PEI Awards Environmental Certificates and Prizes

Holly Welles ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

During this year’s Class Day at the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), 38 graduating seniors were awarded Environmental Certificates and three seniors were awarded prizes. Over 100 family members, friends, faculty, and staff gathered in Guyot Hall in celebration.

Class Day 2015
38 graduating seniors from 14 different departments were awarded Certificates in Environmental Studies. (Photo by PEI Staff)


Kelly Caylor, director of Princeton University’s Program in Environmental Studies (ENV) and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, commenced the celebration by describing the diversity and interdisciplinary nature of the program. He also lauded the students for their successes during their tenures at Princeton. “We are very excited and proud of your accomplishments during the past 4 years and we are here today to celebrate those successes. But one of the most exciting things about being a professor is getting to see what you will accomplish after you leave us,” said Caylor. “This is a celebration of what you have accomplished while at Princeton, but also about what you will do. I look forward to when you come back in 5, 10, 20 years and tell me about all you have done since graduation.”

Caylor announced the recipients of the Environmental Senior Thesis Prize, and the Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize and invited each of the student’s advisers to deliver remarks and award the prizes. David Wilcove, associate professor in ecology and evolutionary biology, awarded the Environmental Senior Thesis Prize to Jonathan J. Choi. Fabian Wagner, the Gherhard R. Andlinger Visiting Professor in Energy and the Environment, awarded the Stroh Prize to Conleigh R. Byers.

François Morel, director of the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Albert G. Blanke, Jr. Professor of Geosciences, described the T.A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize and invited Susan Ellison, lecturer in anthropology, to award the prize and to make some remarks about the work of the recipient, Damaris Miller.

In reflection about the awards, the three recipients shared the following comments:

“It is an immense honor to receive the Environmental Senior Thesis Prize, particularly knowing the great quality of the work produced by my friends and peers within the certificate program. I hope that as both a recipient of this award and as a member of the ENV Class of 2015, I can further advance our understanding of how we can protect the environment and what the environment means for us as a species,” said Choi.

Byer was encouraged by the Stroh prize, “Having written a thesis that differed significantly from research going on at Princeton currently, I am excited to learn that there is an interest within the Princeton Environmental Institute and the broader Princeton community in my findings. As I continue my research, I greatly value the encouragement provided by the Stroh prize,” she said.

“Receiving the T.A. Barron Prize was a heartwarming surprise that highlighted for me the invaluable support and mentorship I have received at Princeton,” remarked Miller. “It also signified to me PEI’s expanding embrace of the diversity of issues that intersect with environmental concerns and in my case, the potential for religion to facilitate positive environmental change,” she said.

Following the presentation of the three awards, Caylor called each ENV certificate recipient to the front of the auditorium to be honored and to receive the traditional honorary gift of a PEI umbrella.

Class Day 2015
Graduates, faculty, family, and friends congregate outside Guyot Hall following the ENV Class Day Ceremony. (Photo by PEI Staff)

PEI Awards and Prizes

Class Day 2015
Jonathan J. Choi (Environmental Senior Thesis Prize), Damaris Miller (T.A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize), and Conleigh R. Byers (Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize recipient. (Photo by PEI Staff)

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize

The Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize is awarded annually to one senior in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program who has produced the best thesis in the broad area of environmental studies. Student nominations are made by departmental thesis advisers.

Jonathan J. Choi, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thesis Title: Tropical Forest Restoration on Cattle Pastures in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica
Thesis Adviser: David Wilcove, associate professor in ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP)

Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Thesis Prize

The Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize was established in 2003 as a memorial to Peter W. Stroh ’51, an active member of PEI’s Advisory Council and an enthusiastic supporter of the Environmental Studies Program. The prize is awarded annually to the student who has produced the best thesis on an environmental topic. Academic departments are solicited for nominations in the spring with a limit of one student per academic discipline eligible for consideration. All members of the senior class are eligible to be nominated including students participating in the ENV Certificate Program.

Conleigh R. Byers, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Thesis Title: Beyond grid parity: Variability costs of incorporation of intermittent renewable energy in the PJM Interconnection
Thesis Adviser: Fabian Wagner, Gherhard R. Andlinger Visiting Professor in Energy and the Environment, the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

T.A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize

The T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize recognizes a member of the graduating class who has distinguished himself or herself by showing exceptional dedication to environmental concerns, not only in formal classes and independent academic work, but also by leading and encouraging activities among fellow students and in the community at large. Nominations are limited to one student per academic department. A seconding letter that addresses the student’s contributions to environmental leadership is also required.

Damaris Miller, Anthropology
Thesis Title: Interconnecting Knowledge and Practice: Environmental Education in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
Thesis Adviser: Susan H. Ellison, lecturer in the Department of Anthropology


Class Day 2015 cake
Class Day Cake. (Photo by PEI Staff)