Committee on Environmental Justice

Committee on Environmental Justice

The Committee on Environmental Justice was officially launched in February 2015 and is jointly sponsored by the CSWE Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice and the CSWE Commission on Global Social Work Education. Many environmental justice issues are intrinsically and increasingly connected with social and economic justice issues, which the social work profession has championed since its inception. These issues are global, national, and local in nature. Environmental social work is global in nature and therefore tied to global social work.

The Committee on Environmental Justice will explore the history of “green” social work, current work on environmental social work, and social work practice related to environmental issues. The charge of the committee is to make recommendations to the commissions about how social work education should consider integrating issues of environmental justice into the social work curriculum. 



  • Developed the definition of environmental justice, which appears in the 2015 EPAS glossary:

"Environmental justice occurs when all people equally experience high levels of environmental protection and no group or community is excluded from the environmental policy decision-making process, nor is affected by a disproportionate impact from environmental hazards. Environmental justice affirms the ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, respect for cultural and biological diversity, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. This includes responsible use of ecological resources, including the land, water, air, and food." (Retrieved from

  • Developed and conducted a Faculty Development Institute, titled Teaching Environmental Justice Across the Curriculum: 2015 EPAS and Beyond, which was an informal open meeting for all conference attendees interested in environmental justice to discuss current needs in curriculum, share resources, and build a stronger EJ community.


This is an active committee that holds an annual in-person business meeting at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting. There are also quarterly Web meetings. Members are expected to attend at least three of these meetings and contribute to the discussion. Additional Web meetings are held as needed to meet the committee's commitments.


Committee Chairs

  • Cathryne L. Schmitz, PhD, MSW, Professor, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Rachel Forbes, MSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Denver

Committee Members

  • Shanondora Billiot (United Houma Nation), PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Illinois
  • Nishesh Chalise, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Augsburg University
  • Chelsea M. Haley, LMSW, School Social Worker and Chair of a monthly environmental and political advocacy group in her community
  • Lucy Lawrence, PhD, MSW, Professor, Warren Wilson College (represents the Commission on Global Social Work Education)
  • Ande Nesmith, PhD, LISW, School of Social Work, Associate Professor, University of St. Thomas (represents the Commission on Diversity and Social and Economic Justice)
  • Meredith C. F. Powers, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Yolanda Machado-Escudero, MSW, PhD Candidate, School of Social Work, University of Georgia
  • Joyce Shim, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor and Chair of the Global Social Work Committee, School of Social Work, Dominican University (represents the Council on Global Learning and Practice)
  • Vivien Villaverde, MSSW, Clinical Associate Professor–Field Education, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work (represents the Council on Global Issues)