2020 Summit Leaders Coming Soon

Meet the 2019 Summit Leaders

Focus Group Details

Click the pictures for information on each summit leader.

Marty Pickett is a Managing Director, Trustee, and General Counsel of Rocky Mountain Institute, an entrepreneurial nonprofit “think-and-do tank” that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources. An 18-year veteran at RMI, Marty focuses on the Institute’s advancement in alliances, funding, and governance as well as general strategy and legal counsel. Marty holds a Masters Degree in Community Development and Planning from the College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado, Denver, and a law degree, with an emphasis in environmental law, from the University of Denver. Prior to joining RMI in 1998, Marty practiced land use planning and land use and real estate law in Denver and Aspen Colorado. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College in North Carolina, the international jury of the Dutch Postcode Lottery’s Green Challenge prize, and the People and Planet advisory board of IKEA. 

Executive Director, Center for the Environment

Dr. John E. Wear, Jr., is the Founding Director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College and Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science. During his tenure at Catawba, he assumed responsibility for establishing the college's Environmental Program, coordinating the faculty's creation of four different degrees.

He has committed his energies to environmental initiatives at the local, regional and state level. His leadership has been instrumental in launching a number of sustainability initiatives in the state relating to air and water quality and land conservation.

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Heather White is president and CEO of Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. She oversees the $20-million organization with more than 65 year-round employees and 75 seasonal employees in two offices and 12 Park Stores, more than 50,000 supporters, and an online community of more than 300,000 worldwide.

Heather is a nationally recognized sustainability leader, proven nonprofit executive, and expert on environmental law and policy, with deep roots in environmental education and conservation biology. Heather joined the team in Yellowstone after serving as the executive director of Environmental Working Group, where she guided the organization’s fundraising, advocacy, and outreach strategies, managed four offices, and oversaw the engagement of more than two million online supporters. White previously worked as the director of education advocacy for National Wildlife Federation, the nation’s largest conservation organization, counsel to United States Senator Russell D. Feingold, a litigation associate at Bass, Berry & Sims law firm, and served as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center.

A native of East Tennessee, Heather spent her early years hiking and camping with her family in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She first visited Yellowstone when she was 11 as part of a cross-country national park tour with her dad. When she saw Old Faithful on that trip, she connected with something larger than herself. The whole experience sparked a deep, lifelong commitment to conservation and a keen interest into the connections between public lands, open spaces, wildlife conservation, and our overall well-being. Heather is an avid hiker and backpacker.

Heather has been widely praised for her work, including being named one of the “Top 20 Women Leaders in Sustainability” by Green Building & Design magazine in 2015 and “100 Women to Watch in Wellness” by MindBodyGreen. Heather is often cited in national press outlets on conservation matters, including MSNBC, PBS, CBS, New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post. She serves on the board of directors of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum (now the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument), Maryland League of Conservation Voters, The Center for the Environment at Catawba College, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Erin Brockovich Foundation, and Cookies for Kids Cancer.

Heather received a B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia as an Echols Scholar and a J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law magna cum laude. Early in her academic career, she also studied conservation biology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and comparative natural resources law in Nairobi, Kenya. She lives in Bozeman, Montana with her family.


Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S., Virginia Tech; M.S., Ph.D., Old Dominion University; Post-Doctoral study, Smithsonian Institution Dept. of Botany

Dr. Jay Bolin holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from Old Dominion University and a B.S. degree in Environmental Science – Plant Resources from Virginia Tech. Jay has been a faculty at Catawba College since 2011 and is crazy about plants and plant ecology. Prior to coming to Catawba, he was a fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Botany Department. In addition to interests in our indigenous plants he has botanized  (studied plants) all over the world including South Africa, Namibia, Borneo, Turkey, and Greece.

Summit Focus Group: Invasive Alien Plants and Animals: Friend or Foe to the Environment?

