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SUNY ESF to Celebrate December Graduates

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), the most distinguished institution in the nation that focuses on the study of the environment, will award 138 degrees, including 33 master's degrees and nine Doctor of Philosophy degrees, during the 2021 December Commencement 3 p.m. Dec. 10 at Hendricks Chapel. A reception will follow in ESF's Gateway Conference Center from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"We're proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our December graduates alongside their families and friends," said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. "We're also honored to have our Graduates of Distinction with us. These alumni serve as an example of the impact ESF graduates have on their world."

ESF is celebrating graduates with several events throughout the week.

Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion

The Inclusive Excellence Graduation Reception, which celebrates and honors the diversity of ESF's graduates, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Gateway Center. Those wishing to attend virtually should register here. To attend in person, please register here. This reception includes but is not limited to, women, United States military veterans, domestic students of color, international students, students who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, students with disabilities and those with other underrepresented statuses.

The graduates' accomplishments will be celebrated with the traditional champagne toast Dec. 8 in the Gateway Center, sponsored by the ESF Alumni Association.

Student Speaker: Bri'ajah'nae Hymes

Bri'ajah'nae Hymes (Rochester) is the student speaker for graduation. Hymes is an environmental biology major with a focus on pre-health studies. She will be part of Upstate Medical University's incoming class of 2022, focusing on geriatrics practices and cancer research. During her time at ESF, she served as the Environmental Biology Department Senator, the chief programming officer, a biology teaching assistant, and the third basemen for the Syracuse University Club Softball Team. She is an executive board member for the Syracuse University Chapter of the NAACP, a career ambassador in the Office of Career Services, and the Education Opportunity Program teaching assistant. Off-campus, Hymes serves the homeless with We Rise Above the Streets and as a student mentor to BIPOC at Syracuse Nottingham High School.

Student Marshals: Mark Dunckel and Alexa Labossiere

Mark Dunckel (Hubbardsville) is an environmental resources engineering major with a minor in mathematics. His coursework focuses on water resources engineering, federal environmental regulations and legal framework. He is involved on campus as a member of the AXS Honor Society and the Music Society. He is a first-team starter and treasurer for the Syracuse University men's rugby team. Dunckel worked as a peer tutor in a variety of STEM-related classes and was an undergraduate teaching assistant for Introduction to Engineering Design and Mechanics of Materials. He plans to attend law school to pursue a career in environmental law.

Labossiere (Lincoln, Rhode Island) is an environmental science major with minors in applied statistics and marine science. She is the head of programming for the Undergraduate Student Association and was the spring 2021 Earth Week coordinator. She has competed on the Syracuse University ballroom dance and swing team and is a member of the Orange Pulse Dance Troupe. Labossiere worked as a peer tutor and an undergraduate teaching assistant for Introduction to Environmental Microbiology. She is completing research on changes in coastal productivity in Arctic watersheds. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to study marine biogeochemical modeling.

Graduates of Distinction

Three ESF alumni will be honored during Friday's commencement. Graduate of Distinction Awards will be bestowed upon Gary Hilderband '79, Dr. Ana Menezes '08, and Susan Fassler '12, '14.

Gary Hilderbrand '79

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

The influence that Hilderbrand has on landscape architecture extends from the classrooms of Harvard — where he has taught since 1990 — to the most prestigious museums in the world. His design work and personal artworks have been exhibited at the American Academy in Rome, the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, and Sotheby's New York.

He is a founding principal of Reed Hilderband, LLC, a firm that has been recognized with more than 100 regional and national design awards, including the American Society of Landscape Architecture's (ASLA) Firm of the Year in 2013. Widely published as an author and critic, his firm's monograph "Visible Invisible" was recognized with ASLA's Award of Excellence in Communications.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognition, including the ASLA Design Medal, the Emerging Voices Award, and the Rome Prize Fellowship. He is the Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor of Practice at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Dr. Ana Menezes '08

Menezes is the recipient of the Graduate of Distinction - Notable Achievement Award. She works to eradicate hunger through effective implementation and management of aquaculture and small-scale fisheries policies.

Through her work for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), she collaborates with Member States to develop and implement policies and strategies to farm aquatic species in sustainable and profitable manners.

Based at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, Menezes started working with the organization in Africa as a fisheries and aquaculture officer where her duties included policy drafting and advocacy to sustainable aquatic farming. She has mobilized millions of dollars in financial resources, developed research tools to assess poverty and policy impact, and worked tirelessly to arm her constituents with as much knowledge as possible. She focuses on how to meet the current global demand for food, increasing production and productivity while conserving the environment through the implementation of commercial aquaculture within eco-system-based approaches.

Susan Fassler '12, '14

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

As the director of sustainable operations at ESF, Fassler has been instrumental in initiatives including the implementation of one of the largest and most affordable publicly accessible EV charging hubs in Syracuse, and assisting in the creation of the College's Center for Sustainable Materials Management and the development of a comprehensive and interdisciplinary zero-waste strategy. She took on an even greater role when she planned and executed safety measures during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She represented ESF and United University Professions (UUP) via her testimony before the New York State Assembly's Standing Committee on climate action. Fassler advocated for strengthening the waste management recommendations being considered for inclusion within the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act's Scoping Plan. She was selected to serve as co-chair of UUP's Environmental Issues and Advocacy Committee and sits on the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust Board of Directors.

Fassler's commitment to sustainability has been a central component of her career, beginning in Hallandale Beach, Florida, where as the green initiatives coordinator, she assisted in achieving LEED certification for city buildings and developed the city's Sustainability Action Plan. Her sustainability management skills were sharpened further through as the project coordinator of Onondaga County's green infrastructure program, Save the Rain.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.