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Meet Our Speakers

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Sadie Babits

Sadie Babits is the Supervising Climate Editor at NPR. She is previously a professor of practice at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where she led environment reporting in the school's professional program, Cronkite News. She also served as interim managing editor for Side Effects Public Media, a public health reporting collaboration in the Midwest, and was a Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow and a former International Reporting Project fellow. 


She served for two years as board president for the Society of Environmental Journalists and is currently a board member and ex-officio president. Her reporting has been recognized by PRNDI, the Society of Environmental Journalists, RTDNA, Idaho Press Club and many others. She received a National Edward R. Murrow for Investigative Journalism, and led a public radio newsroom in Idaho that received its first ever National Murrow for best website in a small market. 

Steven Beschloss

Steven Beschloss

Steven Beschloss, an award-winning writer, editor, journalist and filmmaker, is a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s College of Global Futures and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is the Founding Director of ASU’s Narrative Storytelling Initiative and leads narratives for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. 

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Christopher A. Bracey

Christopher A. Bracey is the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the George Washington University. He is a professor at GW Law, where he teaches and researches in the areas of the legal history of U.S. race relations, constitutional law, criminal procedure, civil procedure, and civil rights.

Bracey joined the university’s law faculty in 2008 and has held several academic and faculty leadership positions. He was named vice provost for faculty affairs in 2016 and previously served as the university law school’s senior associate dean for academic affairs and as its interim dean.

Prior to his arrival at the university, Bracey taught at Washington University School of Law and Northwestern University School of Law. He is the author of Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice and co-author of The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Harvard Law School, where he served as supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.

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Kasey Gillette

Kasey Gillette is Senior Director for Sustainability and Political Affairs for Bayer.  She leads federal policy work to advance climate change, water, biodiversity, and other environmental goals.  She also oversees Bayer’s direct political advocacy, including the employee PAC, grassroots advocacy, and GOTV efforts.  Kasey has worked at Bayer for nine years and prior to that spent 15 years on Capitol Hill working for several Democratic members, most recently with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  She managed agriculture policy for the Senate Democratic Caucus along with conservation issues and gun safety.  Kasey grew up in central Florida in an active-duty military family and graduated from the University of South Florida.


Artealia Gilliard

Artealia Gilliard works on Environmental Leadership & Sustainability at Ford Motor Company. At Ford, she helps bring Ford’s purpose to help build a better world to life, working at the intersection of their environmental and sustainability priorities to create new opportunities for impact through education, policy engagement and partnerships.

She most recently served as Director of Communications and Digital Media at Columbia’s University Center on Global Energy Policy and as part of the leadership team that launched Columbia University’s new Climate School. Prior to joining the University, Artealia was Director of Communications at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and a senior executive in the Obama Administration where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation Policy at the Department of Transportation and led communications, public engagement, and legislative strategy for the Department’s energy and environment portfolio.

Artealia earned a Master of Science in Communications Management from Syracuse University and a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her son, Joseph.


Kristin Jarrett

Kristin Jarrett is a social impact and creative leader who works to deliver effective strategies that drive equity and civic and social justice through human focused philanthropy and community engagement. Kristin’s work aligns industry stakeholders with community institutions to increase access to critical resources that help rebalance power for the most marginalized communities and drive diversity at every level of the audio and tech industries. 


Currently, Kristin leads Spotify’s Equity & Impact strategy with a focus on designing opportunities to identify, train, and support the next generation of underrepresented creators and storytellers and seed the industry with their talent. Kristin works to leverage Spotify’s platform to drive advocacy and action on critical global issues including civic engagement, mental health access, and climate action. She also co-leads the Creator Equity Fund - a multi-year Spotify initiative focused on delivering an inclusive portfolio of content and content creators from historically underrepresented groups in music and talk audio. 


Kristin lives in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of Spelman College, Vanderbilt University (M.Ed.) and holds an executive certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Edward Maibach

Edward Maibach is a Distinguished University Professor and Director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Dr. Maibach co-leads the Climate Change in the American Mind polling project, co-directs Climate Matters--a nationwide climate reporting resources program that supports TV weathercasters and other local journalists,  and provides strategic direction to the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health--an education and advocacy initiative that currently involves 47 U.S. medical societies. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a National Academy of Medicine member.

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Kristi Marciano

Kristi Marciano is the Senior Associate of Communications for Rare, a global leader in driving social change for people and nature. In her role, Kristi helps write, develop, and pitch engaging, community-driven stories for both Rare’s owned and earned media assets.


Kristi is a master’s student at The Johns Hopkins University’s graduate program in Science Writing. She holds a graduate certificate in Public Health from Rutgers University and a BA from The College of New Jersey.

Adriana Martinez-Smiley

Adriana Martinez-Smiley

Adriana Martinez-Smiley (she/they) is a senior at Northwestern University, majoring in Journalism with a concentration in Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. Black, Chicanx and queer, she comes from a grassroots organizing background. She is interested in solutions-oriented storytelling that posits marginalized communities at the frontlines of climate and environmental crises. They hope to pursue environmental investigative reporting that is accessible and empowering to the communities it concerns.

