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Event Update:

Thank you for attending VEJS 2022. You can view links from 2022 at "Watch the Recording Here!" Button. Interested in speaking at, or planning VEJS 2023? -  Please email !

Virginia Environmental Justice Summit

Empowering students to tackle Virginia's most pressing environmental justice issues

March 25th, 2023

9:00am - 2:30pm

A group of seven students sit around a table in the middle of a discussion related to environmental justice. There is a podium in the background with the George Mason University logo. Six of the students are listening to one of the students speak and are either smiling or deep in thought.

The Virginia Environmental Justice Summit is a conference to engage undergraduate and graduate students from around the country in multidisciplinary conversations around issues of environmental justice.



about environmental justice issues impacting 

Virginia communities


advocacy and activism skills for making the change you want to see


with environmental justice activists from other universities

Guiding Vision

To unify and empower student environmental justice advocates from throughout the state of Virginia

Three students hold a black, inflated tube with the words "No fracking pipeline" on it in white tape. All three students are wearing shirts which say, "Virginia is not for pipelines." They are all smiling and looking at the camera. Behind them, there are trees with yellow foilage.

Planned for students, by students.

This conference is a student-run initiative started by the Student Environmental Justice Alliance at George Mason University. 

Our planning committee is made up exclusively of undergraduate students with support from graduate students, faculty, and staff.

We would love to have representatives from other student organizations, departments, and universities on the committee. Interested in helping plan the summit? We want people from every discipline and background! Please email the project team, at



March 25, 2023

This conference will focus on environmental justice issues in Virginia. The conference consists of three sections: a keynote speech, morning speaker breakout sessions, and afternoon workshop breakout sessions.


9:00 - 9:20 am


9:20 - 9:30 am  



9:30 - 10:30 am 



10:45 - 11:45 am 




12:00 - 12:45 pm




1:00 - 2:00 pm


2:15 - 2:30 pm







2:00 - 2:30 pm 

Event Login / Check-In


Event Introduction (hybrid)



Keynote Speech:

Green Coalition at GMU (hybrid)



Morning Speakers:

Maria D'Orsogna (Zoom only)

Dustina Gill (hybrid)

Lunch break & social hour

Afternoon Workshops:

Emma Gregory (in-person only)

Naamal De Silva (Zoom only)


Closing Event (hybrid)


The Speakers 2023

Keynote: Green Coalition at GMU

Speaker: Maria D'Orsogna

In 2007, Dr. Maria D'Orsogna learned of proposed oil activities in her home region of Abruzzo, Italy. Century-old wineries were to be uprooted to build clusters of oil wells, refineries, and pipelines, turning scenic Abruzzo into an oil district. Although based 6,000 miles away in California, Maria took it upon herself to raise awareness and educate the public at large. She blended her scientific training, her experience as a math professor, and her strong desire for social justice into an environmental movement that rapidly spread from Abruzzo across the country. She traveled from town to town in Italy, educating citizens about environmental and health effects tied to hydrocarbon extraction, debating Big Oil, exposing political corruption, engaging the Catholic Church, putting pressure on decision makers to act for the common good. While in California, she used social networks and blogging to expose wrongdoings of the oil and gas industry, coordinate letter writings, keep raising awareness and spur action. Thanks to public uproar, spearheaded by Maria's unwavering efforts, Abruzzo banned oil drilling and for the first time ever, the Italian parliament imposed a no-drill zone of 12 miles encompassing all of Italy's 5,000-mile coastline. Overall, she helped to stop at least 50 oil leases and the construction of two refineries, earning the nickname "Erin Brockovich of Italy". Maria's story is a testament of how, by engaging with the community, scientists and educators can truly make a difference.

Speaker: Dustina Gill

Dustina Gill, Sitomni S'a Yapiwin (Paints Red Around Her) hails from the Wahpekute Band from the Oceti Sakowin and is an enrolled citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and resides in South Dakota on the Lake Traverse Reservation. Dustina is the founder and Executive Director of Nis'to (Neeshto) Incorporated, a Native NonProfit that focuses on leadership development, skill-building and health-wellness with Native youth through environmental justice, art, and community building. A youth-led, cultural lens, Dakota values approach have always been the pillars of Nis'to Inc.

Workshop: Emma Gregory

Emma Gregory is the Equity & Inclusion Projects Specialist at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, which is a role that allows her to combine 2 of her most deeply held passions: creating a more equitable and inclusive conservation movement and working closely with local communities on issues that matter the most to them.. Growing up just outside of Annapolis, Emma has always felt connected to the Chesapeake Bay. Many of her happiest childhood memories come from running through the woods during annual family camping trips in Western Maryland or splashing in the brackish water at Cove Point during summer break. These experiences helped spark her passion for protecting the environment and instilled in her a deep love for the outdoors. Emma studied environmental science at George Mason University, where she discovered her passion for environmental justice. While at George Mason, she co-founded and led the Mason Environmental Justice Alliance (now the Student Environmental Justice Alliance) and launched the Virginia Environmental Justice Summit, which is now in its third year of bringing together student activists from throughout the state of Virginia around issues of environmental justice. Although her path has taken her around the world, from studying abroad in the Amazon rainforest of Peru and at the University of Oxford to working on the shores of Lake Tahoe and in the mountains of Colorado, she is thrilled to be back where her journey began: the Chesapeake Bay. When she’s not working, you can find Emma climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, or on the couch with a good book and her cat, Ginny.

Workshop: Naamal De Silva

Naamal is the Chief Diversity Officer at American Bird Conservancy, where she supports inclusion and equity within the organization and works with partners to promote diversity and incorporate justice into conservation. Earlier in her career, Naamal worked for a decade on identifying biodiversity priorities at Conservation International, followed by consulting work independently and with Bernuth & Williamson. She is also the founder of Mayla, which intends to support the people who protect nature through storytelling. She has a doctorate in education from George Washington University, a Master's degree in environmental management from the Yale School of the Environment, and a Bachelor's degree in biology and environmental studies from Swarthmore College. Naamal was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Washington, D.C. when she was six. She uses writing to illuminate connections between people, perspectives, and places. She loves exploring wild and watery places, old buildings, the buzz of cities, new ideas, and stories that take her far away. You can sometimes find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sponsor the Event

Interested in Sponsoring the Event?

We'd love to have you on board and have several options for your participation!

Email to get started or request more information.

Organizational Sponsorship Levels

Tidewater Level  | $300
  • Logo on website

  • Name listed in Summit program

Piedmont Level  |  $500
  • Logo on website

  • Name listed in Summit program

  • Shout out on Summit social media accounts

Blue Ridge Level  |  $750
  • Logo on website

  • Full-page advertisement in Summit program

  • Shout out on Summit social media accounts

  • Name in Summit press release and advertisements

  • Reserved table at Summit

Individual Donations

This conference will not be possible without support from passionate leaders and supporters like you.
We would be greatly appreciative for all donations you are able to make, at any level. In recognition, we'll include your name in the list of supporters at the Summit. At this time, we can only accept donations in the form of checks.
To donate or receive more information, please email

Special thanks to our previous Piedmont Level Sponsor:

Southern Environmental Law Center's logo with green and white flowers to the left of the text.
Contact Us

Contact Us

To learn more, please subscribe. If you have additional questions, please email the project team at

Follow us on social media and use the hashtag #VEJS2023

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