Reunion 2020 Alumni Award Recipients

Susan Shen

Susan Shen — ’80 MFS

Distinguished Alumni Award

When Shen began working for the World Bank as a consultant, one of her first assignments was assessing a potential environmental management fund in Bhutan, affording her a rare glimpse of the country’s mountainous beauty and exotic wildlife.

That project was just one in a long line Shen has overseen across Asia, focused on the nexus between the environment, inclusion, and social and rural development. In China, she led long-term engagement in the forestry sector which introduced many innovative practices that were adopted by the government, including work with the China-World Bank-GEF Nature Reserve Management Project for panda conservation.

Shen is now a senior project manager who hopes to train the next generation of environmentally-conscious leaders. “I teach them conservation is more than just protecting trees, for example,” she says. “You need to be able to work with people,
for people.”

Molly Harris Olson

Molly Harriss Olson — ’85 MES

Distinguished Alumni Award

When Olson attended YSE, it was virtually unheard of to study economics as part of one’s environmental education, as she had done as an undergrad at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Today, it’s more common to measure the actual value of ecosystem services using reliable data to design a better global economic system that doesn’t rely on waste production or worker exploitation for growth.

In her current role as CEO of Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand, Olson recognizes the necessity of overhauling the structures that underpin commerce. For example, Olson sees a silver lining to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to align our economic investments in the recovery with our sustainable development goals,” says Olson. “We can invest in the things that will help us achieve those targets in measurable ways. It has the potential to be the kind of transformation that the world really needs.” Read more: Ahead of Her Time

Jean Thompson Black

Jean Thomson Black — ’75 MFS

Distinguished Service Award

To some, publishing is referred to as an “accidental profession,” with no defined one path to enter the field. For Black, a broad science background and some old-fashioned pluck did the trick.

In the decades since entering the field, Black has cemented her status as a preeminent publisher in the sciences, becoming the first full-time science editor at Yale University Press in 1990 and working up to her current role as senior executive editor in 2014. The publishing program in science, medicine and environmental issues she helped establish has published books from some of the biggest names in the sciences, including Nobel Laureates and winners of the Tyler Prize and Blue Planet Prize.

“This work is very invigorating — always something new and exciting, an interesting new author to publish or a new idea to help bring to fruition,” Black says. Read more: Success in an Accidental Profession

Hugh Brown

Hugh Brown — ’10 MF

Prospect Street Award

As an undergraduate in Ghana, Brown had his sights set on working for the country’s Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, he was assigned to the country’s Forestry Commission.

After a few months, he was hooked. “I was attracted by the magnificence and beauty of the tropical rainforest, and I knew I wanted to be a forester,” he says.

Brown is now the director of operations for Ghana’s Forestry Commission, overseeing commercial forest plantation development and landscape restoration across the country. Currently, about 450,000 hectares are being rehabilitated under his guidance, which will help to meet major global and continental conservation goals.

The work has its challenges and designing effective solutions to those challenges calls for engagement with multiple stakeholders — including politicians and others with diverse interests and levels of influence.

 “Landscape restoration is a team sport,” Brown notes.
PUBLISHED: December 17, 2020
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.