August News

Greetings to all!

Did you realize that the United Nations celebrated World Youth Skills Day on July 15th? The day is meant to raise awareness on the importance of investing in youth skills development. Plus, International Youth Day is coming up on August 12There are about 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. Equitable investments in education and training opportunities can forge new pathways for economic, social, political and environmental progress. As in the past, young people’s ideas, perception of the state of the world, and innovations could transform the future. Today’s youth are pushing for action on climate change and are emerging problem solvers who will drive current economies towards equity and sustainability.

Here in Portland we recognise the value of our youth. Many organisations work to empower youth, including OPAL which works with low-income youth and youth of color leaders to build skills to address environmental justice issuesPortland Youth Builders which prepares youth to engage in green economy, Portland Timbers’s youth engagement program which created opportunity for youth to plant 2,000 trees with Friends of Trees, and the High School Environmental Leadership Project (HELP) which is building youth leadership around climate justice. In addition, Metro has just released the list of recipients of their Nature in Neighborhoods grants, including funding for CDE’s Environment 2042 Emerging Leaders Program. These organisations and others in the area are leading the way in enabling youth to discover the interconnections between the state of the environment and business as usual economic activities and empowering and inspiring them with the necessary skills to be part of the change. 

At GPSEN, we too recognise our youth and hope to help them network with sustainability agencies in our region, offer volunteer and internship opportunities, and build their leadership skills.  If you would like to help build and/or engage in our youth network, please let us know.

Looking forward to growing sustainably with our youth and all of you!

Neeraja Havaligi
Executive Director

Mid-July News

Greetings to all!

I am Neeraja Havaligi, a transplant finding roots in Portland. I am honored to serve GPSEN as its new Executive Director. 

From my experiences as a GPSEN Fellow and Board Member (before donning the ED cap), I find GPSEN akin to mycelia, the amazing network that nature has evolved which enriches the soil, connects species and supports biodiversity above and below ground. I believe sustainability education is like mycelia, a critical network system that supports and networks people to better understand, appreciate and value local and global resources that sustain us, nurture innovation and bring communities together to find ways to leave the least impact on these resources and to experience a sense of being rooted in our communities. Done correctly sustainability education can also open us to how we treat and value nature and each other, highlighting the relevance of equity and inclusion to make sustainable living a reality for all in current and future generations.

Sustainability education in my opinion is the bedrock resource, a tool that we have as a species to define how we live (with the smallest footprint) and what we share with other species and with our own (with mindful equity and inclusion). Sustainability education is the tool that roots us, connects us to nature in a way that whereever we go, we regard that place and all communities that the place holds with wonder and respect, which is the first step in walking toward sustainable living and achieving the sustainable development goals.

I am honored to be part of GPSEN’s journey to create networks that facilitate communication, research and innovation and move us together toward equitable, inclusive and sustainable networks of communities.

Looking forward,

Neeraja Havaligi
Executive Director

July News

Happy summer!  As the season changes, GPSEN is excited to announce the appointment of our new Executive Director and four new Board Members!

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Neeraja Havaligi, our new Executive Director! Neeraja has served as a member of our Board of Directors and co-chair for our Research and Curriculum Committee, in addition to engaging in our Think Tank and International Committee, participating in a number of panels and presentations, and helping create equity, diversity and inclusion trainings for the Board.

Neeraja brings a breadth of experience in sustainability education and work with the United Nations. Neeraja received her Ph.D. from Akamai University in Hawaii, with a focus on urban agriculture, greywater reuse and rainwater harvesting for food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change. Neeraja has held a variety of leadership positions with the United Nations Development Program, with more than fifteen years of experience in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Neeraja complements this scientific and international background with a talent for poetry. We are thrilled to have Neeraja as our new Executive Director and look forward to having her share her perspectives and talents to help shape sustainability education efforts in the greater Portland region.

We thank Lin Harmon-Walker, J.D., for her service as GPSEN’s Interim Executive Director over the last year. Lin was a core architect of our governance and non-profit model and her dedication and warmth have helped ensure the long-term health of our organization. Lin now turns her attention to a forthcoming book focused on global environmental law. We look forward to collaborating with you in the future!

GPSEN is also proud to announce four new Board Members:

  • Amy Dvorak, Sustainability Manager, Lewis & Clark College
  • Jami Haaning, Corporate Responsibility Manager, ENGIE Insight
  • Oussama Laraichi, Integrated Resources Planning Analyst Intern, Portland General Electric
  • Nichole Wenzel, Environmental Studies Graduate, Portland State University

Plus, we welcome back Kim Smith, Sociology Instructor at Portland Community College and former GPSEN ED. She will serve as our Programs & Events Chair and will contribute to our outreach efforts.

Over the summer, we will focus on reflecting on this year’s accomplishments, designing our new website, planning the next Sustainability Symposium, and envisioning networking events. Some GPSEN members have been traveling to share and learn at the Climate Generation Summer Institute and creating sustainability standards through the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, mentoring new RCEs, and working on publications, among other projects.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the GPSEN newsletter!

Heather Spalding
Board President

Mid-June News

“To educate is to guide students on an inner journey toward more truthful ways of seeing and being in the world” – Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

Many of us participate in educational systems and programs across Greater Portland, including schools, non-profits, training centers, and other community organizations. Learning is a lifelong process, and as another academic year comes to a close, we invite you to reflect on how education has impacted your life. Have you ever had a mentor, teacher, or peer who encouraged you to see yourself, your community, or the world differently? GPSEN offers heartfelt thanks to all educators who support critical thinking, inquiry, and deeper understanding for learners of all ages.

With education and the transition to summer in mind, we hope this edition of the GPSEN newsletter offers ways to connect with sustainability education efforts across our region.

GPSEN Board and Executive Director applications due Monday, June 18

Are you interested in helping create a sustainable future for everyone in our region? Consider becoming a board member with the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network! Our all-volunteer board welcomes applications from people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience from across our four county region (Clark, Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas) who are excited about sustainability education. GPSEN is a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development recognized by the United Nations University. We are currently seeking new board members as well as a volunteer Executive Director to step into the shoes of our current ED, who is stepping down at the end of June. Learn more about the opportunities available at GPSEN and apply here. Any questions or issues with the application process? Contact our current ED, Lin Harmon-Walker, at

Heather Spalding
Board President

GPSEN Newsletter Archives