Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute - Register Now
Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute workshop attendees participate in a collaboration skill building exercise on Dec. 9, 2011

The Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute is proposed as a forum for learning for environmental professionals and policy makers to better address complex environmental issues. The Institute will engage representatives from public, private and not-for-profit sector organizations in applied and experiential learning settings. The curriculum will be focused on environmental sustainability, collaborative process skills, and organizational leadership development.


Learn, lead, partner for a sustainable Ohio

What is OELI?

OELI - Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute was first developed in 2011 to give Ohio environmental and natural resource professionals the skills they need to deal with complex and often controversial environmental and natural resource issues through collaborative, integrative, and inclusive planning and decision-making processes.

Based on the latest research in the fields of collaborative resource management, communication, decision science, and negotiation, we’ve identified the critical skills today’s environmental leaders need to work with diverse stakeholder groups, communicate complex ideas, resolve disputes, and integrate scientific information with stakeholder values and concerns.

Each session includes instruction from state and national experts, hands-on application exercises, introduction to practical skills and tools, and open dialogue with environmental professionals from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Design and lead collaborative processes that integrate science and public values;
  • Facilitate constructive, respectful dialogue and decision-making on controversial environmental issues;
  • Communicate effectively on complex and controversial issues;
  • Partner with colleagues and peers across disciplines and sectors to align visions and goals;
  • Build and participate in networks focused on effective environmental leadership in Ohio.

Learn more...

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Program Directors and Speakers

Anne Baird is a Program Director in the School of Environmental and Natural Resources.  She conducts research and educational programs focusing on decision making and environmental management.  Anne offers distance education on climate change, coordinates the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program and Co-directs the Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute.  Most recently Anne has worked on the Know Your Well Water program in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Health.

Joe Bonnell is Program Director for Watershed Management in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.  Joe conducts educational programs and research focusing on collaborative approaches to natural resource management. His programs include the Ohio Watershed Network, Ohio Watershed Academy, Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist. He also teaches environmental and natural resource management and conducts research on behavior change and leadership.


Chester Bowling serves as an OSU Extension Specialist providing leadership for Community Leadership and Management programming in the State of Ohio.  His focus is the development of the capabilities of elected, appointed, and volunteer community leaders throughout Ohio.  He develops and delivers educational programs that are designed to teach program participants leadership. 

During a project, community or organization, leaders get experience in creating a vision, designing a strategic plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the results. His emphasis is on enhancing the organization or community social infrastructure by identifying and building upon community, organizational, and individual assets, strengths and capacities. 

He also works with the 76 community leadership programs in Ohio, creating and delivering leadership educational programs.  These community leadership programs bring together leaders from the public and private sectors, including elected officials, business owners, educators and leaders in the non-profit sector.  The intention is to create a critical mass of leaders within each community who have developed the relationships, knowledge, and vision that enable the community to effectively address its challenges and opportunities. 

Dr. Joseph Fiksel is Executive Director of the Center for Resilience at The Ohio State University, an interdisciplinary research center that is developing a unified approach for modeling risk, resilience, and sustainability in complex systems. As a research faculty member in the Integrated Systems Engineering Department, he collaborates with companies, government agencies, non-profits, and other organizations to develop new methods and tools for understanding the interdependence among social, environmental, and economic interests.

Joseph is also Principal and Co-Founder of the consulting firm Eco-Nomics LLC, and is an internationally recognized expert on sustainable business practices, including product development, materials management, sustainable energy and mobility, and supply chain management. He has over 20 years of management consulting experience, specializing in environmental risk management, product stewardship, design for environment, and performance measurement.

Joseph has served on numerous advisory boards, including the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO 14000 and the advisory boards for sustainable enterprise MBA programs at both University of Michigan and University of North Carolina. He was an officer and founding member of the Society for Risk Analysis, and has testified on health risk analysis issues before Congressional and White House committees. He has published over 70 refereed articles and several books, and is a frequent invited speaker at business and professional conferences. His most recent book, Design for Environment, 2nd Edition: A Guide to Sustainable Product Development, was published by McGraw-Hill in 2009. Joseph holds a bachelor’s degree from M.I.T., a doctorate in Operations Research from

Joe E. Heimlich, Ph.D. is a Professor with Ohio State University Extension, a Specialist in museums and organizational capacity building based at COSI (a large center of Science) and holds appointments in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and the Environmental Science Graduate Program, both at OSU.  He is a Principal Researcher with the Lifelong Learning Group where he works on an array of projects, focusing on informal learning and capacity building for zoos, nature centers, science centers, and other museums. 