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Jake Meyers

Jake Meyers is a Learning Manager at iDE, where he leverages storytelling as a means of asking questions to help scale sustainable solutions to international development challenges. An accomplished storyteller, Jake won the 2020 Storyfest Competition and served as a Planet Forward Correspondent while pursuing his Master's in Development Practice at the University of Arizona.


Jake's passion for storytelling has taken him around the world, from the Galapagos Islands with Planet Forward on the National Geographic Explorer II, to his work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, a Fulbright Researcher in Cambodia, and a Continuous Improvement Advisor in FEMA. In each of these roles, Jake has used storytelling as a tool to help communities identify and share their unique perspectives and experiences to help programs learn from failure and scale up success.


At iDE, Jake leads their Locally-Led Storytelling initiative. This approach creates a more authentic and representative storytelling process that amplifies the voices of those traditionally marginalized and excluded from international development evaluations. He is committed to crafting compelling narratives by asking questions to drive sustainable change.

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Sachi Kitajima Mulkey

Sachi Kitajima Mulkey is a multimedia science journalist. She is currently a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, as well as the visual editor for FoodUnfolded, a non-profit science communication platform with a focus on sustainable food systems. She has a BFA in Animation from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and studied at a Japanese language school in Kyoto after graduation. She advocates for the intersection of empathetic design and credible scientific research as an approach to broadly accessible communication. 

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Vidya Muthupillai

Vidya Muthupillai (she/her) is a 2023-23 Planet Forward Correspondent from the Greater Houston Area, where her personal experiences with climate disasters led her to pursue climate activism, storytelling, and policy. She currently attends George Washington University where she studies Political Science and International Affairs with a minor in Sustainability, and manages marketing and communications for the GW Office of Sustainability.

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Kirsten Nagel

Kirsten Nagel is a senior customer success manager for Adobe.  Kirsten has been with Adobe for 8 years and has the joy of working closely with premiere universities around the globe to help them make the most out of their partnerships with Adobe. As a post-sales digital transformation leader, she drives a variety of tailored programs and activities to help university leadership, faculty, staff, and students understand how their Adobe tools can and are being applied across unique disciplines. She loves to collaborate with people to strategize and develop short and long-term solutions to empower them in their digital scholarship, promote their accomplishments, and provide them with skills for their future.

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Beverly Ndifoin

Beverly Ndifoin is a multimedia journalist, social entrepreneur and poet, with keen interest in environmental sustainability. She currently leads a climate advocacy movement in Cameroon known as “Game Changers,” a nonprofit she founded shortly after serving as weather news anchor on Cameroon’s National Radio Television station. As a result of her participation in the Mandela Washington Fellowship last summer, she has continued to serve as a stringer for Planet Forward from Cameroon. She is a 2023 Obama leader among 34 other leaders across Africa.


Troi Madison Newman

Troi Madison Newman, a black-indigenous enrolled citizen of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe of Maryland, is a first-year law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and Planet Forward Indigenous Correspondent. Before law school, when Troi was not freelancing graphic designs, she was a paralegal for All Native Group (ANG), a government contractor for Ho-Chunk Inc. of Ho-Chunk Nation. Troi is a certified American Board Association paralegal.

Troi is the Project Artist of the Guide to Indigenous Maryland App; this app explores historic indigenous sites in Maryland, available in the Apple Store and Google Play. Troi is an Academic Coach for Native Forward, an organization that provides financial support for American Indians and Alaska Natives seeking higher education degrees.

Troi received her B.S. in Psychology from Frostburg State University and her M.P.S. in Paralegal Studies from George Washington University. Troi is a Class of the 2022 graduate of the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians & Alaska Natives (PLSI) at the American Indian Law Center.

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Katie Orlinsky

Photographer Katie Orlinsky has spent the last 15 years covering news stories and feature assignments around the world for publications like National Geographic, The New York Times and The New Yorker. For the last eight years the majority of her work has explored how the climate crisis is challenging and transforming the relationship between people, animals and the land. Katie's photography has been awarded by World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, The Alexia Foundation, Visa Pour L’image, PDN and the Art Director’s Club. She received a BA in Political Science from Colorado College and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Katie teaches as a visiting professor at NYU and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer is the National Geographic Research Professor of Science Communication at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. At Planet Forward, she leads education and outreach programs with the goal of improving scientific storytelling. In this capacity, she builds connections with students, programs, and institutions nationally that are linked to the Planet Forward mission. She plans, creates, and contributes to educational seminars and panel discussions at Planet Forward, including the annual Summit.

Palmer is an award-winning environmental and science journalist. She has written for a wide range of publications. Her book, HOT, HUNGRY PLANET: The Fight to Stop a Global Food Crisis in the Face of Climate Change, chronicles her travels around the world and the urgent innovations needed to feed a growing population. She has written for publications such as the Nature family of journals, Yale E360, The Guardian, Nautilus, The New York Times, The New Republic, Ensia, Slate, and many others. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and was previously a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., where she conducted research on global food security, resilience, and policies related to sustainable agriculture. In 2018, Palmer was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency on science for development. She is a professional member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, the National Association of Science Writers, and the D.C. Science Writers Association. She is a graduate of Boston University and Simmons College in Boston.


