Stillwell part of North American cohort of Earth Leadership Program

1/28/2021 2:09:21 PM

Ashlynn Stillwell
Ashlynn Stillwell

Ashlynn Stillwell, CEE associate professor, has been named to the 2021-22 North American cohort of the Earth Leadership Program (ELP). The program provides outstanding academic researchers with the skills, approaches and theoretical frameworks for catalyzing change to address the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges, emphasizing new forms of individual and collective leadership. The goal is to enable scientists to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and become agents of change within and beyond their universities.

This year’s North America cohort is composed of 21 academics working within a wide array of disciplines related to sustainability, from marine biology to atmospheric chemistry, governance and economics.

“The fellows, who come from 11 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, are committed to pursuing transdisciplinary work that brings together scientific disciplines, government representatives, private sector voices and civil society to build a more sustainable future for all,” ELP announced.

“This year’s selection of fellows consists of leading environmental champions from a broad range of disciplines and institutions across North America,” said Sharon Collinge, Executive Director of the Earth Leadership Program, a 2004 Leopold Leadership Fellow and full professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We look forward to working with each of them to accelerate and deepen the science that will promote equitable transitions to sustainability, both in their home countries and around the world.”

The Earth Leadership Program’s fellowship training model is built around a collaborative approach that values co-design with diverse stakeholders and prepares participants to develop and execute transdisciplinary projects. As fellows, the cohort first comes together for a retreat training session that focuses on leadership skills, community-building, and personal reflection. The fellows then spend a year practicing and applying their new knowledge and skills. The following June, the fellows reconvene in a final session to integrate their learning from the practice year, learn new tools and articulate to each other their refined visions for knowledge to impact.

“This year’s cohort faces the novel challenges of an ongoing pandemic alongside a worsening climate crisis and unprecedented biodiversity loss,” says Josh Tewksbury, Interim Executive Director of Future Earth, the Earth Leadership Program’s hosting organization. “To restore our deteriorating relationship with nature, we’ll need versatile sustainability leaders deeply embedded within the scientific community – and that’s exactly what the Earth Leadership Program was designed to promote.”

The ELP was formerly the Leopold Leadership Program. The new program, launched in March 2020, is a partnership between Future Earth, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the University of Colorado Boulder.

More information about ELP is available here:

Q&A with Ashlynn Stillwell:

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why (for you, personally)? Water and energy are critical resources for supporting life, and they are closely connected while also facing major challenges in a changing world. How do we supply adequate amounts of water and energy of proper quality when and where we need it? How can we use those water and energy resources most efficiently? How do we properly balance water needs across conflicting uses? How do we minimize externalities from water and energy use?

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are doing now? When I was working in engineering consulting, I was designing air pollution control and water/wastewater treatment systems for coal-fired power plants. While the work was interesting and challenging, I kept thinking beyond those few power plants. I wanted my work to focus on broader energy and water systems and their connections, and I wanted to realize a future beyond coal. That drive led me to study engineering and policy together.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year? I want to learn how to build trust with communities for co-creating knowledge together. In communities experiencing environmental injustice, trust has often been broken, and yet those communities know their challenges and solutions better than anyone else. I want to learn how sustainability research can co-create knowledge and solutions, with communities for communities.