For over 30 years, Joe has been engaged in the arena of environmental free-choice learning.  He has worked on research, evaluation, and teaching on topics including solid waste management, water, biodiversity, conservation, energy, sustainability, Public Participation in Scientific Research, and  informal STEM.  Dr. Heimlich’s research has long focused on adult learning in informal environmental settings, and he works with zoos, nature centers, parks, botanical gardens, science centers, museums, and other institutions and governmental agencies to help them improve their efficacy to mission through education of visitors. 

Joe is an award winning educator and researcher, and is the author of nearly a hundred peer-reviewed academic journal articles along with dozens of academic chapters, and books.  He has collaborated on numerous partnerships leading to nationally used teaching resources and handbooks.  Joe conducts project-based studies and evaluations for which he publishes white papers and has written more than 350 popular publications.  Joe is widely known for his methodological work in evaluation of free-choice learning.  As a specialist in Community Development for Extension, Joe has spent years working with organizations and institutions in communities on building capacity.

Maggie Lewis teaches Managerial Negotiations, Leadership and Teamwork and Leadership and Character at the Fisher College of Business and Managing Public Organizations, Collaborative Governance Theory and Practice at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

Lewis specializes in collaborative process and conflict resolution strategies designed to save time, money and maximize joint gains. She has served as a mediator, facilitator, trainer and negotiation coach for public, private and non-profit leaders throughout Ohio. Maggie is a graduate of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and The Ohio State University.

Leah Morgan,Vera Institute of Justice Alumnus,Planning Analyst, Ohio Green Prison Project.

Leah Morgan joined Vera in 2010 to develop the innovative Ohio Green Prison Project, a demonstration project to design and implement green vocational training and reentry programs that benefit incarcerated individuals and reduce the environmental impact and operating costs of prison systems. This work has influenced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections' Three-Year Strategic Sustainability Plan and introduced environmental literacy programs to facilities across the state. Previously, she used her organizational development expertise in West Africa, by establishing and growing the global headquarters of an African software firm and expanding the outreach of a local micro-finance nonprofit. Prior to her work overseas, Leah was a program coordinator for a nonprofit in Washington, DC, working to support social enterprises and socially responsible business start-ups. She also has experience in curriculum development, having designed and taught courses with a focus on corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt University and Trinity Preparatory High School. Leah has a bachelor’s degree in human and organizational development and a Master of Education in organizational leadership from Vanderbilt University.

Courtney Price is the Director of Energy & Environmental Initiatives at The Center of Science and Industry (COSI). She serves as a content advisor in the development of programs and exhibits related to the energy and environment area of focus, and leads the organization's Sustainability Task Force. Courtney facilitates professional development programs focused on engaging, hands-on strategies for communicating complex science concepts to the public. She has twelve years experience in informal education with a focus on conservation and the environment. She holds a bachelors degree in Wildlife Biology from Ohio University and a masters in Zoology from Miami University.

Steve Ricci, Ph.D. is a Research Leader at Battelle Energy Systems Group. Dr. Ricci is a chemical engineer at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH and has been working in energy-related research for 19 years.  His technical background includes fundamental analytical and experimental capabilities in chemistry, water technology, and fluid and thermal analysis.  He has leveraged these capabilities in consulting projects, new technology development, and new business ventures for Battelle in a wide variety of areas, which have included aerospace, gas appliances, medical products, energy supply systems, power transmission, and industrial processes.  His recent focus has included management of programs and technical leadership for strategic energy planning and analysis, new analysis tools for power transmission systems, new water-processing technology, improving the energy efficiency of industrial processes and facilities, reduction of energy consumption and costs through technology substitution, and the development and application of alternative and renewable energy technologies.  He is a technical and business leader for energy-efficient technologies and services as part of the Battelle Alternative Energy Business Line and serves as Chairman of Battelle’s Sustainability Committee.  He has presented research and served on panels at several worldwide energy and sustainability conferences and is a frequent guest lecturer on energy-related topics at U.S. colleges of engineering and business.

