Program Moderator: Melissa Kops, AIA
Melissa is the Architect for the City of New Haven, CT. In addition to her involvement with the AIA CT Chapter, she is a board advisor at the CT Green Building Council and chairs its advocacy community. She founded and organizes the Northeast Summit for a Sustainable Built Environment with the theme Health and Wellbeing in 2017, Social Justice in 2019, and Climate Action in 2021. She was awarded the Judy Swann Green Advocate in 2018 and Living Future Hero in 2020.
Dr. Rebecca French
As the first director of the new Office of Climate Planning, Dr. French advises the Commissioner of DEEP on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience plans across all divisions of the agency. Her first charge is to administer the Governor’s Council on Climate Change. Previously, Dr. French served as the Director of Resilience for the CT Department of Housing, and as the Director of Community Engagement for the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) from 2014-2018. Dr. French also spent a year in Congress as a Congressional Science Fellow in the Office of US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), serving as a policy advisor to the Senator in the areas of energy, environment, and agriculture.
Catie Ryan Balagtas, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C
Catie is Director at Terrapin Bright Green, a sustainable design consulting firm where she has been a leader in biophilic design research and implementation for the last ten years. In this vein, she has served as an advisor to corporations, hospitality ventures, universities, and community developments, as well as for entities such as IWBI, ILFI, USGSA, and USEPA. Catie has published in peer reviewed journals, industry reports, and books including 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design (Terrapin, 2014) and Nature Inside, a Biophilic Design Guide (RIBA Publishing, 2020).
Gioia Montana Connell, Assoc. AIA
Gioia is a design professional with deep experience bridging systems design, urban ecology, and interdisciplinary partnership. Her passion for place-based design work that engages community and the environment has directed her career in planning, architectural design, and sustainability consulting in Connecticut, New York, Sweden, and beyond. She is currently a consultant with the engineering-design firm WSP, working with an amazing team to make projects healthy, beautiful, and climate responsive.
Sarah is the Marketing Manager for the Natural Stone Institute and is responsible for building awareness and relevance for key natural stone industry initiatives, including: sustainability, qualified labor, natural stone promotion, and advocacy groups such as Women in Stone. Prior to joining the Natural Stone Institute full time in 2021, Sarah contracted with several companies and associations in the natural stone industry, specializing in marketing and online presence. She holds an associate’s degree in Sales, Marketing, and Management with an emphasis on Advertising and Public Relations.