Wessels, Brett and Thelen Receive AUNE Environmental Studies Awards

As the Green Guru at Antioch University New England (AUNE) since September 2010, Rachel Brett has organized the Antioch Commuter Transportation (ACT) initiative and coordinated the construction of AUNE’s new bike shelter, among other achievements. Brett, a master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Studies, has been awarded the 2012 William R. Ginsberg, Thomas K.Wessels Endowed Scholarship. She will graduate with a concentration in environmental education in July 2012.

AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies also announces the presentation of these awards:
The 2012 Community Member Environmental Excellence Award goes to Tom Wessels, long-time core faculty member in the Department of Environmental Studies.
The 2012 Alumni Excellence Award goes to Brett Amy Thelen, program director for Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory at the Harris Center for Environmental Education in Hancock, New Hampshire.

About Rachel Brett
Green Guru Rachel Brett encouraged 100% participation of AUNE employees in the Energy-Efficiency Audit program. As organizer of ACT, she facilitated education events, organized a carpool challenge and refreshed the Green Bikes program. She co-coordinated AUNE’s Earth Day Festival and organized Earth Week service activities in 2011. This year, she is collaborating with students from the Support Group for Ethnic and Racial Diversity in the Department of Clinical Psychology on service projects for Earth Week.

Brett is co-director and developer of the Wild Treasures sustainability education program. In her student career at AUNE, she also organized a voter registration drive on campus as well as two brown bag forums for the AUNE Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Jimmy Karlan, director of AUNE’s science teacher certification program, called Brett “open-minded, intellectually and emotionally engaged, reflective and dedicated to designing powerful science curriculum.”

“She is a gifted organizer and is recognized as a strong, collaborative and effective leader amongst her peers,” said Abigail Abrash Walton, assistant to the president for sustainability/justice, in support of Brett’s nomination. “She is adept at building solid working relationships, which have served as the foundation for much of what we have accomplished.”

The Ginsberg/Wessels scholarship is awarded by the faculty of the Department of Environmental Studies to a second year master’s student who has displayed academic excellence and environmental leadership. It was created in 2008 by a gift from the estate of William R. Ginsberg, a noted environmentalist, friend and alumnus of AUNE and former AUNE board member, and from Tom Wessels, AUNE core faculty member.

About Tom Wessels
Ecologist Tom Wessels will retire in 2012 after teaching at AUNE for thirty-four years. Since 1992, he has been a core faculty member in the Department of Environmental Studies, where he founded the master’s degree program in conservation biology.

Wessels is also chair of the Center for Whole Communities, a land-based leadership development organization that fosters inclusive communities strongly rooted in place and where all peopleâ€regardless of income, race, or backgroundâ€have access to, and a healthy relationship with, land.

He is an ecological consultant for the Rain Forest Alliance’s SmartWood green certification program and helped to draft green certification assessment guidelines for forest operations in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. For more than thirty years, he has conducted landscape level workshops throughout the United States.

A sought-after speaker, Wessels has also written many books: Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape; The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future; The Granite Landscape: A Natural History of America’s Mountain Domes, From Acadia to Yosemite; and Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England.

About Brett Amy Thelen
Brett Amy Thelen graduated from the Department of Environmental Studies with a concentration in conservation biology in 2007. She was hired as the first science director for the Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory (AVEO), a position funded by a Switzer Leadership Grant to Thelen. After the Harris Center for Environmental Education recently absorbed AVEO, the center asked her to serve as AVEO’s science director. There she coordinates place-based, conservation-focused citizen science initiatives.

Thelen teaches also teaches coastal ecology at Franklin Pierce University and serves on the editorial board of Whole Terrain, AUNE’s nationally acclaimed journal of environmental writing.

For her AUNE thesis, Thelen studied mollusk re-establishment at a restored salt marsh on Cape Cod National Seashore, organizing the participation of a group of volunteer citizens. The research was funded by a Switzer Fellowship from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

Prior to her graduate work, she conducted ecological field research at Cape Cod National Seashore. She received her bachelor’s degree in literary and cultural studies from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Alumni Excellence Award and Community Member Environmental Excellence Awards are given to an alumnus and a community member who have made outstanding contributions to the sustainability of the environment through professional or personal actions.