RCE FALL 2022 SUMMIT
Connecting organizations in North Texas to enable healthier communities, shared value and sustainable development through education, collaboration and capacity building.
Attendees will hear from leaders in higher education, industry, government, and non-profit addressing SDGs in North Texas during virtual panel discussions and workshops designed to break down silos.
The 2nd Annual RCE North Texas Symposium will bridge silos between education, public sector, private sector, and non-profit in support of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Attendees will learn from experts that are advancing Sustainable Development Goals in North Texas, network and collaborate with sustainability leaders, and receive hands-on training to address pressing issues of sustainability in the region.
• Connect attendees to NT RCE
• Inspire action addressing SDGs
• Facilitate collaboration and synergies between SDG members
• Educate attendees about local issues and leading initiative
For more information on this year's symposium and to download presentations, please visit https://sustainability.utdallas.edu/rce/2022/.
Day 1 – November 9
8:30 - 8:45 a.m.
9:00 - 9:45 a.m.
Opening Remarks: Meghna Tare and Gary Cocke
8:45 - 9:00 a.m.
Morning Keynote: Jeff Kavanaugh, Chief Learner and Sharer, Infosys
9:45 - 10:00 a.m.
North Texas Food Policy Alliance (NTFPA): Meghna Tare, UT Arlington
10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
SDG 2 Panel: Zero Hunger
- Sarah Luxton, Sustainability and Environmental Education Division (SEED) Supervisor, City of Plano
- Julia Lindgren, Assistant Professor, College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs, UT Arlington
- Lauren Clark, Founder and CEO, Turn
- Vidya Ayyr, Director, Community Social Impact, Parkland Hospital
- Jeff Williams, Founder and Executive Director, Taste Project
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lunch and Networking and Innovation Quarter Showcase
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
SDG 4 Panel: Quality Education
- Lorraine Sheldon, Community Engagement Librarian, Gibson D. Lewis Library, UNT Health Science Center
- Kay Curtis, Architect, HKS, Inc.
- Dustan Compton, Conservation Manager, Tarrant Regional Water District
- Brad Bell, College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs, UT Arlington, & IUS and Urban Design Lab
- Janette Monear, President/CEO, Texas Tree Foundation
2:45 - 4:15 p.m.
SDG 9 Panel: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Stephanie Byrd, Marketing Director, Schneider Electric
- Kent Sharp, President, Sherman EDC
- Lori Clark, Program Manager and DFW Clean Cities Director, North Central Texas Council of Governments
- Justin Ruths, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering, UT Dallas
- Dr. Janell Hills, Interstate Renewable Energy Council
4:15 - 5:30 p.m.
Day 1 Closing Remarks: Gary Cocke
Day 2 – November 10
8:30 - 8:45 a.m.
8:45 - 9:00 a.m.
Opening Remarks: Dr. David Hyndman, Dean of Natural Sciences, UT Dallas
9:00 - 9:45 a.m.
Morning Keynote: Bruno Basso, Michigan State University Foundation Professor
10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
SDG 11 Panel: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Jen Sanders, Executive Director and Co-Founder, North Texas Innovation Alliance
- Steven Duong, Principal and AVP for Urbanism and Planning Practice
- Alexander Pharmakis, Sustainability Manager, City of Farmers Branch
- Ben Magill, Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Opportunity, Dallas College
- Jennifer Harris, Broad Program Specialist, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lunch and Networking and Innovation Quarter Showcase
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
SDG 13 Panel: Climate Action
- Dr. David Hyndman, Dean of Natural Sciences, UT Dallas
- Susan Alvarez, Assistant Director, Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability, City of Dallas
- Mario Rotea, UTD Wind
- Kathy Jack, The Nature Conservancy
2:45 - 3:45 p.m.
- Avery McKitrick, Sustainability Coordinator, UT Dallas
- Bhargavi Jeyarajah, Sustainability Coordinator, UT Arlington
- Paulina Hruskoci, UT Dallas
- Tony Pham, Community Coordinator, Walkable Arlington, UT Arlington
- Oriana Silva, Former Sustainability Intern, University of North Texas
- Paul Santana, Dallas College
3:45 - 4:00 p.m.
Summit Closing Remarks: Meghna Tare and Gary Cocke
Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability
City of Dallas
Ms. Alvarez serves as the Assistant Director of the City of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability. She has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, with a minor in geology from Rice University, and postgraduate work in water resources. She is a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas and five other western states, and is a Certified Floodplain Manager, and Master Naturalist in Texas. She serves on the Southern Great Plains Author Team for the 5th National Climate Assessment and is currently focused on implementing the Comprehensive Environmental & Climate Action Plan (CECAP), and other related efforts.
