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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.

Experts - Society, Economy, and Environment

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Dr. Philip B. Bedient is the Herman Brown Professor of Engineering in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University. He teaches and performs research in surface water hydrology and flood prediction systems, and radar based flood alert. He has directed 60 research projects over the past 35 years, has written over 180 articles in journals and conference proceedings. He has worked on hydrologic problems including major floodplain studies, water quality assessments, and hydrologic modeling for a number of watersheds in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. He has been actively involved in the area of hydrologic analysis for flood prediction and warning, and has developed a real-time flood alert system for the Texas Medical Center, based on the use of NEXRAD radar data. Dr. Bedient directs the SSPEED Center at Rice for Severe Storm Prediction, consisting of several universities in the Gulf Coast area, which has funding to address the impacts of Hurricane Ike in the Houston area. Both storm surge prediction, inland flooding, and long-term mitigation strategies are being studied with funding from the Houston Endowment. Dr. Bedient also is evaluating low impact development schemes with funding from the City of Houston.

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Peter H. Brown, a native Houstonian, is the co-founder and Director of BetterHouston, a non-profit civic involvement organization, dedicated to the betterment of our neighborhoods and of the urban environment. He also serves as the Chairman of the Mayor’s International Trade and Development Council; Mayor Annise Parker’s new initiative to bring global talent, jobs and business investment to the city. A Member of Houston City Council (2006-2010) and former candidate for Mayor (2009), he previously directed a nationally-recognized design firm, known for innovative public and private projects in Houston and 22 other American cities. Brown holds a B.A. from the University of Houston, and a B.Arch, M.Arch, and Master of City Planning degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. A proud US Army Veteran, he is a devoted family man with 5 children and 15 grandchildren. He has a strong belief in the transformative and innovative power of cities in the global economy. Mr. Brown has devoted his career to public service, especially to improving the quality and character of the urban environment.

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Robert D. Bullard is Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He is considered the “father of environmental justice.” He was featured in the July 2007 CNN People You Should Know. In 2008, Newsweek named him one of “13 Environmental Leaders of the Century.” In 2010, Planet Harmony named him one of “Ten African American Green Heroes.” Bullard is featured in a new book, Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time (2012). He has written seventeen books.  His most recent books include Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (2003), Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity (2004), The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (2005), Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity (2007), The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century: Race, Power, and the Politics of Place (2007),  Race, Place and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina: Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (2009),  Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States: Strategies for Building Just, Sustainable and Livable Communities ( 2011), and  The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (2012).


Thomas Colbert, AIA, APA, is on the faculty of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston. He is a practicing architect and planner. His interests include research into architecture and the modern city, especially the cultural, technological and environmental forces that shape the built environment and the dialogue between building and place. His recent work has concerned the preparation and evaluation of architectural and land-use planning responses to the threat of extreme weather events impacting the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Working with environmental and coastal scientists, civil and environmental engineers, landscape architects and environmental attorneys at Rice University’s SSPEED Center, his research anticipates fundamental transformations of the upper Texas Gulf Coast and the development of regional architecture and urbanism based on the requirements imposed by severe weather events, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Prof. Colbert holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Princeton University and a graduate degree from Cambridge University. 

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David Crossley is president and founder of Houston Tomorrow, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all the people of the Houston region through research, education, and discussion. Houston Tomorrow’s vision is that, on its 200th birthday in 2036, the Houston region will be home to the healthiest, happiest, most prosperous people in the United States. He has led the Livable Houston/Smart Growth Initiative in the Houston Gulf Coast region since the organization’s founding as the Gulf Coast Institute in 1998. Crossley is co-founder and former Chair of Blueprint Houston, an initiative toward a comprehensive plan for the City of Houston that began in 2001. He served from 1996-2000 as President of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. He serves on several regional boards, including Houston’s Main Street Coalition and Urban Harvest, and is an Honorary AIA-Houston member, and a past board member of APA-Houston. Nationally, he is a board member of Smart Growth America, a member of the steering committee of America 2050, and past chair of the Growth Management Leadership Alliance. He is a team leader for the Networks & Modes task force of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and also is a member of the American Planning Association and the Urban Land Institute.

