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 across the sector. 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.
The first listening session will focus on higher education’s current progress on climate action and the urgency and opportunity to further scale solutions across the sector.
Spencer Glendon: Spencer Glendon started his climate journey in earnest after having a powerful revelation: climate stability underpins all of civilization. Today, Spencer is dedicated to making climate science more accessible, useful, and intuitive so that everyone on Earth can build their own climate literacy and mindfully prepare for the consequences that climate change is likely to bring.
Spencer earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, where he focused on the history of urbanization and industrialization. He has extensive training and experience in finance, history, and languages and has worked and lived in Michigan, Chicago, Germany, Russia, China, and Boston.
For 18 years, Spencer was a Macroanalyst, Partner, and Director of Investment Research at Wellington Management, a firm with more than $1 trillion in client assets. In that role, he endeavored to understand issues that could affect markets but that fell outside of the typical silos in finance, such as the modernization of China, the consequences of ubiquitous information and computing, political risk, inequality, and eventually, climate change.
In 2017 Spencer began collaborating with scientists, business leaders, designers, technologists, and educators to research the effects of climate change and to share those findings publicly. This work helped underpin initiatives such as a first-of-its-kind partnership between Wellington Management and the Woodwell Climate Research Center, as well as McKinsey & Co.’s 2020 Climate Risk and Response report. Inspired by these collaborations, he founded Probable Futures in 2020 to help democratize climate science and build bridges between climate science and many other disciplines.
In addition to his role at Probable Futures, Spencer serves as senior fellow at Woodwell Climate and spends time as a pro bono consultant and public speaker across industries and communities. In 2023, Spencer joined Harvard Business School as an Executive Fellow, where he works in collaboration with Michael Toffel and Peter Tufano on research and education around climate risk.
Spencer lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, Lisa and enjoys cooking, listening to and telling stories, and exploring the natural world.
Elsa Núñez: In August 2022, Dr. Elsa M. Núñez began her 17th year as the president of Eastern Connecticut State University. She came to the University in 2006 following more than 20 years as a senior administrator at such institutions as City University of New York (CUNY) and the University of Maine System.
Dr. Núñez has been a tenured faculty member of English at Ramapo State College, the College of Staten Island (CUNY), and Lehman College (CUNY). She also holds a faculty position as Professor of English at Eastern.
Author of two books, “Pursuing Diversity” (1992) and “Hanging Out and Hanging On: From the Projects to the Campus” (2014), Dr. Núñez also has published numerous articles on language acquisition, diversity, and other education issues.
Dr. Núñez has firmly established Eastern’s reputation as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university. Academic enhancements her administration initiated range from an increase in full-time faculty positions to the development of new majors. Under Dr. Núñez’s leadership, Eastern is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as being among the top 20 public institutions in the North Region, the most competitive region in the country. During her tenure, U.S. News has also ranked Eastern as the top public regional university in all of New England three times, as well as the #1 public regional university in New England for “Best Value.” The Princeton Review has named Eastern a “Best College” in the Northeast, as well as listed it in its “Guide to Green Colleges” 13 years in a row.
Eastern recently received its first Gold rating for sustainability by STARS—the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. Eastern has one of only three Gold ratings in Connecticut and is one of 138 colleges and universities nationwide to be Gold-rated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
Dr. Núñez received her B.A. from Montclair State College, her M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and her doctorate from Rutgers University.
Ayana Albertini-Fleurant: Ayana Albertini-Fleurant (she/her) is a dedicated advocate for addressing environmental crises that have a disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities. With years of experience working in community engagement, policy development, and programming for various environmental organizations, Ayana is passionate about promoting transformative approaches to achieve environmental justice. As the first graduate of Howard University’s Environmental Studies program, Ayana served as a course coordinator and teaching assistant for an early college Intro to Environmental Studies Justice course at Howard for two years consecutively. She is also deeply committed to creating accessible environmental justice education for young people. Ayana is the former co-executive director and co-founder of Generation Green, a young, Black-womxn led nonprofit. Her work with the organization led her to coin the term ‘environmental liberation’, which represents a comprehensive framework for addressing Black liberation, climate justice, and environmental justice simultaneously. Today, Ayana is the founder of Sustain the Culture, a culture lab and community hub that focuses on building critical mass engagement for Black environmental concerns by organizing at the intersection of Black culture and our environment. In her free time, Ayana enjoys practicing yoga, pursuing creative direction, and expressing herself through conscious fashion and beauty.
Leah Stokes: Dr. Leah Stokes is a policy expert with nearly two decades of experience working on climate and energy, including championing a federal Clean Electricity Standard. She has four degrees, including her doctorate from MIT, and was recently recognized on the 2022 TIME100 Next and Business Insider Climate Action 30 lists. Leah is conversant in a wide variety of climate and energy topics, including public policy, political science, planning, and psychology. Her recent award-winning book Short Circuiting Policy examines why we are behind on climate action, telling the history of fossil fuel companies and electric utilities promoting climate denial and delay. She is the Anton Vonk Associate Professor of Environmental Politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the co-host of the popular climate podcast “A Matter of Degrees,” and a senior policy consultant at Rewiring America. Her academic work is published in top journals and is widely read and cited. Find her @leahstokes