Community Social Impact
Vidya Ayyr leads high-impact interventions to address the social determinants of health, with a commitment to health equity and improving the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations. As the Director of Social Impact, she provides strategic oversight to Parkland’s community outreach investments, promotes innovation in data analytics, and mobilizes a team of Community Health Workers to drive an integrated approach to population health management. Ms. Ayyr holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from University of Texas at Dallas and earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center, in 2011.
Stephanie Byrd is passionate about energy and its role in reshaping industries, transforming cities, and enriching lives. She works for a 180+ year-old company called Schneider Electric who has always been a leading technology provider. She currently serves as a marketing director, helping customers understand their options for reducing energy waste and achieving their climate ambitions. Stephanie is a long-time Texas resident with strong ties to the I-35 corridor: growing up in San Antonio, studying marketing at Baylor University, and now establishing roots in DFW with her husband, pets, and two children.
Program Manager and DFW Clean Cities Director
Lori oversees initiatives to improve air quality by reducing pollution from transportation, primarily by transitioning to cleaner, lower-emitting fuels. She also serves as Director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition, the local chapter of a Department of Energy program focused on increasing energy efficiency in transportation, which is hosted at the NCTCOG. Her work also integrates energy efficiency and renewable energy elements, which are increasingly important as transportation electrifies. Lori received a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Baylor University and joined NCTCOG in 2005. She also serves on the Board of Keep Grapevine Beautiful.
Sustainability and Energy Conservation
Gary has led the Office of Sustainability at UT Dallas since 2018 with previous sustainability experience in higher education and municipal government. He is responsible for facilitating the integration of sustainability into campus stewardship, student life, administration, and student learning. As UTD’s sustainability program has grown in recent years, UT Dallas earned AASHE STARS Gold certification for sustainability in 2019. For continued progress, Gary advocates for greater emphasis on the connection between environmental stewardship and social justice, and has adopted the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the basis for sustainability education and service so that students better understand the connection between our society and the environment. Gary leads regional progress towards achieving the SDGs as co-founder and co-director for RCE North Texas, recognized by United Nations University as a Regional Centre for Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, and advocate for sustainability in higher education as a member of the executive committee for the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability. Gary believes that sustainability is a transdisciplinary field to which all can contribute, and he is always happy to grab a cup of coffee to discuss ideas for collaboration.
Tarrant Regional Water District
Dustan is the Conservation Manager at Tarrant Regional Water District with fourteen years of experience focusing on water conservation programs, community outreach and regional coordination. He has a master’s degree in Applied Geography from the University of North Texas with a water resources emphasis and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Management from Northeastern State University.
Kay Curtis is an architect at HKS, Inc.’s hospitality practice and holds a Master’s of Architecture and Bachelor’s of Spanish from Tulane University. In her time at HKS, she has been fortunate to have the opportunity to explore design thinking through multiple outlets. This includes research about the global pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, involvement in Park For Floral Farms, a project centered on advocacy & community engagement in the pro-bono Citizen HKS Program, and leadership in the HKS Global Design Fellowship, an annual program that brings designers together to tackle pressing world issues. Her work has been exhibited at the 2020 Venice Biennale, the AIA Dallas Unbuilt Awards, and featured in Hotel Management.
Broadband Program Specialist
Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth
Jennifer Harris joined the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in August 2022 as a broadband program specialist with NTIA's Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. As a broadband program specialist, Jennifer works as a federal program officer for Texas where she helps with the implementation of NTIA’s grant programs. She engages with stakeholders including federal agencies, state and local governments, tribal organizations, educational institutions, membership organizations, and philanthropic organizations. She also offers technical assistance to Texas’s State Broadband Office. Jennifer started her career at the Texas State Capitol in 2005 holding a wide range of jobs in the public sector. Her professional experience includes legislative, public policy, communications, and government affairs work with the Texas Legislature, and policy and communications work for the Florida Department of Education, along with a variety of roles on local and statewide political campaigns. Following her work at the Texas State Capitol and the Florida Department of Education, Jennifer served for three years as the State Program Director for Texas for Connected Nation, a national non-profit organization which focuses on tackling the digital divide for more than 20 years. Appointed in January 2020, Jennifer served as an inaugural member of the Governor’s Broadband Development Council. Governor Abbott re-appointed her to the Council in March 2022 and named her Vice Chair of the Council, a position which she held until joining NTIA. Jennifer earned her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. She earned her Master's degree in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Dr. David Hyndman
School of Natural Sciences
Dr. David Hyndman, a scientist with 28 years of experience as a researcher, educator and academic administrator, is the dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at The University of Texas at Dallas. Before joining UT Dallas, Hyndman was professor and chair at Michigan State University. He received his undergraduate degree in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. His research focuses on process-based modeling of hydrologic systems to evaluate the effects of changes in climate and land use on water, energy, and food systems.
