S-C7 Connecting Education to Practice and the Workforce at the Nexus

This session will explore the diverse ways in which higher education can advance integrated food, energy, and water solutions. Drawing on examples in education and training programs in 2-year and four-year institutions, campus sustainability, training young professionals to support communities and work with local organizations and businesses, and support from the federal government for such activities.


  • Laurie Ristino, Director, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) and Associate Professor, Vermont Law School


  • Lifang Chiang, Research Strategies Manager, University of California Office of the President
  • Robert Franco, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Professor of Pacific Anthropology, Kapi’olani Community College, University of Hawaii
  • Frank Niepold, Climate Education Coordinator, NOAA Climate Program Office
  • Gayle Zydlewski, Associate Professor, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine

Laurie Ristino is responsible for the Vermont Law School’s (VLS’s) Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) vision and direction, including curriculum development, teaching, outreach, and advocacy. Professor Ristino is also the faculty advisor to VLS’s Food and Agriculture Law Society. Before joining VLS, Professor Ristino was a senior counsel with the Office of the General Counsel, United States Department of Agriculture, where she also served in various administrative leadership capacities. (802-831-1230; lristino@vermontlaw.edu)

Lifang Chiang works to bring together diverse knowledge and resources at the University of California to tackle society’s grand challenges, aiming to revolutionize understanding beyond currently existing knowledge paradigms. In service to the University’s motto to “Teach for California; Research for the World,” her responsibilities encompass: actively advising on teaching, learning, research, innovation, and public service engagements at ten campuses, three national laboratories, and an agricultural and natural services division; shaping research strategies, providing evidence-based analysis, and pooling intellectual talent to harness the unrivaled strengths of a world class, US $20B infrastructure; and working with campus constituencies and the public to ensure that our shared future will continue to be better than our past. (510-987-0623; lifang.chiang@ucop.edu)

Robert Franco is an ecological anthropologist who has published scholarly and policy research on the changing meaning of work, service, schooling, housing, and leadership for Samoans at home and abroad; health disparities confronting Samoan, Hawaiians, and Micronesians in the United States; the meaning and management of water in ancient Hawai’i; and factors affecting fishery sustainability in Samoa and the Northern Marianas. He has also published on community college reform efforts while Kapi’olani has emerged as a leader in community-based service and research for sustainable food, energy, and water resources. He leads a Teagle Foundation project to develop commitment to civic and moral responsibility for diverse, equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities, and serves on the Executive Board for NCSE’s Community College Affiliate Program. (808-734-9514; bfranco@hawaii.edu)

Frank Niepold is a co-chair of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Education Interagency Working Group, and the U.S. Climate Action Report Education, Training, and Outreach chapter lead. At NOAA, he develops and implements NOAA’s climate goal education and outreach efforts. Additionally, he is the managing lead of the USGCRP document, “Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science.” Frank is a founding member of the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) and a co-developer of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan’s Climate Education and Literacy initiative. (240-429-0699; frank.niepold@noaa.gov; Twitter: @FrankNiepold)

Gayle Zydlewski studies the conservation of marine resources, focusing on fish populations. Dr. Zydlewski approaches this work from an interdisciplinary perspective, recognizing the need for input from natural and social sciences to reach conservation goals that balance human needs for food, energy, and water (FEW). She believes the points of intersection among coastal FEW systems, institutions, and disciplines can be used to link fundamental scientific knowledge to evidence-based decisions. Such linkages need to be incorporated in graduate training so the next generation can solve the developing problems of this nexus. Dr. Zydlewski works with others to involve key stakeholders in the center of research to infuse real-world experience in graduate education. (207-581-4365; gayle.zydlewski@maine.edu)


Background Information:

University of Hawaii Sustainability Policy

Hawaii State Dashboard

Kapi’olani Service & Sustainability Learning Program

Article: “Teaching to Big Questions: How do we build our commitment to civic and moral responsibility for diverse, equitable, healthy , and sustainable communities?”

Article: “More than Bells without Clappers: Students Finding Voice through Civic Engagement with Big Questions”

Article: “From Service to Science in the Energy-Climate Era”

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