University of Vermont

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Staff

Our staff includes two full-time employees, five graduate assistants, and a group of student interns. Learn more about them and their work for the office in the biographies below. 

Gioia Thompson, M.S. Natural Resources Planning

Sustainability Director

After working in the recycling arena, Gioia Thompson came to UVM in 1996 to begin working with a team, the Environmental Council, to bring more sustainable practices into campus life. In 2008 Gioia was appointed director of the Office of Sustainability, with another full-time staff member and three graduate student assistants. She is responsible for tracking the institution’s environmental performance; recommending environmentally responsible practices; working with students, faculty members, and staff members on projects; and connecting with the Vermont and higher education communities. Gioia received a B.A. in Environmental Studies in 1987 with an honors thesis on municipal leaf composting, and an M.S. in Natural Resources in 2000 on sustainability in higher education, both from the University of Vermont.

Aaron Witham

Education & Outreach Coordinator

Aaron holds an M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont and a Graduate Certificate in Ecological Economics from the Gund Institute at U.V.M. As a Transportation Research Scholar at U.V.M.’s Transportation Research Center and a Gund Student Fellow, Aaron focused his research on alternative economic approaches, sustainable transportation, energy issues, and climate change. He also holds a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and studied environmental science for two years at Unity College. His career experience includes serving as the Director of Sustainability at Green Mountain College, Managing Director of the Center for Environmental Education in Maine and the Interim Sustainability Coordinator of Unity College.

Aaron’s environmental ethic grew out of his family’s dependence on the land in rural New Hampshire through hunting, fishing, gardening and foraging for food, while harvesting local wood for heat. Later in childhood, he lived in suburban Cape Cod where he saw the effects of sprawl first-hand and a different land ethic. He is very interested in how certain economic policies feed cultures of over-consumption and sprawl, often at the cost of not only environmental health, but human happiness. He enjoys coordinating campus sustainability efforts in order to teach alternative cultures and practice ideas for alternative sustainable systems in the microcosm of a college setting.

Aaron's LinkedIn Profile

Elizabeth Palchak

Socially Responsible Investing Graduate Assistant

Supporting UVM's active role in managing its endowment responsibly includes research and outreach to the UVM community. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is a growing field, and one that UVM has embraced since the early 1980's. Before landing in Vermont, Elizabeth was a faculty member in Teton Science Schools' Graduate Program in Jackson, Wyoming. During five years at TSS, she created and taught a track in Sustainability Studies with a focus on social-ecological systems and systems thinking. She was named Teton Science Schools' first Sustainability Coordinator and led a sustainability audit of the school using a modified version of the AASHE STARS framework. She also directed the completion of the school's first sustainability report. Prior to Jackson Hole, Elizabeth taught as an adjunct professor of Environmental Science at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and led NOLS courses in the Rocky Mountains. She loves trail running and backcountry skiing and exploring Vermont's green mountains. Elizabeth is pursuing a PhD in the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources and is interested in the role of markets in fostering renewable energy development.

Lisa Watts Natkin

Curriculum & Community Connections Graduate Assistant

Download Work Plan [PDF]

Lisa Watts Natkin is working towards an Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a research focus on sustainability leadership and program evaluation.  She is the curiculum and community connections graduate assistant.  She earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Psychology from The University of Vermont and a M.S. in Environmental Education from Antioch New England University.  After college, she worked as a field instructor for the Appalachian Mountain Club, as a naturalist for the National Forest Service and as a ski instructor for several ski resorts.  During her masters, she taught the “Introduction to Environmental Studies” undergraduate course at Keene State College and conducted evaluation research at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, IL.  Upon completion of her masters, Lisa was offered the Youth Program Coordinator position at the Teton Science Schools, where she managed residential environmental education programs.  She was promoted to the Adult, Family and Community Event Program Coordinator, organizing conferences and events, in addition to coordinating educational programs.  Most recently, Lisa was the Co-Education Director at the Children’s Learning Center in Jackson, WY; running nine classrooms in two early education centers.  These experiences ignited her passion for sustainability education and leadership.   She is interested in integrating sustainability principles into curriculum and evaluating its effectiveness.  Lisa lives in Hinesburg, VT with her husband Jon and dog Mango. 

Roisin Low '16

Sustainability Intern

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Roisin is a Senior Environmental Studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences, double minoring in Biology and Global Studies. Originally from Australia, Roisin spent this past summer as a research assistant for Operation Wallacea in Sulawesi, Indonesia working as part of the herpetology and marine team. For the past year Roisin has been a part of one of UVM's newspapers The Cynic as a photojournalist. She has worked as a research intern for Food Tank, an organization that highlights environmentally and socially sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty through their website, research, and publications. During Summer 2015, she was a Research intern for the Nature Conservancy, focusing on urban ecology and integrating her internship experience into a capstone experience at UVM.

Roisin has worked for the Office of Sustainability since Spring 2015, doing outreach for the CEF and organizing field trips for the CEF sponsored Energy Action Seminar in Fall 2015 as well as gathering information for the CEF review. She currently is serving as a Sustainability intern in the Office, working on communication pieces on UVM's sustainability commitments and co-organizing a student summit for Spring 2016.

Roisin's LinkedIn profile