Steen Family Symposium for Environmental Issues

Collaboration, Trust, and Stewardship

Monday April 22, 2024

What does it require to be in partnership to build communities and systems for a more healthy and just environment? 

The 2024 Steen Family Symposium invites us to consider this question through the lens of collaboration, trust, and stewardship.  The day will be filled with dialogue, a community dinner, and will end recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Boldt Decision and the 170th anniversary of the Medicine Creek Treaty, with a panel discussion focused on collaboration, trust, and stewardship of resources after the Boldt Decision.  The 2024 Steen Family Symposium will offer a continued conversation for those who attend the Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture, and a launching point for PLU’s Earth & Diversity Week.  

The poster and digital art for the 2024 Steen Family Symposium was created by Caden Ankrom (PLU ’26). Caden shared, “When conceptualizing the artwork for this event, my goal was to accentuate the significance of salmon, while also encapsulating community and collaboration—central themes that resonate with the event’s overarching narrative.”


DJS Lounge Check In: Exploring Trust

1:45PM, DJS Lounge (AUC 140)

Check in with your community. Check in with your DJS learning and engagement.  At this DJS Lounge Check In we will explore our individual relationships with trust.  Lead by the DJS Assistants and special guest James Innocent, M.A., LMHCA

This session will also be hosted on Tuesday 4/23 at noon & 1:45PM.

Radical Relationships: How The Health of People & Our Environments Intersect

4:00PM, DJS Lounge (AUC 140) 

Join us for a conversation with Loni Greninger, Vice Chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council and PLU alumna exploring an Indigenous perspective of the  interconnectedness of people and our environments, particularly through her current work with salmon.  Hosted by Lea Figueroa (PLU ’24).

Salmon Dinner

5:00PM – 7:00PM, The Commons

Join us at this community salmon dinner to celebrate, enjoy, and learn more about interconnected relationships we have with salmon in the Pacific Northwest. 

The Salmon Dinner is $20 or with an AYCTE meal plan. 

Non-seafood, gluten free, and vegan options also available.

Collaboration, Trust, and Stewardship After the Boldt Decision

7:00PM, Scandinavian Cultural Center

What does it mean to be a trustworthy collaborator?  During this keynote panel, we will listen to relationships that developed out of the Boldt Decision and how they have worked to be co-stewards for salmon. 


  • Fred Dillon, Councilman, Puyallup Tribe of Indians
  • Willie Frank III, Chairman, Nisqually Indian Tribe
  • Jason S. Spadaro, Executive Director, Washington Forest Protection Association
  • J.T. Wilcox, Washington State Representative 2nd District
  • Loni Greninger, PLU Alumna and Vice Chair, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council (moderator)


Established in 2022 through a gift from David and Lorilie Steen, the Steen Family Symposium brings informed speakers who challenge current thinking and propose healthy change to the PLU campus for the purpose of contributing to educate for “lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care — for other people, for their communities and for the Earth.” The symposium reflects the PLU Environmental Studies Program’s commitment to thinking about environmental issues from intersectional perspectives that bring into focus the connection between the health of the environment and the health of people and their communities.

Additionally, the Steen Family Symposium serves as an anchor program of Earth & Diversity Week and inspiration for its annual week long theme.


2023 Steen Family Symposium for Environmental Issues Speaker

Eileen V. Quigley and a staff member from the Clean Energy Transition Institute (CETI)

Eileen V. Quigley is Founder and Executive Director of the Clean Energy Transition Institute, which works to accelerate an equitable clean energy transition in the Northwest. Eileen spent seven years at Climate Solutions identifying the transition pathways off fossil fuel to a low-carbon future in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. She built and led the New Energy Cities program, which partnered with 22 Northwest cities and counties to reduce carbon emissions. In this presentation, Ms. Quigley will present the Clean Energy Transition Institute’s findings from their ground-breaking research regarding rural and tribal community decarbonization.

Eileen V. Quigley
Eileen V. Quigley

2023 Earth Day Speaker

Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land

“I am a child of the American West, a landscape so rich and wide that my culture trembles with terror before its power.” So begins Taylor Brorby’s Boys and Oil, a haunting, bracingly honest memoir about growing up gay amidst the harshness of rural North Dakota, “a place where there is no safety in a ravaged landscape of mining and fracking.”

In visceral prose, Brorby recounts his upbringing in the coalfields; his adolescent infatuation with books; and how he felt intrinsically different from other boys. Now an environmentalist, Brorby uses the destruction of large swathes of the West as a metaphor for the terror he experienced as a youth. From an assault outside a bar in an oil boom town to a furtive romance, and from his awakening as an activist to his arrest at the Dakota Access Pipeline, Boys and Oil provides a startling portrait of an America that persists despite well-intentioned legal protections.

Taylor Brorby
Taylor Brorby

Taylor Brorby is the author of Boys and Oil: Growing up gay in a fractured land (2022), Crude: Poems, Coming Alive: Action and Civil Disobedience (2017), and co-editor of Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America (2016). The Earth Day lecture draws on his most recent work, a protest memoir where Brorby bridges daydreams and nightmares: the gentle stirrings of the prairie and the violence of the oil and gas industry. Through the lens of his experience as a gay man growing up on fractured land, he explores how character and identity are shaped by the landscapes that raise us.

2022 Earth Day Speaker

Beyond Climate Doom:
Navigating Grief and Anxiety in the Age of Crisis

As our climate crisis deepens, feelings of anxiety, grief, and hopelessness are on the rise. Staying engaged in climate solutions over the long term requires us to avoid emotional burnout; yet when bombarded with so much bad news – mass extinction, dying oceans, displaced communities and burning forests – this is easier said than done. This talk explores the mental health dimensions of climate disruption among students, scientists, activists, and frontline communities, and shares practical strategies for building the emotional resilience to channel despair into meaningful action.

