Climate change impacts on public health.

Multi-species coexistence.

Indigenous planning and place knowing in design.

Biodiversity in agriculture.

Race, privilege, class, and art in horticultural history and practice.

Conservation solutions for managed landscapes.

The intersection of Islamic cosmology and ecological design.

Social design and finding meaning in practice.

Equitable infrastructure and the politics of provision.

This range of topics, woven into the Conway School’s visiting speaker series this year, speaks to the cross-scale approach of the curriculum, the interdisciplinary nature of climate change impacts and solutions, and the school’s integrative understanding of ecological design. Though most design schools host visiting speaker series, the variety of professional fields represented by Conway’s series may be particularly unique. Another exceptional characteristic is the intimate character of the presentations: visiting speakers have a focused audience of eighteen students. Speakers have the opportunity to read through the students’ biographies in advance. This interpersonal experience allows for candidness and rich discussion. Speakers feel more comfortable reflecting on their career trajectories and worldviews.

Traditionally, visiting speakers have included practicing designers, planners, academic researchers, historians, ecologists, engineers, and other professionals in western Massachusetts. Over the past five years, the School has intentionally reached out to practitioners beyond this region to capture a broader range of perspectives and professions. Speakers made the trip to the Conway School from Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the program to adapt its curriculum temporarily for online learning. The spring 2020 trimester was held largely virtually. When full time, in-person learning resumed, courses returned to their usual in-person format, with one exception: the visiting speaker series remained a virtual event, held over Zoom. This decision was made in part to accommodate the safety concerns of the speakers, but more so to capture a greater diversity of voices. With time zones as the only limitation, visiting speakers could present from across the country and even internationally. While some of the intimacy of in-person presentations did not translate, online presentations continued to offer opportunities for discussion and connection.

We are grateful for the following presenters, who generously shared their personal histories, perspectives, experiences, and advice with the Class of 2022. 

Fall Term
(Students work on residential and other small-scale site design projects in studio)

Farming on the Wild Side: Growing Perennial Fruit and Vegetables, Biodiversity, and Resilience
Nancy J. Hayden is an ecologist, writer, artist, organic farmer, and author (with her husband John) of Farming on the Wild Side: The Evolution of a Regenerative Organic Farm and Nursery from Chelsea Green Publishing. Her book tells the story of a 29-year project to transform a draft horse–powered, organic vegetable and livestock operation into an agroecological, regenerative, biodiverse, organic fruit farm, fruit nursery, and pollinator sanctuary. Nancy and John have since downsized and relocated in Maine.

Where Water Flows: Success in Stormwater BMP Design
Lauren Wheeler ‘03 is the founder of ecologically-focused landscape design firm
Natural Resources Design based in Washington, D.C. In addition to being a designer, Lauren is an arborist, LEED AP, and Living Building Challenge Ambassador. She has designed award-winning landscapes, from intimate urban gardens to natural play municipal parks. She specializes in developing stormwater management solutions.

Ecological Design in the Islamic World(view)
Mohamad A. Chakaki is a planner, facilitator, writer, and faculty member at the Conway School. Mohamad consults on environment and community development projects in both the US and the Arab Middle East. Mohamad was a co-founder of the DC Green Muslims network and is an instructor at the Conway School and a lecturer within the University of Vermont’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.


Social Design
Bonita Eloise Ford is a permaculture designer and author of Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos. Based in Perth, Ontario, Bonita aims to inspire people, giving them tools for healthier living. She gives courses in permaculture (ecological design), Reiki (energy work), and Nonviolent Communication (cooperative communication), and facilitates community design projects.


Ecological Interactions in a Changing World: Using Informed Plant Selection for Conservation
Dr. Desiree Narango is a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow. Her research questions focus on biodiversity conservation and habitat restoration in the face of global change. She primarily studies plants, insects, and birds with a particular focus on multi-trophic interactions,  habitat-relationships of wildlife with specialized life histories, and mechanistic approaches to applied ecology.

