2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit Featured Speakers

Speakers for the 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit will be added as they are confirmed.If you are interested in contributing to the program, especially in the breakout sessions, please contact Michele Madia.


Rita Hartung Cheng, President, Northern Arizona University

Rita Hartung Cheng is the 16th president of Northern Arizona University. Before joining NAU in 2014, Dr. Cheng was chancellor of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale for four years and spent 22 years in teaching and administrative roles at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned her Ph.D. in management from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, an MBA degree from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor of business administration degree with honors from Bishop‘s University in Quebec. A certified public accountant and certified government financial manager, Dr. Cheng is internationally recognized for her research in government and nonprofit accounting.


Dianne Dillon-Ridgeley, Trustee, Green Mountain College and on the Board of Directors at Interface

Environmentalist and human rights activist Dianne Dillon-Ridgley of the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, has for over thirty years worked on issues of the environment and sustainability, gender and CSR. She was a director at Interface, Inc., a global manufacturer of modular carpet and a leader in sustainable design. She was also a director at Green Mountain Energy for the first six years.She is founding chair-emerita of Plains Justice and is a trustee and board chair for CIEL; Population Connection; Executive Director WNSF; the former national chair of River Network and former president of ZPG. Former President Clinton appointed her to the PCSD, his council on Sustainable Development (1994-1999).Along with her service as a trustee of Green Mountain College, Dianne serves on the Auburn University School of Human Sciences-Dean’s Advisory Board and the Tippie College of Business Management Committee.


David Finegold, President, Chatham University

Dr. David Finegold, the 19th President of Chatham University, has over 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, from which he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992.




Paul Hawken, Executive Director, Project Drawdown

Paul Hawken starts ecological businesses, writes about nature and commerce, and consults with heads of state and CEOs on climatic, economic and ecological regeneration. He has appeared on numerous media including the Today Show, Talk of the Nation, Bill Maher, and Charlie Rose, and has been profiled or featured in hundreds of articles including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Washington Post, and Business Week. He has written eight books including four national and NYT bestsellers: Growing a Business, The Ecology of Commerce, Blessed Unrest, and Drawdown (2017). The Ecology of Commerce was voted in 2013 as the #1 college text on business and the environment by professors in 67 business schools. President Clinton called Natural Capitalism one of the five most important books in the world. He is published in 50 countries and 30 languages. His latest book, Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming debuted April 18, 2017 as a #9 NYT bestseller. He is the founder of Project Drawdown, which works with over two hundred scholars, students, scientists, researchers, and activists to map, measure, and model the one hundred most substantive solutions that can cumulatively reverse global warming by reducing and sequestering greenhouse gases. He lives in Mill Valley, California in the Cascade Creek watershed with his wife and coyotes, bobcats, red-tail hawks and flocks of nuthatches.


Robert E. Johnson, Chancellor, UMass Dartmouth

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., took office as the Chancellor of UMass Dartmouth on July 1, 2017. Previously, Dr. Johnson was the President of Becker College, where he encouraged the growth and change of the institution through a myriad of initiatives. In 2011, Becker was designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as home to the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), a first-in-the-nation center that connects the state’s digital games industry, government, and academic resources to promote job growth and entrepreneurship. Dr. Johnson was appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in 2015. He is a member of the Council on Competitiveness, a nonpartisan policy organization of chief executives, university presidents, and labor leaders, and serves on the boards of a number of state and local organizations. He has addressed organizations across the country on topics including leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship, among others. Dr. Johnson holds a doctorate in higher education administration from Touro University International, formerly a division of Touro College, New York; a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Cincinnati; and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College. Prior to becoming Becker College’s president, Dr. Johnson served as senior vice president of Sinclair Community College, in Dayton, Ohio; vice president of enrollment management at the University of Dayton; vice provost at Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; and executive director of enrollment management at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.


Dorothy Leland, Chancellor at University of California, Merced

Dorothy J. Leland was appointed the third chancellor of the University of California, Merced on May 18, 2011. Prior to joining UC Merced, Leland served for seven years as the president of Georgia College & State University where she led what had been a regional college into one of rising national prominence. She attended Purdue University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1971, a Master of Arts in American studies in 1973 and a doctoral degree in philosophy in 1979. Her research area is contemporary continental philosophy, with a focus on gender and personal, social and cultural identity — a rare background for the leader of a STEM intensive, world class student-centered research university.


Mark Mitsui, President, Portland Community College

Mark Mitsui began his tenure as president of Portland Community College on September 1, 2016.Previously, President Mitsui served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges within the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education for the U.S. Department of Education. In Washington he worked to advance President Obama’s community college agenda through partnerships with numerous federal agencies and national stakeholders. Before serving in the Obama administration, he was president of North Seattle College in Washington state from 2010 to 2013. From 2006 to 2010 he served as Vice President of Student Services at South Seattle College, and before that worked as a senior administrator and teacher at educational institutions across the Pacific Northwest, where he has deep roots. President Mitsui holds a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Western Washington University, and completed a master’s degree and doctoral studies in Education at the University of Washington.


Nancy E. Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner, DBL Partners

Nancy E. Pfund is Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. As a leading player in impact investing, DBL has helped to reveal the power of venture capital to promote social change and environmental improvement. Ms. Pfund writes and speaks frequently on the field of impact investing. Ms. Pfund currently sponsors or sits on the board of directors of several companies including; Farmers Business Network, The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off-Grid Electric, Primus Power, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora Media. She also served on the board of SolarCity until its acquisition by Tesla in December 2016. Ms. Pfund serves on the board of several not-for-profits and academic organizations, including The Bill Lane Center for the American West and The National Geographic Society. Prior to founding DBL, Ms. Pfund was a Managing Director in Venture Capital at JPMorgan, having started her investment career at Hambrecht & Quist in 1984.


Graham Richard, President/CEO, Advanced Energy Economy

Graham Richard is CEO of Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). AEE is a fast growing national organization of businesses using policy advocacy, analysis, and education to grow a prosperous economy that runs on secure, clean, affordable energy. Richard also directs the work of AEE’s coalition of state and regional partners active on energy policy across the country. Graham served as mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, from 2000 to 2008, following a 20-year career in business. He also served in the Indiana State Senate, where he chaired the utilities committee. Graham received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Indiana University and earned a B.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


Tom Soto, Founder and Managing Partner, Frontier Impact Capital

Tom Soto is Founder and Managing Partner of Frontier Impact Capital and oversees the investment committee process. Frontier Impact Management is an East LA-based, Latino-owned private equity innovation fund focused on investing in the sustainability sector founded in 2016. Prior to this, Tom was Cofounder and Managing Partner of Craton Equity Partners, one of the state’s first clean technology funds in 2005. Having sold Craton Equity Partners II to TCW in 2013, Tom became Managing Director of Alternatives at the $198b fund and was an Investment Committee Member of TCW-Craton Alternatives. During this time, Tom continued to oversee the investment committee process of the Craton investments that had been folded into TCW Alternatives and worked toward ensuring a smooth transition of Craton into TCW with the support of his portfolio companies and the Fund’s Limited Partners. Post-transaction, Tom played a considerable role in TCW across all products and asset classes, helping to lead the development of new and innovative alternatives products; a public equities trading platform, the first of its kind at TCW focused on ESG/SRI, and the development of a women-owned emerging manager, distressed hedge fund, among many other successful efforts while at TCW.