Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Ph.D., serves as the vice president of education and community programs for the Chicago Botanic Garden. In this role, she oversees the Garden’s adult and children’s education offerings and the urban agriculture, Windy City Harvest, and horticultural therapy programs. Since starting at the Garden in 2005 as the Garden’s education manager, Schwarz Ballard has worked to ensure that in our increasingly urban world, people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds have access to green space and to high quality nature-based education and enrichment programs, both on Garden grounds and in their own communities. She is passionate about environmental justice, the need for engagement and action focused on climate change, and the very judicious use of technology to increase access to nature.
Jennifer Hirsch, Ph.D., is an applied anthropologist specializing in sustainability, cultural diversity, collaborative governance, community development, networks, and experiential education. She is recognized nationally for fostering grassroots participation in sustainability and climate action, using methods from anthropology, popular education, asset-based community development, participatory facilitation, and museum education. Since August 2015, she has been the inaugural director of the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain at the Georgia Institute of Technology, creating a culture of collaboration in which students, faculty, and staff collaborate with community, municipal, and industry partners to build sustainable communities. Dr. Hirsch holds Fellow appointments with The Institute of Cultural Affairs USA and The Field Museum’s Science Action Center, and she serves on the faculty of The Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University.
Jessamine Finch is a Ph.D. candidate in the Plant Biology and Conservation Graduate Program at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. She received her B.A. in biology and landscape studies from Smith College, where she completed an honors thesis on the impacts of climate change on range dynamics of understory plants in the barberry family. Her graduate research focuses on the seed biology and landscape genetics of several species of milkweed, the obligate host plants of the monarch butterfly. Finch participates in various STEM outreach opportunities both locally and nationally, including PlantingScience, US2020, IJAS Science Fair, and the Chicago Botanic Garden’s College First program.