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ESF Celebrates December Commencement

Journalist Frank Sesno, three alumni to be honored during ceremony
12/7/2017

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The College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will award 174 degrees, including 40 master's degrees and 12 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, during the 2017 December Commencement 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at Hendricks Chapel.

The graduates' accomplishments were celebrated this week with the traditional champagne toast sponsored by the ESF Alumni Association.

During Commencement the President's Medal will be presented to Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. This honor is awarded at the discretion of the ESF president and recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to science, humanity and the natural world.

Three ESF alumni will also be honored during commencement. Graduate of Distinction Awards will be bestowed upon Thomas Balsley '68, Dr. Thomas Moorman '91 and Dr. Isabel A. Munck '02.

As director of George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, Sesno leads a group of nearly two dozen world-class faculty who research and teach journalism, political communication and the impact of digital media in international affairs.

Sesno is an internationally recognized journalist with more than 30 years of experience reporting from around the world. He joined CNN in 1984 and for seven years was White House correspondent, after which he moved to the anchor chair. From 1996 through 2001, he served as the Washington bureau chief and senior vice president. In this capacity, he oversaw the bureau's editorial direction and supervised the network's largest newsgathering operation-including its White House, congressional, and Pentagon coverage, and its political reporting. For seven years, he hostedLate Edition with Frank Sesno, CNN's flagship weekend interview program.

He has interviewed five U.S. presidents as well as numerous Nobel prize-winning scientists, renowned economists, Hollywood celebrities, CEOs, best-selling authors and leaders including Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite.

Sesno graduated cum laude with a B.A. in American history from Middlebury College. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1995 by the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and honorary doctorates by his alma mater, Middlebury, in 2009 and Eckerd College in 2017.

Balsley will be honored with the Graduate of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award.

For 40 years, Balsley has been on the leading edge of landscape architecture. Best known for his creative fusion of landscape and urbanism in public parks, waterfronts and plazas throughout the U.S. and abroad, he has won more than 80 national awards and earned the 2015 National ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architecture) Design Medal. His more than 100 New York City parks, plazas and waterfronts include Balsley Park, named in recognition of his design contributions to the city.

In addition to regular speaking engagements at conferences and universities, including Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Balsley returns to ESF often to share his knowledge with the next generation of landscape architects.

Moorman is the recipient of the Graduate of Distinction - Notable Achievement Award. Through his work at Ducks Unlimited (DU) Moorman has advanced waterfowl conservation science.

As chief scientist at DU, Moorman is involved in national and international conservation, and science and policy issues, and is the lead science contact in DU's work on wetland protection and the Clean Water Act. Moorman's contributions include designing wetland restoration projects, developing conservation strategies and overseeing the acquisition of funding.

He received numerous awards related to his impact on wetland and waterfowl ecology. As an environmental and forest biology (EFB) major, Moorman received the Wilford A. Dence Fellowship, which recognizes a graduate student with an exemplary record and potential for a successful career in wildlife and fish biology and conservation.

The Graduate of Distinction - Incipiens Quercu (young oak) Award will be presented to Munck. The award is given to a recent ESF graduate who exemplifies ESF's commitment to environmental stewardship.

Munck translates science into practice. After completing her master of science in environmental forest biology forest pathology and mycology at ESF, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research explained the emergence of a destructive threat to forests, and contributed to changes in how forest health is maintained.

Working as a forest pathologist at the Durham, New Hampshire, field office of USDA Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, she forged new relationships among academics, government agencies, forest managers and the public.

Her work on white pine blight and white pine blister rust fungus resulted in a USDA multi-state research project on eastern white pine health issues.

Zachary G. B. Smith is the student speaker for graduation.

Smith is graduating with a bachelor of science in environmental studies with a focus in communication and a minor in writing and rhetoric. His involvement on campus includes his membership in the Environmental Studies Student Organization, The Baobab Society, Undergraduate Student Association's (USA) student affairs and diversity committee and the Food Recovery Network. As a third-generation storyteller from the Adirondacks, he uses multimedia in his communication through podcasts, blogs and video as well as the power of traditional written word. His work aims to bridge the gap between complex environmental issues and the public.

Student marshals for commencement are Chloe A. Blaisdell and Benjamin Taylor.

Blaisdell, of LaFayette, New York, is a senior majoring in conservation biology with a minor in marine science and applied statistics. She is scheduled to graduate in May 2018. She is involved in the Food Recovery Network and USA as the environmental and forest biology curriculum senator, co-director of special events, and director of programming. Blaisdell was an orientation leader and is a teaching assistant. She is a Rosen Undergraduate Fellow, and interned for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. After graduation Blaisdell plans to pursue a master's degree in wildlife management and conservation.

Taylor, of Panama, New York, is a senior majoring in environmental resources engineering (ERE) with a minor in management. He is scheduled to graduate in May 2018. Taylor is involved in Engineers Without Borders, Engineering for a Sustainable Society, ERE Club and the Undergraduate Student Association (USA). He has served as USA president for two years and his leadership led to the ESFgo app, the menstrual products initiative, renovations in Nifkin Lounge, and the installation of a water bottle filler and microwave in the Gateway Center. After graduation Taylor plans pursue a career in engineering, ministry or business.

Following commencement, a reception will be held in ESF's Gateway Conference Center from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.