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Dr. Gavin Dillingham is a Research Scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) and serves as the Director of the Gulf Coast Clean Energy Application Center. Gavin holds a PhD from Rice University in Political Science and a BA from Texas Tech University. While at Rice, his research focused on policy adoption and institutional design with a specific focus in natural resource and land-use policy. As Director of the Clean Energy Application Center, he is responsible for managing the day to day operations of the Center which is tasked by the Department of Energy to promote the development and implementation of combined heat and power in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. In his role as a Research Scientist, he conducts research on renewable energy and energy efficiency policy, as well as carbon credit markets.  Prior to arriving at HARC, Gavin was responsible for the energy efficiency and renewable energy programs at the City of Houston and the Houston Independent School District. In these positions he was responsible for implementing large-scale, energy performance contracting projects, the residential energy efficiency program (REEP), the Green School Challenge behavioral-change program, and several small-scale distributed generation projects at these organizations.
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Dr. Michael O. Emerson is the Allyn & Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. He previously served on the Operating Committee of the Shell Center for Sustainability. Currently he is overseeing the Kinder Institute's Emerging Global Cities Initiative, focusing on the common challenges and opportunities of major cities around the world. As part of this initiative, he will be living and researching in Copenhagen, Denmark next academic year, studying the city's sustainability efforts and successes. 

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Marlene Gafrick is Houston’s top planning and development official. She brings more than 30 years’ experience in land development, including ordinance development, implementation and enforcement, permitting, and coordination with public agencies and special districts. She joined the department 30 years ago as an associate planner. She was named Planning Director by Houston Mayor Bill White on July 7, 2005. She holds a B.S. in Economics in Urban and Regional Planning from Missouri State University. While her position has remained the same, her responsibilities and the processes followed have seen many changes. Instrumental in the creation and implementation of many new and amended ordinances to encourage growth while protecting and preserving neighborhoods, she has adeptly harnessed new technologies to improve workflow and accountability. The Planning Department provides tools and resources to strengthen and increase the long-term viability of neighborhoods; regulates land development in Houston and the extra territorial jurisdiction and reviews; and investigates and promotes land regulation policies for the changing demands to Houston’s growth and quality of life. Current challenges include changing development rules along transit corridors to increase pedestrian and multi-model connections to adjacent neighborhoods and creating rules to allow mixed use/pedestrian districts. She is overseeing the transition to a Regional Enterprise GIS environment that supports the sharing of data, GIS services and resources among city departments, area governments, utilities and related agencies. She also partners with related city departments and outside agencies to increase regional transportation planning including the adoption of a city-wide mobility plan.

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George Greanias
has led the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County since 2010, overseeing a public transit agency with almost 3,400 employees and an annual budget approaching $1.3 billion.  As president and chief executive officer, George has established an ambitious agenda that includes delivering first-class transit services, building great transit infrastructure that includes but is not limited to an expanded METRORail system, and making the Authority a trusted community partner. Before joining METRO, George served as a partner at CLG, a leading behavioral management firm, where he specialized in helping complex organizations develop the behaviors needed to generate sustained long-term success. He served three terms as Houston City Council Member representing District C. He then became Controller for the City of Houston, to which he was elected four times where he had oversight for an operating budget of $1.4 billion and a capital budget of $500 million to $1 billion annually. He was a charter member of Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management where he was Associate Professor creating and leading innovative courses in business, government, policy and politics. George also worked as an attorney, first in Houston and later in New York, specialized in corporate law and government regulation.  He has served on a variety of Houston not-for-profit boards and consulted extensively with Houston nonprofit agencies as well as public sector entities. In all of his activities – whether in the for-profit, not-for-profit or public sectors -- George’s preferred working style is to lead and collaborate with teams – a philosophy he has already implemented at METRO.
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Peter Hartley is the George and Cynthia Mitchell Professor of Economics at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is also a Rice Scholar of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, where he is affiliated with the Energy Studies Program. Peter is also currently a visiting Professor at Large in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Peter has also held visiting positions at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian National University. For 2012, Peter is also the President of the USAEE. Peter grew up in rural New South Wales, Australia. He completed an honors degree in mathematics in 1974, and a Masters Degree in Economics in 1977, at the Australian National University. From 1975-77, he worked for the Priorities Review Staff and the Economic Division of the Prime Minister's Department in the Australian Government. He obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1980. From 1980 to 1986 he was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Princeton University. He moved to Rice University as an Associate Professor of Economics in August 1986 and was promoted to a Full Professor in 1993. He was chair of the Department of Economics at Rice from 2000 to 2005 and Academic Director of the Shell Center for Sustainability at Rice from 2007 to 2010. His research and publications have covered a number of areas of economics, but he has recently focused solely on energy economics and policy. He has also worked for public policy think tanks and as an advisor to governments and private firms on energy, electricity re-structuring, infrastructure development, and environmental issues. 