Associate Professor of Biology

B.S., College of William and Mary; Ph.D., Old Dominion University; Post-Doctoral work at the American Type Culture Collection, MR4 Division 

Dr. Carmony Hartwig holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Old Dominion University and has experience in both academic and industrial research. Carmony joined the Catawba faculty in August 2011 and is actively conducting student-involved research on disease vectors in the Catawba Preserve. She loves the opportunity Catawba provides to work closely with her students in the laboratory and in the field.  Prior to coming to Catawba she served as a Senior Authentication Biologist in the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4), where she worked on developing standardized fluorescence-based assays to monitor antimalarial growth inhibition in Plasmodium falciparum  in addition to continuing her dissertation work on artemisinin-class compounds. Her interests and expertise include aspects of molecular biology, parasitology, microbiology, biochemistry and disease vector ecology. 

Summit Focus Group: Environmental Health Investigators

Assistant Professor of GIS and Conservation

GIST Minor Coordinator

B.A., St. Olaf College

M.E.M., Nicholas School of the Environment

Ph.D., University College London

Jacobson is a conservation biologist who uses geographic information systems (GIS) to research the location and distribution of special species and places on planet Earth. Jacobson earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and then attended the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University where he earned his Master’s degree and began a specialization in GIS. Jacobson obtained his PhD from the Geography Department at the University College London, with research focusing on the distribution of large carnivores in East Africa. Before coming to Catawba College, Jacobson worked as a Science and Geospatial Advisor to the National Geographic Society, helping to identify and prioritize protection of wild places throughout the world.

Summit Focus Group: Can Technology Save Biodiversity?

Assistant Professor of Business

Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Experiential Development (CEED)

Ralph W. Ketner School of Business

B.A., Albertus Magnus College; M.A., University of New Haven; Ph.D, Capella University

Dr. Just spent over two decades working in a range of positions for various million- and billion- dollar enterprises. In 2004, she launched a consulting practice that focuses on helping entrepreneurs and small business owners set strategic goals and devise action plans.  Renee believes it is never too late to learn and says, “Life is not based on textbook theories, rather a combination of leadership abilities and life experiences. I strive to help learners understand that one size doesn’t fit all. You must be prepared at all times to be flexible and innovative. I believe we all can learn through asking questions, being a champion for our own goals, and remaining open.”  

She is an Assistant Professor in the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business at Catawba College as well as the Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Experiential Development (CEED) program.  This program was launched three years ago and provides opportunities for students to study the field of entrepreneurship, to attend workshops, and to apply for acceptance in the venture lab in an effort to bring their idea from concept to market!

Renee holds a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Capella University, a Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from University of New Haven, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Albertus Magnus College. In addition to her current academic accomplishments, Renee is pursuing another doctorate (EdD) from Vanderbilt University in Leadership and Learning Organizations and graduates in the Fall of 2020.

She lives in Winston Salem, NC with her rescue dogs Harley (5 ½ years) and Mason (18 months). In her down time, Renee enjoys cooking, entertaining, camping, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.

Summit Focus Group: Play Doh, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and the Environment

Assistant Professor of Visual Art

B.A., M.F.A., East Carolina University

Pierce holds Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from East Carolina University. Pierce studied on site at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida and studied abroad in Italy through Linda Darty’s “Travel through Tuscany” program. Pierce began teaching at Catawba Fall semester of 2010. She encourages an interactive and creative classroom environment. Pierce teaches Painting, Drawing and Intro to Visual Art in the Day Program as well as Intro to Visual Art in the Evening Program. She continues to make, show and sell her own visual artwork.

Summit Focus Group: Explorations in Environmental Art

Assiociate Professor of Biology

B.S., Butler University; Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Prior to coming to Catawba College, Dr. Poston was a Postdoctoral Fellow and Adjunct Instructor at the University of Kentucky. He is a member of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, the North Carolina Academy of Science, and the American Ornithologists’ Union.

Summit Focus Group: A Backbone for Conservation

Lisa Wear is an environmental professional who works with Catawba College, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education, and other agencies and organizations across the state to provide individuals with opportunities to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving and take action for a sustainable environment.

Wear served as science specialist and director of Horizons Unlimited, an environmental education center located in Salisbury, where she enjoyed facilitating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education experiences for teachers, students and the community.  She also served as a curriculum director and grant writer for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.   

She is currently teaching in the Environment and Sustainability Program at Catawba College with a focus on environmental and outdoor education. Wear holds a BA in biology, certifications from Duke University’s Center for Inquiry-Based Learning, and is a N.C. Certified Environmental Educator.  She received her education from UNC-Greensboro and N.C. State University.

Summit focus group: The Butterfly Effect