Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability



9:00 a.m. -10:30 a.m.
Location: Damen MPR North and South
Moderator: Janet Sisler, vice president for mission integration at Loyola University Chicago

Join our keynote speakers with their mentors to discuss how motivated youth and adults can work together to leverage each other’s experience, connections, and resources in the fight for a sustainable planet. Learn how these mentors helped clarify the activists’ message and increase the impact of their ideas and how these activists have inspired their mentors. Following the moderated conversation, we would like to hear your input and your questions surrounding the intergenerational effort that is needed to combat climate change.


Youth Activist Vic Barrett and his mentor Leah Qusba 
Vic Barrett is from low-lying land in New York, which is threatened by rising sea levels and more frequent storm surges, and has felt firsthand climate impacts in the form of Hurricane Sandy when his home lost power and his school and local transport shut down. He is a 20-year-old Honduran-American college student and plaintiff with Juliana v. the United States. He is also a fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education and attended the COP 21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. 


Youth Activist Tokata Iron Eyes with her mentor and father Chase Iron Eyes
Tokata (Future) Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and has been confronting injustice since she was 9 years old testifying against a uranium mine in the sacred Black Hills. Now at 16, she continues to demonstrate her commitment to compelling the world to listen to Indigenous Nations— from the NODAPL movement at Standing Rock to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women across the US— she understands the power of media and utilizes her voice to evoke change in complacent hearts. She travels all over the world lifting the collective consciousness in response to the human-caused climate crisis.

Youth Activist Kelsey Juliana with her mentor 
Kelsey of Eugene, Oregon, has engaged in climate activism since age 10. When she was 15 she co-filed a lawsuit, with the support of nonprofit Our Children's Trust, against the Oregon State Governor, asking for a climate emissions reduction plan and to protect the atmosphere under the public trust doctrine. By 16, Kelsey was a trainer and organizer for the Sierra Student Coalition’s organizing camp. At age 18 Kelsey participated in the Great March for Climate Action, marching 1,600 miles from Nebraska to Washington, D.C. urging climate action from world leaders. In 2015, at 19, she submitted a Constitutional Climate Change lawsuit alongside 20 other youth against the United States Government.

Panel Sponsor:

Loyola's Office of Mission and Integration 

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 

Location: Damen MPR North and South
Moderator: Kalyani Robbins, professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago 

The effects of global climate change are not equally distributed around the world, nor in our communities. Many of the communities least responsible experience the effect of climate change in human costs - weather, economic hardships, and migration patterns, among others. This panel will discuss the relationship between climate change, race, migration, and the current efforts to bring these important intersections to the frontline of climate change advocacy.



Maxine Burkett
Burkett is a Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai‘i and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is also Co-Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Institute for Climate and Peace. Burkett is an expert in the law and policy of climate change, with a specific focus on climate justice, climate-induced migration, and climate change, peace, and conflict.







Amira Odeh Quinones 
Quinones is from Puerto Rico and has been involved in environmental activism ever since she can remember. "When I was 6, I used to snorkel in a coral reef here and then it no longer existed when I was 12," she said. She's currently an organizer at the international climate organization 350.org. When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, she witnessed the devastation firsthand. "I saw all of the destruction and how much we depended on imports because when the ports closed for some days we would run out of food," she said. "The streets I walked all my life were unrecognizable. It was scary to see that after each day that passed nothing got better." 


Elsa Mengistu


Panel Sponsor: 


2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 
Location: Damen MPR North and South
Moderator: Thomas Aláan, countertenor and program coordinator for the UIC Energy Initiative

The massive scientific knowledge about climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences generated in recent decades have largely failed to translate into effective policies or cultural change. What role might art play in bridging this gap? How can photography, dance, music, and other artistic forms help audiences comprehend climate change and the necessity of acting to minimize its consequences?  The artists on this panel will present examples of their work and reflect on their aspirations for it.


Kirsten Hedegaard 
Hedegaard has enjoyed a dual career as a singer and conductor.  Currently, Director of Choral Activities at Loyola University, Ms. Hedegaard has taught conducting at Concordia University, River Forest and has conducted choirs and orchestras for various institutions including Eastman House, Chicago Children’s Choir, Gallery 37, Loyola Academy, and the University of California.  She was a guest conductor with Chicago Choral Artists for the 2009-10 season and is the conductor for the Bella Voce Outreach program.  In 2000, she co-founded The Musical Offering, a nonprofit music school in Evanston where she held the position of Executive Director until 2005.  She also holds the position of Director of Music at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington.

Sandra Kaufmann 
Kaufmann is the founding director of the dance program at Loyola University. She teaches Modern I, Modern III, Ballet III, and Ballet IV. Sandra is internationally recognized as a leading authority on classical modern dance technique and repertory with extensive experience as a dancer, director, and educator. Sandra performed throughout the world as a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. While based in New York City, Sandra served on the faculty of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and as Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Ensemble.  Sandra continues to work actively with the Martha Graham Center, teaching in their international summer intensive workshop and serving as a regisseur staging the repertory of Martha Graham throughout the country.  She also performed extensively with renowned choreographers, Pearl Lang and Richard Move.

Meredith Leich
Leich is a painter, animator, and video maker, whose work explores the nature of cities, place-based histories, and climate change. Born and raised in Boston, Leich has made her home in Berlin, Brooklyn, Jaffa, San Francisco, and now Chicago. She is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation, 2017) and also has degrees from Swarthmore College and the San Francisco Art Institute. Her climate change-based collaboration with glaciologist Andrew Malone has won numerous awards. 

Panel Sponsor: 

3:45 p.m.-5:15 p.m. 
Location: Damen MPR North and South
Moderator: Toni Anderson, founder of Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab and the Where I Stand Collaborative Action Initiative 

Chicago youth from communities that have long-suffered racism and oppression are leading climate action in inspiring ways, showing how culture, spirituality, environment, and justice intersect. In this panel, young environmental activists from distinct cultural contexts speak to the impacts of climate change on their communities, the spiritual resources that motivate them to advocate for climate justice, and how they build power towards systemic change for a more just and sustainable world.



London Gillespie
London Gillespie is an environmental activist, track star and disrupter. She’s a sophomore at Kenwood Academy and believes we all have a responsibility to transform our behaviors to make a better world. Gillespie is passionate about environmental preservation and elaborate, creative problem-solving. As an African American young woman, she has lived on the Northside of Chicago for her elementary years, experienced the West Side of Chicago her first year in high school at Westinghouse College Prep, and has recently moved into the South Side community of Hyde Park in August of 2019.


Karizma Blackburn
Karizma Blackburn is an interdisciplinary artist who focuses on activism, poetry, jewelry designing, and peacemaking. Since graduating from Lincoln Park High School in 2018, she has studied Fashion Design at Columbia and Harold Washington College in Chicago. Raised with the heavy influence of both art and activism, her father, Kahil el Zabar, is a world-famous jazz percussionist and performance artist. Her mother, Susan Sandoval, is a prolific activist fighting for indigenous rights and equity. Karizma is no stranger to strong voice and expression. 

Samantha Arechiga
Arechiga is a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council and attends DePaul University. She is Nahua and originally from California and moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University. She spoke at the last major Climate Change Strike and she has traveled to Las Vegas with March for Our Lives to interview presidential candidates.

Xavier Colon
Colon is a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council. Xavier (goes by X) is a Taino artist and motivational speaker. He works with Youth United to Advocate, "a youth organization catering to strengthening & informing youth on social injustice to bridge ideas with action".

Panel Sponsor: 


This year's conference will be plenary style, so all participants will have the chance to enjoy all of our panels.