James Gignac, ’01
2009 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
“New Energy for America: From ‘Liberal Arts at Work’ to Moving Beyond
Wednesday, April 22, 2009; 7:30 p.m.
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
James Gignac currently serves as Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Based in Chicago, Gignac helps coordinate and manage the campaign’s legal, organizing, and communications activities across a fourteen-state region. His principal focus is on supporting the campaign’s goal to eliminate one-third of the nation’s global warming emissions that come from the use of coal to generate energy by opposing new coal plant proposals, accelerating the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants, and driving investment away from coal and into clean energy solutions like energy efficiency, solar power, and wind power. Gignac’s day-to-day work consists of a varied and interesting mix of strategic planning, legal coordination, messaging, organizing, and policy advocacy designed to help move America beyond coal and into the clean energy economy of the future.
After graduating from Albion with majors in history and political science, Gignac earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 2004. While in law school, Gignac served as executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was elected president of the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and received a Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. After leaving Harvard, he spent a year serving as a judicial law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court. Gignac then returned to the Midwest and worked as an associate in the environmental practice group with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago. He joined the Sierra Club in his current capacity in June 2008.
This will be Gignac’s second presentation at an Elkin R. Isaac Symposium. As an Albion College senior in spring 2001, he presented his thesis entitled “Citizen Environmental Activism: Three Case Studies in the Albion, Michigan Area.” The thesis consisted of an analysis of three different opportunities Gignac had during his time at Albion to work with and study citizen involvement in environmental issues as a member of the Environmental Institute’s interdisciplinary Rice Creek Project and Professor Wesley Dick’s Environmental History course. Gignac received a Jenkins Award for his thesis work and was also named the outstanding graduate in both American history and political science in 2001. In his current role with the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, Gignac continues to work with and for volunteer activists seeking to protect their local environment and address the critical challenge of climate change.
The Institute for the Study of the Environment is a co-sponsor of this lecture.
Jim Beck, ’97
2008 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Program Analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE)
“From Albion to Africa and Back Again: Reflections on Alternative Careers in Science”
Wednesday, April 23, 2008; 7:30 p.m.
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Jim Beck is currently a program analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE) in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He plays a technical support role or two high-level advisory bodies (NOAA’s Science Advisory Board and Research Council) that guide NOAA on research matters concerning climate modeling, weather forecasting, ecosystem management, ocean and coastal resource management, and related issues.
Over the last 10 years, Beck has focused on international natural resource management issues in Africa with a variety of leading science-based environmental organizations, initiatives, and government agencies. From 2003 to 2007, Beck worked on land-use planning and ecosystem management projects in central Africa, first for Global Forest Watch at the World Resources Institute (Washington, D.C.) and later for the Wildlife Conservation Society (Republic of Congo). He also worked at Cornell University, where he was a research assistant on a socio-economic study related to park management in Gabon for the World Wildlife Fund.
Following his graduation from Albion, Beck served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon for two years, assisting with a rural aquaculture development project, and then spent a third year with the Peace Corps as a researcher collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and the Gabonese Ministry of Forest and Water. He has also taught at the University of Maryland.
Beck’s career experiences also include management of “think tank” programs seeking to strategically influence environmental policy and practice, multi-stakeholder coalition building, and grassroots rural development.
He received a B.A. from Albion College, with a biology major and environmental science concentration, and a master’s in sustainable development and conservation biology from the University of Maryland at College Park. While an undergraduate, he had a special interest in marine biology, and conducted research with Albion biologist Jeffrey Carrier and at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C. He participated in the Isaac Symposium in 1997 with a presentation on “Male Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) Movement in Relation to Mating Activities.”
2013 Student Presentations
Click here to download the 2013 schedule
Eileen Hebets, ’94
2007 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Assistant Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
“Exploring life on eight legs: The journey from Albion to Arachnophilia”
Wednesday, April 25, 2007; 7:30 p.m.
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Eileen Hebets is currently assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches zoology and behavioral ecology. From 2003 to 2005, she held appointments at the University of California, Berkeley as assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management/Division of Insect Biology, curator of the Essig Museum, and member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. She held a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral research fellowship in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University in 2002-03.
A specialist in the evolution of animal communication systems, Hebets is currently focusing her research on the development of complex signaling systems in various spider species. Supported by a Searle Scholars Program Fellowship and a National Science Foundation CAREER grant, her work includes both field-based experiments and observations and an array of laboratory techniques and methods drawn from molecular biology and neurophysiology. Hebets' field research has taken her to caves in Puerto Rico, rain forests in Costa Rica, and the sky islands in Arizona.
Her findings have been covered by national and international news organizations including The New York Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, BBC Online, CNN, ABC News, and National Public Radio. She also served as a consultant for the movie Spiderman (2002). Hebets' scholarly publications include articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Journal of Experimental Biology, Animal Behaviour, Behavioral Ecology, and the Journal of Insect Physiology, among others.
After graduating from Albion College in 1994, Hebets went on to earn a master's in biology at the University of Cincinnati (1996), and then a master's (1998) and Ph.D. (2002) in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona.
This year's lecture marks the first time in the history of the Isaac Symposium that our Alumni Lecturer also participated in the symposium as an undergraduate. In 1994, Hebets gave a presentation entitled, "Habitat and Courtship Behavior of the Wolf Spider Schizocosa retrorsa." Named the outstanding senior biology major that year, she also received the Edmund and Kathleen Jenkins Research Award from Albion.