Leadership Staff

Lauren Jackman


Speaker Lead

Lauren is the Speaker Lead for the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE).  Lauren has a television production background, including interning at MTV, working as a White House and Special Events Producer for a 24-hour cable news network, and managing television shoots for international news crews for the U.S. Department of State.  She’s happy to put her experience in the field to use by booking the best speakers for WYSE and the incoming National Youth Delegates.  She earned a degree in print journalism from American University and has worked on several environmental news series, including NASA’s work with climate change and best farming practices for a healthier planet.

Counselor Leadership Staff

Rachel Cleaver, MPA


Student Support
Senior Associate Director, K-12 Partnerships

Rachel is the Senior Associate Director of K-12 Partnerships in the Office of Admissions.  In this role, she creates and oversees partnerships that help bring more students to the Mason campus.  She works with many departments and organizations across the campus as well as the community as a whole to talk about the great things happening at George Mason as well as College Access and Success overall.  Rachel oversees bringing groups of students of all ages to campus and you will often see her corralling large groups of middle school students around campus. Rachel provides general support to the Washington Scholars Program. Prior to coming to George Mason, Rachel has extensive experience leading the programmatic efforts at two college access and success programs on the East Coast, Let’s Get Ready and The Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund. She has extensive experience in curriculum design and program management and in helping under-served high school students achieve their college dreams.  She earned BS degrees in Elementary Education and Human/Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University and a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves living in Washington, DC and looks forward to welcoming you here this summer!

Leadership Staff

Elena Johnson, M.Ed.


Director, Washington Scholars Program

Elena is the Director of the Washington Scholars Program (WSP) which includes the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) and the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE).  As the director, she works to create fulfilling conference experiences by developing curriculum for the programs, as well as recruiting professional faculty and nationally recognized speakers in the fields of journalism and the media and environmental science.  Under her leadership the programs have tripled in size and furthered their reach through key partnerships. Elena also manages several key partnerships for the Office of Admissions that focus on dual enrollment programming and college access initiatives. Prior to working in the Office of Admissions, Elena worked as a College and Career Specialist helping high school students explore their educational and career goals and choices. Elena earned a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and her Masters in Education from George Mason University.

Leadership Staff

Richard Friesner, Ph.D.


Program Director, Washington Youth Summit on the Environment

Dr. Friesner is the Director of the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment.  Richard develops the summit’s curriculum, identifies and recruits exceptional faculty and nationally recognized speakers in a variety of environmental disciplines and specialties, and coordinates with a fabulous group of staff in the Office of Admissions to make the summit an unparalleled experience for the student delegates attending. Richard earned a BS in Environmental Studies/Chemistry, a MS in Environmental Engineering & Science at the University of Kansas, and a PhD in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. Prior to working with WYSE Richard was affiliated with the US Geological Survey (USGS) and as an environmental consultant for a nationwide engineering consulting firm. Richard also has extensive experience with student leadership experiences both at the University of Kansas and with the Boy Scouts of America.


Dr. Dann Sklarew


Associate Director, Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center

Dr. Sklarew has researched and developed numerous methods to assist environmental policy, management and compliance. For EPA’s Office of Water, he identified and characterized watershed management tools, and created a Web-based decision support system to help companies comply with industry- specific federal water pollution permitting rules. As a Smithsonian Fellow, he developed a nitrogen budget for the semi-rural Rhode River basin (MD), validating demographic and agricultural census data through local interviews with residents, farmers and even the town veterinarian.

Dr. Sklarew has investigated various ways to help diverse partnerships address common ecological problems. He documented global challenges and successes in managing coastal and marine resources as producer and scriptwriter for a video documentary, Turning the Tide: Sustaining Earth’s Large Marine Ecosystems.


Lois Marie Gibbs

Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ)