Katie Perkins

Katie Perkins is a senior at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She is studying creative media industries with an emphasis on photography as well as a minor in natural resource management. She has experience as a staff photojournalist and multimedia editor at Texas Tech’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador. She also participates in an undergraduate research experience in a natural resource management lab. Through a project on airborne environmental DNA detection, she is working to improve scientific communication and storytelling in order to make academic discoveries more accessible to everyday audiences. Her passion for science, storytelling, and sustainability has brought her to Planet Forward to spread awareness about the issues facing our world and contribute to finding solutions. In her free time, you can find Katie hitting the road to check items off her bucket list, rooting for her Red Raider teams, or curled up on the couch watching her favorite nature documentary.

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Matt Scott

As Director of Storytelling and Engagement at Project Drawdown, Matt Scott is a storyteller and impact strategist focused on passing the mic to those who often go unheard in the climate space. Inspired by human-centered design, Matt shapes and implements the organization’s strategy for climate solutions storytelling. Previously he worked as global community director and storyteller of the world’s largest global hackathon—NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge—engaging over 100,000 people in over 150 countries. He also collaborated with the Australian Government, Pivotal Ventures by Melinda Gates, USAID, the United Nations, Nike, Walmart, and the Obama White House. In addition to those roles, Matt has interviewed 100+ changemakers through and released a film through his project Let’s Care. He is an alumnus of the George Washington University School of Business.

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Frank Sesno

Frank Sesno is the Founding Director of Planet Forward and Director of Strategic Initiatives for the GW's School of Media and Public Affairs. He served as the school’s director for 11 years, where he focused on the next generation of storytellers and on the future of journalism in a chaotic world. In 2009, during his tenure as director, he started Planet Forward to both launch the next generation of environmental storytellers and highlight ideas that can be transformative.

Sesno's diverse career spans more than three decades, including 21 years at CNN where he served as White House correspondent, anchor and Washington Bureau Chief. He has covered a diverse range of subjects, from politics and conventions to international summits and climate change. He has interviewed five U.S. presidents and thousands of political, business and civic leaders — ranging from Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite.

Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award.

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Eva Sideris

Eva Sideris is completing her final year of undergrad at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in policy, planning, and law. Eva grew up in Buffalo, New York, but has spent her summers exploring the state of New Mexico with her family. Growing up with the Great Lakes of the Northeast and the Rio Grande in the Southwest has made her the person she is today. Personally experiencing resource and water scarcity has helped her understand the importance of environmental advocacy, community engagement, and resource conservation. As an amateur environmental documentarian, Eva’s work often involves topics in agriculture, sustainable materials management, food justice, and the dynamic interactions between water and people.

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John D. Sutter

John D. Sutter is a journalist and nonfiction filmmaker whose work focuses primarily on the climate crisis. He has won the Livingston Award, the Peabody Award, the IRE Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award and has received two EMMY nominations. Currently, he works as a CNN Contributor, hosts a Foreign Policy podcast on the climate crisis and is the Ted Turner Professor of Environmental Media at The George Washington University. He is a former science journalism fellow at both Harvard and MIT. His documentary work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, IDA, the Catapult Film Fund and others. 

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Valerie Vande Panne

Valerie Vande Panne is an award-winning reporter. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg, Columbia Journalism Review, Politico, and Reuters, among many other outlets. She is the former Managing Editor of Native News Online. She is the mentor/editor of the Ilíiaitchik Indigenous Correspondents Program at Planet Forward.

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Ashley Walker

Ashley Walker is a passionate impact leader, brand strategist and the social media manager at The Climate Reality Project. She is a climate and environmental advocate who aims to uplift voices within the movement to encourage climate action every day. Before joining Climate Reality, Ashley was a brand consultant helping organizations develop and execute their missions through social media and strategy. Ashley is passionate about community change and committed to empowerment of people through education and storytelling for global impact.


Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is a senior at Eckerd College double majoring in environmental studies and Spanish with a minor in journalism. While at Eckerd, Carter has also worked formerly as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the student-led newspaper, The Current. Currently he is the Senior Editor of The Current and manages the editorial board. His career in journalism started in high school, though, as  the news and reviews editor for his school paper.


Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, Carter was constantly outdoors, whether it was fishing, camping or anything else. Annual summer vacations to beaches were the foundation for his appreciation for coastal environments. Now studying in St. Petersburg, Florida, directly on the Gulf of Mexico, Carter has been able to really focus on environmental issues relating to water.

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Maria Zaharatos

Maria Zaharatos is a master’s student studying Public Administration at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, with a background in Political Science and International Studies. Maria is passionate about empowering youth & community-based development. She is a co-founder and current board member of a student-led education social enterprise, FARO: Projects for Global Education, and strives to engage in innovative models for non-profit impact on globally relevant issues such as climate justice. Currently working as a Graduate Assistant at CoLab, she provides strategic support for community-engaged research and fosters local inter-institutional partnerships on housing and indigenous justice in Monterey County.

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