Office of Sustainability
Bhargavi is the Sustainability Coordinator at UT Arlington and the co-chair of the RCE North Texas Youth Network. She has a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in Biology, specifically concentrating on Ecology and has a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University with an emphasis in Community-Based Environmental Management. As a young woman in the environmental movement, she has a good understanding of the challenges youth face when it comes to working in the environmental field and she focuses her work on finding common ground within the movement between, youth and experienced professionals across all sectors.
College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs
Julia Lindgren is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington where she teaches design-build studios and seminars focused on social equity, community engagement, and housing. Through practice, research and teaching, Julia explores the ways in which design processes can be used to restructure the distribution of power within cities.
Sustainability and Environmental Education Division (SEED) Supervisor
City of Plano
Sarah Luxton currently serves as the City of Plano’s Sustainability and Environmental Education Division (SEED) Supervisor. In recent years, she also served as the Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Denton and completed her Master’s in Public Administration for the University of North Texas focusing on local government. She currently serves on the Alumni Board for the Department of Geography at the University of North Texas and the Personal Development Committee for the Urban Management Association of North Texas (UMANT).
Benjamin Magill, CEcD
Associate Vice Chancellor of Economic Opportunity
Ben Magill is Associate Vice Chancellor of Economic Opportunity for Dallas College. Ben has worked in economic and workforce development for municipalities, public schools, chambers of commerce and community colleges in North Texas since 2009. Ben holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Oklahoma State University and is currently pursuing an MPA at UT-Arlington. Ben is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) and serves on the board of Impact Ventures, Friends of Solar Prep, as well as the North Central Texas Council of Governments' Economic Development District Board.
Sustainability and Energy Conservation
Avery is the Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Texas at Dallas and RCE North Texas Youth Network Co-Chair. She is passionate about elevating youth voices in the environmental movement and fostering connection between youth and industry professionals.
Lauren McMinn Clarke
Founder and CEO
Lauren McMinn Clarke is the Founder and CEO of Turn. Lauren has degrees in Violin Performance from the University of North Texas, Strategic Communications from Columbia University, and Culinary Arts from Dallas College. She is a certified Master Gardener and Master Composter with Texas A&M AgriLife, and the 15 th woman in the United States to be a Certified Compost Operations Manager with the US Composting Council.
Texas Trees Foundation
Janette Monear is President/CEO of the private non-profit Texas Trees Foundation in Dallas, Texas which is dedicated to creating healthy communities using trees, technology, research, and education to empower individuals and support policy that mitigate environmental challenges and shift paradigms to support a sustainable future. Monear began her career in advertising for a large bank and she quickly transferred her skills to promote and advance forestry for the University of Minnesota Extension Service which led her to the nonprofit sector. The emphasis for urban forestry provides a platform for Ms. Monear to create partnerships that support programs and projects that improves the quality of life in communities. Since 1985 Ms. Monear has provided strong leadership through important research, reports, curriculum, and programming that helped set a national agenda for urban forestry to create cooler, greener, cleaner, and healthier communities that advance a national agenda for trees which underpins a global focus for sustainable development.
Tony Pham is the community coordinator at Walkable Arlington, a student-led organization advocating for walkability, bikeability, and sustainability in the city of Arlington, Texas. Tony is currently a third-year architecture undergrad at UT Arlington and the co-chair at the University’s Bike Coordinating Committee. Thanks to his and the team’s work, Arlington has received funding to improve its infrastructure and increase accessibility to residents, students, and businesses alike. In his free time, Tony likes to bike, fold origami cranes, and make waffles.
City of Farmers Branch
Alex Pharmakis is the Sustainability Manager for the City of Farmers Branch. Since joining Farmers Branch in 2020, Alex worked to create the City’s first Sustainability Plan and has overseen a number of projects to increase renewable energy within the City. Alex holds a B.S. in Environmental Geoscience from Texas A&M University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University.
Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering
Justin Ruths is an assistant professor with appointments in Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas. He joined UTD in 2016 after spending five years as an assistant professor and part of the founding faculty at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. His research includes studying the fundamental properties of controlling networks, bilinear systems theory, security of cyber-physical control systems, with applications in neuroscience, social systems, and autonomous driving.
North Texas Innovation Alliance
Jennifer Sanders is Cofounder and Executive Director of the North Texas Innovation Alliance, a 501c3 public-private partnership which is the largest such initiative in the U.S., with the mission of creating the most connected, smart and resilient region in the country. In 2015, she cofounded the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) a 501c3 public-private partnership dedicated to supporting Dallas’ smart cities strategy and serves as its Executive Director. While at the DIA, she has collated a network of over three dozen member organizations and over 20 departments within the City of Dallas. DIA’s Smart Cities Living Lab is the fastest-to-market smart cities initiative in the country. Currently the NTXIA is focused on cross-jurisdictional issues in financial models, connectivity, mobility, sustainability, data and economic development. Prior to these roles, she spent more than a decade in public affairs and change management consulting for clients in finance, energy, technology and economic development, among others. In 2019, she received the UN Day Global Leadership Award for advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure). She has been named to the Dallas Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and Top Women in Technology, State Scoop’s Top Women in Technology, the Tech Week 100, and the Dallas 500. She has been honored to speak to groups at conferences around the globe including South by Southwest, Smart Cities Week, IOT World Congress, IMPACT: Cities, and the Smart City Global Congress and Expo in Barcelona. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Psychology with a minor concentration in Economics.
Community Engagement Librarian
Gibson D. Lewis Library
University of North Texas Health Science Center
Lorraine Sheldon serves as the Community Engagement Librarian for the Gibson D. Lewis Library at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. In her role, Lorraine works to improve public health through access to quality health information. This role is accomplished through educational programming and materials designed for the public, technology solutions for access, and participating in community organizations' exhibits and committees. Her latest project is in collaboration with the HSC Office of Sustainability to help promote nutrition literacy through the perspective of sustainable practices.
Former Sustainability Intern
University of North Texas
Oriana Silva is a French and Chemistry BA student at the University of North Texas. As a former Sustainability Intern, she has experience working with the SDG Action Manager Tool, a self-assessment tool developed by B Lab, and in Sustainability Publishing. In 2020, she had the opportunity to found, along with other students at Dallas College, The Sustainable Age – Student Journal, the first student-led journal based on sustainability in the North Texas area with more than 30 articles published. As a Lab Technician at UNT, she is exploring how chemistry intersects several ecological fields, including Aquatic Ecology, Stable Isotope Ecology, and Food Web Ecology.
Chief Sustainability Officer
As UT Arlington’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Meghna works collaboratively to foster partnerships among academic, research, and operational departments and promotes sustainability in areas of energy efficiency, waste management, transportation, education, outreach, and sustainability-focused curriculum. She has expertise in UN SDGs, public policy, CSR, climate change, equitable food systems, transportation, conservation, and social impact. Meghna is the Founder and Director of Regional Center of Expertise for Education in Sustainable Development ( RCE North Texas), a program of the United Nations University, and the North Texas Food Policy Alliance. She graduated with an MBA in Sustainable Management, MS in Environmental Science, and MS in Chemistry.
Founder and Executive Director
Jeff Williams, Founder and Executive Director of Taste Project, has always had a burden for feeding people. He grew up in a family of four, and both his parents worked hard to put food on the table. He remembers the times when food was scarce and his parents would skip meals to make sure he and his sister were full. Jeff understands first-hand the stress his parents encountered to put food on the table in tough times. And it’s a familiar story of many of our neighbors in need. Soup kitchens are good, but not everyone feels good about going there. That’s why, in 2012, Jeff founded Taste Project, a sustainable solution to ensure none of our neighbors go hungry. But Jeff also wanted a place that eliminated the stress and fear his parents faced. A friendly place that feels like you’ve just come home. And a place where you can get more than just a meal, but also hope. His vision for Taste Project is different than a growing, profit generating, Italian restaurant. His vision is not a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen; but a place where every day folks eat; and those who could not afford to eat there, could still enjoy a meal in the restaurant. In June 2012, Jeff launched Taste Project; and in December 2017, the organization launched Taste Community Restaurant. More than 125,000 people have dined at Taste Project’s Taste Community Restaurant in Fort Worth since opening in 2017 and nearly 3,000 people have volunteered. To serve and engage even more Tarrant County residents, the organization will expand with a second location in Arlington, TX scheduled to open in early 2024.