international development and capacity building through projects with USAID, UNDP, UNEP, the World Bank, and government entities in South America and South Asia. Her doctoral research focuses on the social and environmental effects of the collaboration between China and Latin America. Monica looks forward to connecting our international community of alumni, and assisting in the ongoing diversification of the YSE student population.

    Anne Peters

    Anne Peters '76 MFS

    2nd term ends 2025
    Sandy Hook, CT

    If Hallie is an “accidental forester,” Anne is an “accidental environmental attorney.” After studying paleoecology at YSE, Anne worked as a research assistant at Brown University, using pollen data to study the response of forest communities to climate change since the last glacial maximum. A tight job market for paleoecologists prompted her to attend law school and her training in natural sciences led to a career in environmental law. She has recently retired after more than 30 years working with individual, corporate, institutional, and municipal clients as well as with engineers, scientists, and government regulators to remediate contaminated properties, establish and improve environmental compliance programs for businesses and nonprofit institutions, and address community water supply and wastewater issues.  Anne is a past chair of the Environmental Section of the Connecticut Bar Association and of the Town of Newtown, Connecticut’s Inland Wetland Commission. In addition to representing the regulated community, she has served on Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection workgroups on environmental use restrictions, spill reporting and DEEP’s Comprehensive Evaluation and Transformation of Connecticut’s Cleanup Laws.

    Morgan Pierce

    Morgan Pierce '20 M.E.M.

    1st term ends 2023
    Chiacgo, IL

    Morgan is a sustainability professional whose work focuses on helping multi-national consumer brands reach their environmental goals by improving the supply chain and product development process. Utilizing her background in marketing and brand communications, Morgan conveys sophisticated environmental topics to build consensus among stakeholders. Additionally, Morgan serves as a consultant for Karen Karp & Partners working with a variety of food based organizations on supply chain improvement. While at YSE, Morgan served as co-chair for the Yale Environmental Sustainability Summit, was named a social justice fellow at Dwight Hall, and chaired ROOTS.

    Maclovia Quintana

    Maclovia Quintana ’11 B.A., ’14 MESc

    2nd term ends 2023
    Oakland, CA

    Maclovia is the the Director of People and Culture at Kitchen Table Advisors in the Bay Area. After graduating from YSE, Maclovia worked for the School for two years. She spent most of that time as the Diversity & Sustainability Fellow, working in the Dean’s Office to advance diversity and equity initiatives for the School. She then served as the Assistant Director of La Casa Cultural, the Latino Cultural Center at Yale, where she worked to provide academic, social, and cultural resources to Yale’s Latino students. Maclovia grew up in rural Northern New Mexico. 

    Phil RIgdon

    Phil Rigdon ’02 MF

    1st term ends 2024 
    Washington State

    Phil Rigdon is a member of the Yakama Nation, a tribe in Southcentral Washington State. Phil had the honor to serve the Yakama Nation, as the Superintendent of Department Natural Resources for the last fifteen years. Phil’s career started as a wildland firefighter and extended into forestry and natural resources. Phil has been involved in activities from forestry, fisheries, salmon recovery, water rights, wildlife, environmental work, climate, and other natural resource challenges.                   

    Jim Spencer

    Jim Spencer ’95 MEM

    2nd term ends 2026
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Jim Spencer is Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School at Louisiana State University and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East West Center. His scholarship focuses on urban and environmental planning and policy, with a particular focus on land use and pandemics; community-based water supplies & infrastructure; globalization; and urban inequality. 

    Prior to his academic career, Jim held staff positions at the Ford Foundation and non-profit organizations working on community development. He holds a B.A. from Amherst College, a Masters of Environmental Management from Yale University, and a PhD from UCLA in Urban Planning. 

    Jim is honored to serve on the YSE Alumni Association Board, especially as it relates to how the school can support an increasingly diverse nation and world of decision-makers to manage our growing environmental challenges. Serving as an academic leader in the fields of urban & regional planning, as well as real estate and community development, he is enthusiastic about helping YSE find that increasingly needed link between scholarly excellence and practical impact. 

    Student Representatives

    Lav Kanoi

    Lav Kanoi, ’24 Ph.D. Student

    New Haven, CT
    Ph.D.  Student Representative

    Lav is a joint Anthropology and Yale School of the Environment doctoral student whose subject of study is water and the socio-political, historical and cultural aspects of water management in Indian cities. He holds an MA in English Literature from Jadavpur University, and was a Young India Fellow at Ashoka University. In addition to his previous work in teaching and in research, he has experience working in government policy and implementation with the Government of Himachal Pradesh, India, and in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group.

    Faculty and Staff Representatives

    John Wargo

    John Wargo '81 M.Phil., '84 Ph.D.

    Faculty Representative

    John is a Professor of Environmental Health and Political Science at Yale University and chairs the Yale College Environmental Studies Major. He has been a Visiting Professor at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and the Universitat Basel graduate school of Law, Economics, and Policy, in Switzerland. John’s research focuses on threats to human health posed by environmental hazards. He has been an advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, U.S. Vice President’s office, several EPA administrators, Senators and Representatives, the Secretary of Agriculture, the U.N.’s World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization. He has been a member of EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel/Board on Pesticides and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientific panels. His books include Green Intelligence (Independent Publishers Gold Medal Award in Environment, Ecology and Nature; Connecticut Book Award for Non-Fiction; and one of Scientific American’s Favorite Science Books of the year), Our Children’s Toxic Legacy (winner of the Association of American Publishers Annual Award in Government and Political Science), and Ecosystems: Balancing Science and Management (co-author). 

    Portrait of Sara Smiley Smith

    Sara Smiley Smith ’07 M.E.Sc./M.P.H., ’16 PhD

    Staff Representative

    Sara is the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Research and Sustainability at the Yale School of the Environment where she works to cultivate a community of engaged problem solvers seeking solutions to a diverse set of environmental challenges. She received her PhD from YSE in 2016, and completed the joint master’s degree program between the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and YSE in 2007  Her doctoral work explored the process of envisioning and instituting complex changes motivated by sustainability within institutions, exploring both accelerators and barriers. Sara holds a BA in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Political Science from Middlebury College (2004). She spent her childhood on the remnants of her family’s dairy farm in the small town of Winslow, Maine.

    If you would like to connect with a member of the YSE Alumni Association Board, please email the YSE Office of Development and Alumni Services for contact info.

    If you would like to connect with a member of the YSE Alumni Association Board, please email the YSE Office of Development and Alumni Services for contact info.

    Office of Development and Alumni Services

    205 Prospect Street, 2nd Floor, Room 20
    New Haven, CT 06511
    +1 203-432-5697