This listening session highlighted the urgent need to integrate climate-related topics in an interdisciplinary approach throughout post-secondary curricula, ensure that students and faculty become climate literate, and empower students with solutions and a capacity to lead. We also heard the need for equitable resource allocation, community engagement and the importance of academic policies to promote faculty involvement in curriculum changes and climate-focused research.


Dean Ben Houlton

Benjamin Z. Houlton is the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Cornell University professor in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Global Development. He is also co-chair of Cornell’s “2030 Project: A Climate Initiative.” An accomplished international scientist, his research interests include global ecosystem processes, climate change solutions, and agricultural sustainability. Dean Holuton is also the co-founder of The N3gative Company, which is empowering farmers and land managers with the tools to create, verify, and exchange permanent carbon dioxide removal in soil. He also directs more than 100 acres of farmland carbon sequestration projects to improve crop yields and create new financial markets for farmers and ranchers. Ben has published his research in leading scientific journals including Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has a Ph.D. from Princeton University and his family spans generations of Midwestern dairy and poultry farmers.

Dr. Beverly Wright

Dr. Beverly L. Wright is an environmental justice scholar, author, civil leader, professor of Sociology and the founder and Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ). Dr. Wright was appointed by the Biden administration to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, where she advises on how the federal government can address current and historic environmental injustices. Dr. Wright’s significant research on environmental justice led her to develop a groundbreaking curriculum that has been used in the New Orleans Public Schools system. Under Dr. Wright’s leadership, the DSCEJ hosts the annual HBCU Climate Change Conference to raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable and marginalized communities, as well as prepare HBCU students to become experts and advocates on issues related to environmental and climate justice. Dr. Wright is the author of numerous scholarly books and articles including Race, Place & the Environment After Hurricane Katrina from Westview Press, and The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How The Government Response Endangers African-American Communities from New York University Press. Dr. Wright received her BA from Grambling College and her MA and PhD in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, from where she also received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003. Dr. Wright is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 2008 Community Award, the Ford Motor Company’s Freedom’s Sisters Award in July of 2009, the prestigious 2009 Heinz Award as well as the 2010 Beta Kappa Chi Humanitarian Assistance Award bestowed by the National Institute of Science and the Conrad Arensberg Award given by the Society for the Anthropology of Work in 2010.

Chancellor Kristin Esterberg

Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg is UW Bothell's fourth chancellor. She joined UW Bothell on October 1, 2021. Throughout her career, Esterberg has demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and focused her leadership efforts on developing inclusive campus communities and providing transformational experiences to all students, including faculty-led research, service learning, internships, and study abroad. Prior to joining UW Bothell, Esterberg was president of the State University of New York at Potsdam, which is one of America’s first 50 colleges and the oldest institution in the State University of New York system. She also previously served as provost and academic vice president at Salem State University in Massachusetts and as deputy provost at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Her research has centered on gender and sexuality, social identities, research methodology and social organization and change. Esterberg earned her master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from Cornell University, and her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Boston University.

Kanika Malani

Kanika Malani is a medical student at Brown University and is also working on an MA in Population Medicine. Prior to medical school, she received undergraduate degrees in Anthropology, Spanish, and Molecular Biology at UConn, and completed her thesis on the effect of climate change on food and water-borne diseases. At Brown, she has worked as part of the Planetary Health Report Card team, which involves using a metric-based tool to evaluate and improve planetary health content in health professional schools. The results of this report card led to the creation of a planetary health task force at Brown, which she helped found. By working as part of this task force, she helped restructure Brown’s medical curriculum to increase longitudinal exposure to planetary health education and was a co-author on a publication regarding this work entitled “A grassroots approach for greener education: An example of a medical student-driven planetary health curriculum.” She also serves as a curriculum co-chair for Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF), a global organization dedicated to uniting medical students invested in the health of our planet and patients. In this role, she is working to develop broad planetary health education and advocating for curriculum reform throughout medical schools nationally and globally. She has presented her work at various conferences, including the Planetary Health Annual Meeting and the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health.

The Higher Ed Climate Action Task Force aims to accelerate higher education’s already impressive progress on climate, create an overarching framework for the role of higher education in advancing solutions, and identify policies to scale climate action. The Task Force, co-chaired by Commissioner of Higher Education for Louisiana, Dr. Kim Hunter Reed and President of AASCU, Dr. Mildred García, includes a diverse group of leaders from across the higher education and climate fields.

Over the next year, the Higher Ed Climate Action Task Force will host a virtual listening tour to better understand the work currently occurring and the opportunity to scale action across the sector. The task force will then draft an action plan grounded in what is learned from these sessions with recommendations for institutions, systems, and policymakers.