Thursday, November 2nd at 12 PM EST

This listening session highlighted the unique contributions of TCUs, HBCUs, and MSIs, and community partnerships in advancing equitable climate action. The discussion emphasized the ways in which these institutions can leverage their distinctive positions to lead in the transition to a clean economy and sustainable society.


Dr. Robert D. Bullard is a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy and founding director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University. He is also co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium and the National Black Environmental Justice Network. He received his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University. Professor Bullard is often called the “father of environmental justice.” He is the author of 18 books. His latest book is The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (2012). In 2008, Newsweek named him one of “13 Environmental Leaders of the Century.” In 2021, he was appointed by President Biden to serve on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. In 2022, he was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Johannesburg. That same year he received the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Lifetime Achievement Award and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This past April, Dr. Bullard received the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Society’s Horizon Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to environmental law and policy; and most recently Dr. Bullard was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Ruth Plenty Sweetgrass-She Kills is an enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. She is also descended from the Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine. She earned an associate degree in Environmental Science; bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education; master’s degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology; and PhD in Forest and Conservation Sciences. She has gardened and gathered traditional foods and medicines with her family her entire life. Currently, she serves as the Food Sovereignty Director at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College and is senior research personnel for the University of Montana on a project to develop and test a model for better supporting the professional success and satisfaction of Native faculty in STEM. Other projects she also works on include digitizing her tribal college’s special collections, developing the college’s traditional seed cache, and developing a consortium of Indigenous led research along the Missouri River Watershed.

Dr. Joshua Viers is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives at UC Merced. He is a Professor of Water Resources Management at UC Merced's School of Engineering, is recognized for his innovative use of technology in environmental decision-making. Since joining UC Merced in 2013, he has been at the forefront of expanding interdisciplinary research, notably as former campus Director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, securing over $100M in funding since 2020. His recent appointment as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives positions him to lead the Valley Institute for Sustainability, Technology and Agriculture (VISTA), benefiting the San Joaquin Valley and California through innovative research in agrifood technology for climate resilience food systems. A champion of inclusive innovation, Dr. Viers is dedicated to creating solutions that are accessible and beneficial to underserved communities. His efforts in this domain have fostered collaboration, bridged knowledge gaps, and ensured that technological advancements are both equitable and impactful. Before his tenure at UC Merced, Dr. Viers made significant contributions at UC Davis, where he received two degrees and led research operations at the Center for Watershed Sciences. His work emphasizes team science and informatics in coupled human-natural systems. As an educator, he imparts knowledge on water resources, geospatial analytics, and sustainability

Anastasia Rodriguez is the Vice President for Administration and Finance at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She is responsible for campus operations including finance, facilities, public safety, procurement, information technology, and business and auxiliary services. She is responsible for the operations of the University’s physical plant and sustainability projects. Prior to joining UMES, Ms. Rodriguez served as a University Controller and the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Auditor of a state housing and finance authority. She has over 20 years’ experience in higher education leadership and as a risk advisory services consultant. Ms.Rodriguez is a native of Birmingham, Alabama but now calls the Eastern Shore of Maryland home.

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 Chancellor of the California State University system, 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.