Diversity Forum 2021: Sustainability Sessions

Learn about the 2021 Pitt Diversity Forum sessions featuring sustainability leaders from around the country!

July 26-29, 2021

The aim of the 2021 Diversity Forum, “Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities,” is to engage and equip participants with the knowledge, skills and resources to identify sources of systemic oppression, consider strategies for dismantling that oppression, and actions critical in fostering more equitable and just communities in which we live, work and learn.

There is no cost to participate, and all are welcome!

 Register Now

All featured sessions will also be livestreamed on the Pitt Diversity YouTube Channel.

Diverse Spend at Pitt: Progress Update

July 28 | 2:00 pm

This workshop will describe the FY21 Diverse Spend Goal-Setting process and key findings. At the 2020 Pitt Diversity Forum, Jennifer Barnes presented the details of Pitt’s spend with diverse and Black-owned businesses. In the months following the Forum, Jennifer and the Pitt Purchasing team met with each Responsibility Center to learn more about existing best practices and identify areas of opportunity. Although the major outcome of the effort was to set diverse spend goals to include in the Plan for Pitt update, leaders across campus shared valuable insight into challenges and opportunities. Attendees will learn more about the diverse spend program at Pitt and what work remains.

Presenter: Jennifer Barnes

Jennifer Barnes joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2019 as the Supplier Diversity and Sustainability Coordinator. She works with the procurement team in Purchasing Services and Strategic Sourcing to advance socially and environmentally responsible purchasing. In her role, Jennifer collaborates with University departments and major contracted suppliers to track, analyze, and increase diverse and sustainable spend.She is also a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability.

Combating Environmental Racism & Injustice

 July 29 | 9:00 am

Across the nation, BIPOC communities face environmental injustices daily, which are in part the result of systemic and institutional racism. This session will delve into the link between racial and environmental justice. Featured speaker Jacqueline Patterson, the Senior Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, is an advocate and activist for racial, economic, environmental, and climate justice. She believes our future must be rooted in a just transition that involves moving away from a society functioning on extraction to one rooted in deep democracy and integrating regenerative processes; cooperation; and acknowledgement of interdependence, where all rights are respected and honored (indigenous, women’s, and all marginalized communities). Jacqui has spent her career crafting and advocating for this just transition so society can get to a place where we can live in harmony with each other and the Earth. 

After Jacqui’s address she will join a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh. The panel will discuss their perspectives on Jaqui’s address, discuss how historically oppressive systems helped create social and environmental injustices, answer questions from the audience, and discuss what we can do to be part of a just transition that builds a sustainable future where all people and the planet can thrive. 

Moderator: Dr. Aurora Sharrard

Dr. Aurora Sharrard is the Director of Sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh, leading Pitt’s Office of Sustainability, cross-departmental sustainability staff, and University-wide sustainability strategy, activities, policies, collaborations, and partnerships. 


Jacqueline Patterson

Jacqueline Patterson is theFounder and Executive Director at The Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership. She previously served as the Senior Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. Since 2007 Patterson has served as coordinator & co-founder of Women of Color United. Jacqui Patterson has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist working on women‘s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice. Patterson served as a Senior Women’s Rights Policy Analyst for ActionAid where she integrated a women’s rights lens for the issues of food rights, macroeconomics, climate change,  and the intersection of violence against women and HIV&AIDS.  Previously, she served as Assistant Vice-President of HIV/AIDS Programs for IMA World Health providing management and technical assistance to medical facilities and programs in 23 countries in Africa and the Caribbean. 

Allison Acevedo

Allison Anderson Acevedo is Director of the Office of Environmental Justice at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  Prior to joining DEP in 2018, Allison served in the policy, advocacy, and non-profit sectors, supporting and implementing systems change and resource collaboration. She operated a consultancy that provided nonprofit organizations guidance on program development, policy and strategic planning. She also served as Director of Education for United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and as a staff advisor to two PA state legislators.  In these positions, Allison learned and practiced participatory community engagement and planning.  Before working in the non-profit and policy sectors, Allison worked as an attorney for several years with the U.S. Department of Labor and at a private firm.  Allison is also a founding member of the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle, which advances building a culture of philanthropy in Philadelphia’s Black community. 

Dr. Jamil Bey

Jamil Bey is the founder and president of the UrbanKind Institute, a think-and-do consultancy committed to providing direction to improve policies, programs, and practices that are kind to urban people and environments; the root of sustainability. Under Dr. Bey’s leadership and direction, the UrbanKind Institute has become one of the region’s premier public policy consultancies. Prized for our ability to do the complicated tasks of bringing people from all sectors and with often competing interests together to create actionable solutions. Jamil is a human geographer with 8 years of post-doctoral research and analysis of policy and practices that improve efficiency and outcomes in human experiences. As a researcher, analyst, and consultant he specializes in challenging common assumptions about ordinary concerns while bringing alternative perspectives for consideration. Trained as both a professional geographer and as an educator, Dr. Bey excels in spatial analysis and synthesis, pedagogy, and instruction.