In the spring of 1978, a 27 year-old housewife named Lois Gibbs discovered that her child was attending an elementary school built on top of a 20,000 ton, toxic-chemical dump in Niagara Falls, New York.  Out of desperation, she organized her neighbors into the Love Canal Homeowners Association and struggled more than 2 years for relocation.  Opposing the group’s efforts, though, were the chemical manufacturer, Occidental Petroleum, local, state and federal government officials who insisted that the leaking toxic chemicals, including dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to man, was not the cause of high rates of birth defects, miscarriages, cancers and other health problems.  Finally, in October 1980, President Jimmy Carter delivered an Emergency Declaration, which moved 900 families from this hazardous area and signified the victory of this grassroots movement.
Once families were relocated from Love Canal, Lois’s life was changed forever.  During the crisis, she received numerous calls from people across the country who were experiencing similar problems.  This revealed to her that the problem of toxic waste went far beyond her own backyard.  She became determined to support these grassroots efforts.  In 1981, Lois created the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, (CHEJ) (formerly Citizens Clearinghouse For Hazardous Wastes), an organization that has assisted over 12,000 grassroots groups with organizing, technical, and general information nationwide.  Today, Lois serves as Lead Trainer of the Leadership Academy of CHEJ and speaks with communities nationwide and internationally about dioxin and hazardous waste pollution.  As the author of Love Canal and the Birth of the Environmental Health Movement, published in November 2010, Lois discusses how Love Canal  became synonymous with the struggle for environmental health and justice.  This is Lois’ first person account of the landmark case, now updated with insights gained over three decades. Also, she authored Achieving the Impossible, 2008, Stories of Courage, Caring and Community where she illustrates how ordinary people are creating extraordinary changes in their communities.  The stories in this book illustrate how people have stepped forward and come together to meet the challenges facing their families and communities, as well as celebrating people’s willingness to engage in our democratic system of government.  Lois along with a network of grassroots groups initiated the Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign and published Dying from Dioxin in 1995, to support local groups with the goal of eliminating the sources of dioxin exposure, a chemical she feared most at Love Canal.
Lois has been recognized extensively for her critical role in the grassroots environmental justice movement.  She has spoken at numerous conferences and has been featured in hundreds of newspaper articles, magazine, and textbooks.  Lois has appeared on many television and radio shows including 60 Minutes, 20/20, Oprah Winfrey, Good Morning America, The Morning Show and the Today Show.  CBS produced a 2 hour prime-time movie about Lois’s life entitled “Lois Gibbs:  The Love Canal Story” staring Marsha Mason, and the 2012 Documentary “A Fierce Green Fire” which premiered at the Sundance Film.


Forrest Pritchard

Farmer and Writer, Smith Meadows Farm

Forrest Pritchard is a seventh generation farmer and New York Times bestselling author, holding degrees in English and Geology from the College of William & Mary. Upon returning from college in the mid 90s, he took over his grandparents’ farm ?primarily growing GMO corn and soybeans? hoping to make the land profitable for the first time in decades. On harvest day, when five tractor-trailer loads of grain reaped a meager paycheck of $18.16, he realized his family’s farm must radically change course. The following season, he devoted himself to farming organically and sustainably, raising free-range cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens.

Twenty years later, his farm Smith Meadows is one of the oldest “grass finished” farms in the country, and sells at leading farmers’ markets in Washington DC. Chronicling his farming adventures, Forrest’s book Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm was named a top read by Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post and NPR’s The Splendid Table, and made the New York Times Bestseller list.

Forrest’s new book, Growing Tomorrow, goes behind the scenes with 18 extraordinary sustainable farmers from across the country, an inspiring farm-to-table journey in story, photos and recipes.


Gina McCarthy

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Gina McCarthy is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Appointed by President Obama in 2009 as Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Gina McCarthy has been a leading advocate for common-sense strategies to protect public health and the environment. Previously, McCarthy served as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. During her career, which spans over 30 years, she has worked at both the state and local levels on critical environmental issues and helped coordinate policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment.

McCarthy received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University.

When she is not in D.C., McCarthy lives in the Greater Boston area with her husband and dog, just a short bike ride away from their three children, Daniel, Maggie, and Julie.


Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, George Mason University

The research of Dr. Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers revolves around international biodiversity governance. Her research is theoretically embedded in the political and policy sciences, while focusing especially on the relationships between different (public and private) international policies, and questions of policy performance. Empirically, current research themes include partnerships, certification, tourism & conservation, and REDD+. An important part of her research is inter- and transdisciplinary, in collaboration, among others, with colleagues from the natural sciences and conservation organizations. Dr. Visseren-Hamakers is affiliated with the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy group at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and reports on international environmental negotiations for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).


Dr. Lee Talbot

Professor- Conservation Biology and Environmental Policy and Social Sciences

Dr. Talbot is an ecologist and geographer, specialist in international environmental affairs, ecology, environmental policies and institutions, conservation biology and natural resource management, with over 50 years of professional environmental experience, approximately half spent working on environmental issues in 130 countries outside the U.S. When not at GMU he is president of Lee Talbot Associates International, advisors on environment and development; and a Senior Environmental Consultant or Advisor to the World Bank, the Asian and Inter-American Development Banks, U.N. bodies, governments and universities. Formerly Director-General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), he also held the position of environmental advisor to three U.S. Presidents, and was head of environmental sciences at the Smithsonian Institution.
He has served on over 20 committees and panels of the National Academy of Sciences. Author of over 285 scientific, technical and popular publications including 17 books and monographs, with some translations in nine foreign languages, he has received national and international awards and recognition for his scientific accomplishments, environmental work, popular and scientific writing, and documentary film.