Dr. Jennifer Atkinson
Dr. Jennifer Atkinson

Dr. Jennifer Atkinson is an Associate Professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her seminars on Eco-Grief & Climate Anxiety have been featured in the New York TimesWashington Post Magazine, the Los Angeles TimesNBC News, the Seattle TimesGrist, the Washington PostKUOW and many other outlets. She leads public seminars on climate and mental health in partnership with youth activists, psychologists, climate scientists and policy makers. Her podcast “Facing It” also gives people tools to channel eco-anxiety into action.

2021 Earth Day Speaker

Seattle’s Beacon Hill is a BIPOC immigrant and refugee majority community with aircraft, road, air, and noise pollution. Maria Batayola will speak about El Centro De La Raza’s and Beacon Hill Council’s organizing journey for their beloved community, the multicultural/lingual challenges, the tensions between Environmental Justice and science, the multi-layered laws, and the immediacy of climate change.

Maria Batayola
Maria Batayola

Maria Batayola is a writer and long time community equity and inclusion activist. A 1.5 Filipino immigrant, she led diversity, inclusion and equity programs for Metro and King County government for thirty years. She co-founded the anti-domestic violence/human trafficking Asian Pacific Islander Women & Safety Center, the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, the Theatrical Ensemble of Asians and Kultura Arts. She currently serves as Environmental Justice Coordinator for El Centro De La Raza and chairs the Seattle Beacon Hill Council. She owns Jump Start, an organizational and community development consulting service.

2020 Earth Day Speaker

Sen. Saldaña grew up in the Delridge neighborhood of Seattle and has lived and worked primarily in Seattle and Oregon. She has expertise in a variety of areas including worker and immigrant advocacy, transit equity, women’s rights, social and racial justice, civic engagement, affordable housing and sustainable community development. Sen. Saldaña most recently served as the Executive Director for Puget Sound Sage – a nonprofit that promotes affordable and equitable housing and transportation policies, environmental justice and workers’ rights.

Senator Rebecca Saldaña
Senator Rebecca Saldaña

In that role, she helped secure $16 million in city funding for Equitable Development Initiatives in the 37th Legislative District, a future Graham Street Light Rail Station and transportation equity wins, including a low-income transit fare program. She is vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and also sits on the Labor & Commerce Committee and the State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Humanities from Seattle University, and lives in Rainier Beach/Skyway with her husband and two youngest children.

Although Sen. Saldaña couldn’t join us on campus, take a look at this video to learn more about who she is and the work she’s committed to.

2019 Earth Day Speaker

Matthew Vitz is Associate Professor of Latin American history at the University of California, San Diego where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Latin American and Mexican history as well as environmental history. He previously taught at Dartmouth College and was a postdoctoral fellow at Mexico’s National University (UNAM). His research on the urban and environmental history of Mexico has appeared in numerous journals. His book, A City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City, was published by Duke University Press in 2018. His talk was titled: “What Environmental History Can Teach Us: Lessons for Building a Just and Sustainable Future.”

Matthew Vitz
Dr. Matthew Vitz

2018 Earth Day Speaker

Roger Fernandes is a Native American artist, storyteller, and educator whose work focuses on the Puget Salish tribal cultures of the western Washington region. He is an enrolled member of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe and has a degree in Native American Studies from The Evergreen State College and a Master’s Degree in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University.

He works in the fields of arts, education, and social work. All of these systems are essentially communications-focused and he weaves together elements of all three to create a unique perspective relative to teaching and learning.

Roger Fernandes
Roger Fernandes

2017 Earth Day Speaker

Amanda McCarty (PLU Biology ’04) is an environmental scientist and policy maker with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Her talk is entitled “Connecting Science and Policy: One Lute’s Journey from Biologist to Climate Negotiator.”

Amanda McCarty
Amanda McCarty

During her tenure at NOAA, Amanda has contributed to efforts to coordinate and advance the development and delivery of climate services, advanced President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and provided leadership to international climate adaptation programs. The highlight was representing the United States for 7 years as a negotiator to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which allowed her to contribute to the historic Paris Agreement to address global climate change. Amanda is currently serving as both the Assistant Director for Partnerships and the Acting Deputy Director for NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, which produces and delivers science that serves America’s coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems.

2016 – Associate Professor and the Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, Alexandria (Alex) Wilson delivered her lecture “Indigenous Sovereignty: Bodies, Water, Land, Sky, and Scholarship.”

2015 – Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky, Carolyn Finney delivered her lecture “This Patch of Soil: Race, Nature, and Stories of Future Belonging.”

2014 – Former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire spoke on her record of environmental stewardship.

2013 – Dr. Michael E. Smith, Professor of Anthropology at Arizona State University

“When Small Was Beautiful: The Ancient History of Resilient Practices”

2012 – Dr. Michael Pavel, Professor of Native American Studies in the Department of Education Studies at the University of Oregon

“Connecting to Everything on Earth: Its Land, Water, and Peoples (Plant, Animal, and Human”

2011 – Greg Nickels, Former Mayor of Seattle and U.S. Public Delegate to the United Nations

“All Politics is Local: Even Global Warming”

2010 – Dr. David Montgomery, Professor of Earth & Space Sciences at the University of Washington

“Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations”

2009 – Dr. Coll Thrush, Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver

“The Environmental History of Not-Seeing: Indigenous Landscapes and the Re-Imagining of Cascadia”