Ali Aslam 

Ali Aslam is an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh and is in his  3rd year representing Fossil Free Pitt. Ali is studying both Biology and Psychology as well as obtaining a Chemistry minor. Ali serves as the Service Chair of Epsilon Eta Delta Honors Environmental Fraternity. Outside of school and work, Ali is also an EMT.

Dr. Kyle Whyte

Kyle Whyte is George Willis Pack Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. His research addresses environmental justice, focusing on moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and science organizations, and problems of Indigenous justice in public and academic discussions of food sovereignty, environmental justice, and the anthropocene. Kyle currently serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the Management Committee of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, and the Board of Directors of the Pesticide Action Network North America. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Environmental Justice: Building Just & Sustainable Communities

July 29 | 10:45-12:00pm

Sustainability is the balance of equity, environment, and economics so current and future generations can thrive. To build just and sustainable communities in our region current systemic, cross-generational, and sector-specific environmental issues to be addressed. Across the U.S. and in Pittsburgh, systemic and institutional racism is evident in the environmental injustices faced daily by BIPOC communities.  

This session will start with a land acknowledgement recognizing and respecting Native Nations as traditional stewards of this land. The panel will address how historically oppressive systems resulted in social and environmental injustices that perpetuate today in Pittsburgh, especially affecting BIPOC communities. Topics of pollution, air quality, land ownership, energy sources, poverty, and the lack of representation in the environmental sector will be discussed by the following panel from their various perspectives, experiences, and research. 


Alyssa Lyon  (Moderator) 

Alyssa Lyon is the Director of the Black Environmental Collective at UrbanKind.  Originally from The Bronx, New York, Alyssa is passionate about ensuring people – especially Black people – that they have the power to drive change and rewrite the narrative. Alyssa believes that everything you do makes a difference and is guided by this belief in her work.   Alyssa’s past professional experience as Sustainable Communities Director at Green Building Alliance helped her recognize the importance and necessity of amplifying marginalized voices in the sustainability sector — and that environmental justice is a civil rights issue.  Alyssa is a board member of Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, Vice Chair for Invest PGH at the Urban Redevelopment Authority. She also worked at and Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group. Alyssa holds a Masters of Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor’s in Communications and Africana Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.  

Ariam Ford

 Ariam Ford is a City Planner by trade and self-driven by choice. She is deeply passionate about equitable development, community planning, and land-use policy. Her professional work has focused on community-led land use interventions, resident empowerment, civic education programs, geospatial statistics, and GIS mapping. Ariam holds a Master of City Planning from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Virginia. An active resident of the Overbrook neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Ariam serves on the board of the Watersheds of South Pittsburgh. Most recently, Ariam was honored to join the board or Propel Schools. 

Dr. Melissa Bilec

Dr. Melissa Bilec is an Associate Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Her research focuses on the sustainable built environment.  She explores system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of environmental impacts, energy use, and indoor air quality. Dr. Bilec is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity. She serves on the Engineering Diversity Advisory Committee and NSF Pitt STRIVE Leadership team, along with being co-faculty advisor for Pitt Society for Women Engineering. Dr. Bilec is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity. She serves on the Engineering Diversity Advisory Committee and NSF Pitt STRIVE Leadership team, along with being co-faculty advisor for Pitt Society for Women Engineering.

Dr. Kylie Seltzer

Kylie Seltzer is a researcher, educator, digital enthusiast, and community builder whose work focuses on dismantling white supremacy and creating a more equitable world. Her scholarly work analyzes the intersection of race theory and architecture in the built environment, and she received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020. Her innovative doctoral research was recognized through the Graham Foundation’s prestigious Carter Manny Dissertation award as well as a predoctoral fellowship from the Council for European Studies. Now, she works as the Research Strategist at Common Cause Consultants where she uses her expertise to address the urgent inequalities that plague Pittsburgh residents.  

Sydney DuBose

Sydney DuBose is a student from the University of Pittsburgh who will graduate in December 2021 with a major in Environmental Science, a minor in Theatre, and certificates in GIS and Sustainability. She was named as one of the 2021 Pitt Sustainability Champions for her work in making Pitt Residence Life more sustainable by collaborating with the EcoReps, the student sustainability ambassadors for Pitt residence halls. She and the EcoReps were able to create programs that Residence Assistants (RAs) could use for their residents. Sydney is currently interning at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation with Dr. Cassie Quigley. She is working  to create a freedom seminar on Environmental Justice that will be available to high school and college students in the spring. When Sydney isn’t furthering her knowledge on the environment, she’s busy educating others through her eco-instagram @syd_stainable! 

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