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Dr. Aston A. Hinds is the Senior Environmental Affairs Manager at the Port of Houston Authority, in Houston, Texas. He was formerly the Vice President, Global Health, Safety and Environment, for Halliburton Company and its predecessor companies, Dresser Industries Inc., and Baroid Corporation.  He was appointed by the AAPA in 2006 to chair its Sustainability Task Force where he coauthored the definition of sustainability, and a set of guiding principles for the port industry, ratified at the 2007 AAPA annual convention. Since then he has developed tools and training materials to help member ports implement sustainability strategies and programs. He is an internationally recognized environmental/sustainability specialist, and a technical advisor to industry, trade associations, as well as federal, state and local governmental agencies. He is the author of over 60 articles covering various environmental subjects and is certified by the Project Management Institute, as a Project Management Professional. Dr. Hinds received his doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and is a graduate of the Rice University Management Program and the Advanced Management Institute.

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Dr. Jim Lester is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Houston Advanced Research Center. He holds a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin and is currently the President of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). He is responsible for development and implementation of projects to make more sustainable our management of water, air and biological resources and for the operations of HARC. From 1975 to 2002, he was a faculty member and administrator in the University of Houston System where he held a variety of administrative positions, including Director of the Environmental Institute of Houston. Jim Lester is currently engaged in projects that analyze compilations of datasets from multiple sources to obtain new insights for watershed or landscape management. He also serves in a leadership capacity for the HARC program on air quality science. Dr. Lester serves in an advisory capacity to a variety of organizations, including Chair of the Monitoring and Research Committee of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, vice chair of the Trinity San Jacinto Basin and Bay Expert Science Team on environmental flows, and on advisory committees for the Texas Sea Grant Program, Texas A&M University College of Geosciences, and the Texas Environmental Research Consortium.

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Carol A. Lewis, Ph.D.
is a Professor in Transportation Studies and Director of the Center for Transportation Training and Research at Texas Southern University. She also conducts operational and policy related transportation research. She has conducted research for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on Regionalizing Public Transit, Smart Growth, Land Use and Development, Strategic Planning, and Land Value Effects of Elevated and Depressed Freeways. Her current research projects with TxDOT are on public involvement and the concept of the Texas megaregion. She has served as principal investigator for Texas Southern University’s designation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a Petrochemical Transportation Security Center of Excellence, a multidisciplinary initiative conducting research to reduce the nation’s vulnerability against potential terrorists’ attacks in selected components of the surface transportation system. Lewis was research supervisor for the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Noise Compatible Land Use Brochure and workshop series. Her research includes corridor feasibility studies for major Houston area freeway corridors, analysis of options to better manage freeway lanes and an assessment of the external influences on transit-oriented development. She is also the principal TSU researcher in the DHS Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure, and Emergency Management Center (DIEM) focusing on evacuation modeling. She serves on regional planning commissions and has been appointed by several Houston Mayors, and the Texas governor, to address vital transportation efforts as an advisor. Lewis holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston in Political Science and M.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of Iowa.
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Brandt Mannchen is Chair of the Forestry Subcommittee and Air Quality Committee of the Houston Regional Group of the Sierra Club. He is also Chair of the Big Thicket Committee and is the Air Quality Issue Chair and Forest Management Issue Chair for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Brandt attended Sam Houston State University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science in 1974. He also attended the University of Houston, Clear Lake and received a Masters of Science degree in Environmental Management in 1985. Brandt worked at the City of Houston for almost 29 years. For almost 26 of those years he worked in the Bureau of Air Quality Control in the Health and Human Services Department as an air quality investigator. Brandt retired from the City of Houston at the end of April 2004 and does volunteer work for the Sierra Club.

