Welcoming Gioia Connell to Common Ground


Common Ground is thrilled to welcome Gioia Connell to our Board of Directors. Gioia is a New Haven based sustainability specialist and design professional with deep experience bridging systems thinking, urban ecology, and interdisciplinary partnerships for climate resilience. Gioia received her undergraduate degree in Sustainable Development from the University of St Andrews. She then built on her deep appreciation for the dynamic nature of local projects and the strategic catalysts that enhance their impact during her time at Yale, where she received her Master of Architecture and Master of Environmental Management. Her most recent work includes consulting with communities, cities, and startups from across the globe on climate resilience and nature-based solutions.

What about Common Ground’s mission speaks to you?

“Common Ground’s clear mission to establish an education center where care for people and the planet is shared speaks to my core. I see the value that Common Ground adds on two fronts. First is the program’s approach to education. I do believe that educating the next generation is critical to creating a better world. Common Ground excels at teaching its students about the science that underpins our environment and the social frameworks that co-create it. Yet it also teaches the critical thinking needed to parse apart issues and create solutions. The rigor of the academic content and approach is such a blessing to have at a high school level. Second is the Common Ground community. Environmental work takes perseverance, which in turn takes a community of support. Not only does Common Ground provide that for its students and the broader New Haven community, but it also teaches us how to foster that sentiment wherever we go. Every student, teacher, staff person and board member I have spoken to demonstrates this unique form of leadership.”

“Sensitivity and strength are valued in equal measure. Catalytic actions and attitudes abound. Environmental justice is created here. I have seen how the Common Ground perspective ripples outward, increasing awareness, compassion and sustainable action.”

“As I write this, this year’s United Nations climate conference — COP26 — is halfway across the word in hour 25. World leaders are looking for solutions to the environmental crisis — questioning where and how our society can handle the tough challenges of pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, and environmental injustice. I am heartened by the fact that Common Ground is one of the places currently creating solutions. Young people are crafting the foundation of the just transition in our own backyard. Learning from each other and from the land, this next generation of environmentalists is making space for change. From the high school to the farm to the environmental education center, the social and physical infrastructure that our planet needs is being grown right here.”


What do you bring to Common Ground through your life experiences and passions?

“I spent my childhood outdoors. I was lucky enough to be raised by artists, scientists, and naturalists who committed their careers to sharing knowledge about the environment with people of all ages. My late mother, Joy Wulke, was a force of nature when it came to this. Her work in environmental art and education remain an inspiration for me. I still see the world with wonder thanks to her perspective on the mind-blowing forces that shape our landscapes over space and time.

Exposure to arts and sciences at a young age informed my current work in environmental design and planning. My eclectic career in toxic site redevelopment, architectural design, and climate consulting is all unified by this desire to explore how people interact with the environment, and how we can do so in a way that is healthy, just and joyful.”


How long have you been in New Haven? What community-driven efforts are you a part of here?

“I have been in New haven for almost 8 years. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to New Haven after college. I am so incredibly grateful for my strong community here, and have always tried to give back in kind. I have organized art events, crowd-funded solar arrays for nonprofits, participated in community design charrettes, ushered at fundraisers, volunteered on state senate campaigns… New Haven is such an amazing place because there are so many people working on interesting projects. There is always an opportunity to pitch-in and support — or create new ways of making an impact. Atelier Cue, New Haven Community Solar, Columbus House, Creative Arts Workshop, the city of New Haven, and the Connecticut Green Building Council are just a few of the organizations I have had the pleasure of working with over the years.”


What do you hope to accomplish as a Board member at Common Ground?

“I hope to contribute my experience in environmental design, facilitation, and construction. As Common Ground prepares for the spatial needs of evolving educational programs, there is a lot of room to contribute lessons from my experience working in the built environment. I look forward to working with an amazing team to help co-create new and engaging educational spaces at the school.”


Want to help Gioia support Common Ground? Make a gift today and double your impact for the next generation of environmental leaders. Help us reach our $25,000 match challenge and meet the pressing need to build more sustainable learning spaces and more!

If you’d like to come for a tour of Common Ground and our urban farm, or want to learn more about our work, contact Audrey Nefores, audrey.nefores@nhep.com or 203-389-4333 ex 1219.


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