Mike Shelton is Manager and has coordinated Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability efforts for The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company since June 6, 2011.  In this capacity, Mike works to establish new external partnerships to help the company accomplish its corporate responsibility goals, and works with an internal team to continuously improve the environmental footprint of the company’s products and operations.  Prior to joining Scotts, Mike served as Chief of the Office of External Affairs for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  During his tenure at the Department, Mike negotiated the enactment of numerous pieces of legislation, including the state’s ratification of the Great Lakes Compact; an historic overhaul of the state’s oil and gas regulatory statutes; and measures to protect Lake Erie’s fishery and Ohio’s game animal species.  For a period of time, Mike’s role at the Department included service in the Office of Governor Ted Strickland as the Executive Assistant for Regulatory Agencies.  While performing these duties in the Governor’s office, Mike provided policy and programmatic guidance to a number of state agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, and Public Utilities Commission.  Before his service with the Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s Office, Mike served as the Assistant Director of Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy’s Ohio Chapter.  Here, Mike led a variety of initiatives to advance the protection and restoration of Ohio’s natural habitat, including the establishment of the Clean Ohio Fund, a $400 million state bond initiative.  Mike served as a Legislative Service Commission Fellow at the Ohio Senate and graduated with a B.A. in sociology from Kenyon College.  He and his wife, Gena, are learning about patience from their three year old daughter, Madeleine.

Leonard Sparks is Master Educator in the Diversity, Inclusion and Partnerships Division at COSI. He attended Lane College (a Historical Black College) in Jackson, Tennessee, where he received a bachelor's degree in History in 1978. He was fortunate to receive a Frank Hale Minority Fellowship at the Ohio State University where he earned his Master's Degree in Political Science with an emphasis on Public Policy. 

Mr. Sparks joined the Education Team at COSI in 1980 and for over 3 decades has inspired thousands of teachers, students and families to explore the fun and rewarding work of science and math.  Pioneering the COSI on Wheels program, producing Educational Television and training museum educators and teachers nationwide, have been his most satisfying accomplishments.  He has worked in many positions during his 34 years at COSI, including five years as the Exhibition Area Director for Space and Traveling Exhibitions, one year as the Director of the Miracle-Gro Capital Scholars After-School Program and four years as the Faculty Leader and Trainer for Atrium and Traveling Exhibits.  Currently he holds the title of Master Educator in the Diversity, Inclusion and Partnerships Division at COSI and is known as “Mr. COSI” by many.

Leslie Strader serves as a liaison and Policy Advisor to Mayor Michael B. Coleman on environmental issues relating to transportation, local food, waste management, and more. Since starting work at the city in 2010, Leslie has played an integral role in bringing programs such as residential recycling, CoGo Bike Share and car2go service to the fruition. She developed GreenSpot Kids as an expansion of the 2008 GreenSpot program and established the Columbus and Franklin County Community Garden Grant Program.

Prior to working for the city, Leslie spent four years with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission educating and engaging the community in the areas of air quality, energy conservation, water quality, sustainable growth, and materials management. 

Leslie received a Master’s of Public Administration from Ohio University and a B.S. from The Ohio State University.  Leslie currently serves as a board member to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center.

Robin Wilson, Associate Professor of Risk Analysis and Decision Science. Robin's research focuses on the individual decision making process under risk and uncertainty.  Specifically, she studies the interplay between experiential and analytic information processing and the influence this has on risk perception and ultimately judgment or choice behavior.  She is also interested in the development of communication efforts and decision support tools that assist individuals in making more informed choices that reflect the fundamental values and objectives of the individual or institution.  She pursues these interests across multiple land and resource management contexts (e.g., forests, wildlife, water), multiple hazards (e.g., fire, agricultural runoff, carnivores), and types of decision makers (e.g., laypeople and experts).