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Martin V. Melosi is Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor and director of the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. He received his PhD in History from the University of Texas, Austin.  His research specializations are environmental, urban, and energy history. The author or editor of nineteen books and more than 95 articles and book chapters, Melosi is the recipient of two Fulbright awards and several other national fellowships and grants. He is former president of the American Society for Environmental History, the Urban History Association, the Public Works Historical Society, and the National Council on Public History. His last two books are Precious Commodity: Providing Water for American Cities (2011) and Atomic Age America (2013). He is currently writing An Island Not So Far: Staten Island, New Yorkers, and Fresh Kills. Melosi has been active for many years in litigation support as an expert witness on pollution, waste disposal, and patent cases. 

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Qisheng Pan is a Professor and Chair in the Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University.  Dr. Pan received a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California (USC) in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from USC in 2001. He also held a Master’s degree in Cartography and Remote Sensing and a BS in Geology from Peking University. His research focuses on multiple aspects of urban planning, including transportation planning, economic impact analysis, and the applications of GIS in urban planning. He has received research funding from Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to measure access to public transit services and to examine port-related traffic and emissions. He has also studied the economic impacts of terrorist attacks on Central Business Districts and infrastructures in large metropolitan areas. Dr. Pan has consulted in multiple research projects from National Science Foundation’s Digital Government Program and Department of Homeland Security. 

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Diane Schenke is the President of the Greater East End Management District, and has served in that role since June 1, 2009. She is also a long time East End advocate, the former President and Executive Director of The Park People, the Gulf Coast Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy and the Executive Director of The Grand Parkway Association. Before working for governmental and nonprofit entities, Diane worked as a lawyer for law firms and corporations. Diane brings a variety of experiences to her position as President of the Greater East End Management District. Since Diane moved to the Greater East End Management District, the District is investing over $10 million in grants and other capital funds in the Second Ward and Harrisburg Corridor in pedestrian friendly improvements to compliment the East End Rail Line and real estate improvements. These improvements are grounded in strong community input on the vision for this area through the Livable Centers process.


Laura Solitare is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University. She teaches land use planning and law, environmental planning, environmental values and ethics, and research methods. Solitare's research interests concern the social, economic, and political context of environmental decision-making and land use planning, with a focus on sustainable development and environmental justice. She is an expert in the fields of brownfields redevelopment and public participation in environmental decision-making. Her research appears in several leading journals in the fields of urban planning, urban studies, and environmental management. Recently, as PI, she completed one of the first Health Impact Assessments in Texas. 


Dr. Matthew Tejada grew up in Fort Worth and Arlington before attending UT Austin where he earned a BA in English. After two years service in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria as a high school English teacher, he earned his Master’s in Russian and East European Area Studies and then his doctorate in Modern History at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Both dissertations for his degrees focused in large part on energy, the environment, environmental policy and development of civil society, which is the best explanation for how he wound up running Air Alliance Houston, Houston’s leading health and clean air advocacy non-profit.

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Fred Welch
has been involved in economic development in the Houston region for over 17 years. He joined the Greater Houston Partnership in May of 2010 as Vice President for Economic Development.   Fred is well respected both nationally and locally in various Economic Development circles having served most recently as Vice President, Marketing and Recruitment for the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce.  For seven years Fred served as the Executive Director, Pearland Economic Development Corporation. He formerly was Executive Director of the Brazoria County Partnership and the La Marque EDC.  Fred is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) through the International Economic Development Council and a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council. Welch, serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Economic Development Council. He and his family reside in the Dickinson, Texas area just south of downtown Houston. Fred is a Midwest native who has lived and worked in the Houston region since 1980. He earned a B.B.A. from Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill. and an M.B.A. from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.

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