The 2023 Environmental Excellence Awards Honor Leaders in Stewardship and Sustainability

Antioch University’s Department of Environmental Studies has announced two recipients of the 2023 Environmental Excellence Awards, an honor given to an alum and a community member who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to making outstanding contributions to the sustainability of the environment. The Alumni Award recipient is Jessica Baum, a 2015 graduate of the MS in Environmental Studies. The Community Member Award recipient is Geoffrey T. Jones, a leader in the field of forestry and conservation in New Hampshire.

The awards were presented during the Environmental Studies Celebration of Accomplishments held on May 12, 2023 on the New England campus. These awards are meaningful, says Peter Palmiotto, Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies, because they give “recognition of these individual’s excellence in the environmental arena.” 

Baum says that receiving the award “is a truly humbling honor, and fuels my passion to continue effecting meaningful change in my life, career and community.” She received this recognition due to her deep commitment to sustainability and regenerative agriculture. In part, Baum says, this path of environmental service is due to her time in Antioch’s Environmental Studies Department. As she explains, “My time at Antioch changed the course of my life and my purpose, teaching me about the complexity, nuance, and vibrancy of living systems.”

During Baum’s final year in the MS in Environmental Studies, her capstone project was a sustainability assessment for W.S. Badger Co. Upon graduation, the company hired her as a Sustainability Manager. Currently, she works as the Senior Director of Regenerative Impact at Bonterra Organic Estates. Due in part to her leadership and work, Bonterra Organic Estates won the 2022 Green Business of the Year Award, given by The Drink Business. And she has helped maintain the company’s B Corp status, increasing its score from 95 to 130, and helping it be one of just six organizations at its size to achieve the distinction of Best for the World: Environment.

Michael Simpson, the Core Faculty member who nominated Baum, writes in his nomination that she “epitomizes the type of graduate who can hit the ground running and make a real difference that positively impacts organizations and people alike.” This award recognizes the way that Baum, through exemplary leadership and communication skills, is making necessary changes within an organization to ensure a sustainable future. 

For Jones, too, the award is a welcome recognition of his career and the way his service has intersected with Antioch. “I have a 35+ year relationship with Antioch University New England that involves taking hundreds of graduate students into the woods on forestry field trips,” he says. “To receive an Environmental Excellence Community Member Award from a University that attracts such high caliber and accomplished individuals, is not only a great honor, but it is deeply gratifying.”

Jones is the former Director of Land Management for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. In that role, Jones managed conservation lands for thirty years. During this time, the areas under his team’s management grew from 30 properties comprising about 10,000 acres to more than 160 properties with over 45,000 acres in conservation. After leaving that role, Jones started his own business, Loveland Forestry, which offers forestry and tree care services to landowners. He currently serves as Chair of Stoddard’s Conservation Commission, where he has led many conservation intitiatives, including the preservation of the Little Big Forest. He has also published widely and helped steer his profession. As Palmiotto explains in his nomination of Jones for the award, “His writings on the aesthetics of logging… changed the way Foresters and the public viewed and managed forest lands.”

The Environmental Studies Department on Antioch University’s New England campus offers several degrees, including the MS in Environmental Studies, the MS in Resource Management and Administration, and a PhD in Environmental Studies. Several certificate programs are available on a broad range of topics such as Food Justice and Resilient Communities, Climate Change Education, and Conservation Psychology. The research areas of students and faculty include ecology and conservation biology, environmental education, environmental decisionmaking and governance, and climate and environmental change. 

One of the university’s mottos is “because the world needs you now.” And this year’s winners of the Environmental Excellence Awards certainly live up to that calling. Like so many students, alumni, and friends of the Environmental Studies Department, they are hard at work doing their part to solve big issues. The environmental crisis cannot be solved unless we all work together, and great leadership is at the center of every solution. 
“We put people together in the sandbox, and they learn how to work together,” says Palmiotto, in a video celebrating the department’s strong sense of community. “They learn how to value and appreciate other people’s opinions and views and use them to move forward.” It is through collaboration and leadership, he says, that we can address our world’s complex environmental problems.