Designing with Native Plants
Seana Cullinan ‘12 is an ecological designer and founder of Larkspur Design in Portland, Maine. Designing and installing gardens combines all of her favorite things—creating beautiful spaces for humans to enjoy while enhancing the ecological health of local ecosystems. She envisions that each garden that the Larkspur team designs will become part of a growing network, providing food, cover, and connectivity for insects, birds, and animals.


Finding My Purpose in Horticulture
Abra Lee is a horticulturist, historian, arborist, writer, founder of the organization Conquer the Soil, and author of Conquer the Soil: Black America and the Untold Stories of Our Country’s Gardeners, Farmers, and Growers. Abra has managed a wide range of high visibility landscapes, from international airports to city parks, and was a Fellow with Longwood Gardens. She demonstrates how horticulture can bring beauty into our lives and facilitate equity, creativity, and community.


Indigenous Design and Planning
Dr. Theodore (Ted) Jojola is distinguished professor and regents’ professor in the community & regional planning program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He has an ongoing cultural consultancy with the Native American Cultural Center, Northern Arizona State University, and Studio Ma Architects. He has conducted workshops on indigenous community planning.



Winter Term

(Students work on planning projects in studio)

Wildlands & Woodlands and the New England Food Vision
Brian Donahue is Associate Professor of American Environmental Studies on the Jack Meyerhoff Fund at Brandeis University, and Senior Conservationist at Highstead.  He teaches courses on environmental history and sustainable farming and forestry. Donahue is co-author of Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape (Harvard Forest, 2010) and A New England Food Vision: Healthy Food for All, Sustainable Farming and Fishing, Thriving Communities (Food Solutions New England, 2014).


Heat Vulnerability, Social Resilience, and Urban Planning
Daphne Lundi is the Deputy Director for Social Resiliency at the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency (NYC). Her work is focused on creating programs that strengthen and prepare NYC communities against climate change impacts. This includes projects aiming to increase awareness of heat-waves and heat risk in vulnerable communities, expanding green infrastructure investments, and identifying building retrofitting strategies for social infrastructure.



Building Communities through Design and Planning
Breyonne Golding ‘16 is a city planner with the City of Minneapolis and founder of Mosaic Design Studio. Breyonne has 13 years of experience consisting of city-wide community engagement, creating vibrant public spaces, public administration, neighborhood transformation, program and project management, housing construction, comprehensive and master planning, and ecological urban design.



Land, People, and Wildlife: Working for Multi-Species Coexistence
Neha Savant is a wildlife ecologist with the Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC) and a facilitator and consultant. She is dedicated to creating the enabling conditions for biodiversity and difference to thrive. She is skilled at partnership building, connecting ideas across disciplines and distilling complex topics to a variety of audiences. Her master’s thesis involved the study of the population genomics of a salamander species in response to a proposed natural gas pipeline. Photo credit: Tenisha Malcolm.


The Intersection of Research and Solving Environmental Issues
April Baptiste is Professor of Environmental Studies and Africana and Latin American Studies at Colgate University. Her research projects have examined the relationship between environmental attitudes and concerns toward oil and gas drilling in Trinidad, the relationship between environmental justice and the siting of aluminum smelters within the same context, and the relationship between climate change, knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors.



Equitable Infrastructure
Tracy A. Corley, Ph.D. is the Director of Research and Partnerships with the Conservation Law Foundation. Tracy identifies areas where research and science can support active advocacy and litigation and coordinates independent research related to climate change and environmental justice. She thrives on bringing people together to tackle the systemic issues that drive conservation and environmental justice.

Landscapes Unrepresented: Visualizing Narratives, Data, and Critiques
Samantha Solano is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at UMass Amherst. She teaches graduate and undergraduate studios and advanced representation courses. She is the founding principal of JUXTOPOS, a co-founder of the Visualizing Equity in Landscape Architecture (VELA) project, and a co-collaborator of the International Landscape Collaborative (ILC). Samantha is a licensed Landscape Architect in the state of Utah.

Stay tuned for our list of spring term speakers!