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Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education

Staff Bios



Neil Wilkinson

Neil Wilkinson, Interim Director
Instructor III

Professor of Environmental Studies and Environmental Education
Florida Gulf Coast University

Neil Wilkinson is an instructor of Environmental Studies and Environmental Education in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University where he serves as interim director for the Center of Environmental and Sustainability Education. Wilkinson works to promote Florida Gulf Coast University’s environmental mission and commitment to creating a culture of sustainability. He teaches the signature course on sustainability, The University Colloquium: a Sustainable Future, a junior level class required for undergraduates and Environmental Biology, a non-science majors course for first year students that explores ecosystems of southwest Florida. Wilkinson oversees an environmental science/public health educational outreach program funded by the Lee County Mosquito Control District that is conducted by three full time educators for kindergarten, 5th and 7th grade classes and high school biology and chemistry classes for over 14,000 students each year in the Lee County School District. Wilkinson is a faculty associate of the FGCU Whitaker Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education, and serves on the Education Advisory Committee of the Naples Zoo, he is past president of the Florida Mosquito Control Association, and a past member of Florida Department of Health’s Interagency Arbovirus Task Force. In 2006 Wilkinson was awarded the FGCU Student Government’s McTarnaghan Teaching Award. His personal interests include native landscaping, wildlife viewing, travel, boating, local history and conservation related service.


Maria Roca, Assistant Director

Maria F. Loffredo Roca, Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of Integrated Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.  She has her Ph.D. in Media Ecology from New York University, her M.A. in Performing Arts Management also from NYU, and her B.A. in Interpersonal and Public Communication from Purdue University.  She is a GreenFaith Fellow and Assistant Director for the Center for Environmental & Sustainability Education.  DrRoca has been recognized for her work with the Professor of the Year Award from Florida Gulf Coast University, FGCU’s McTarnaghan Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Faculty Award for Service Excellence also from FGCU.   In 2015 she was presented with the Rachel Carson Award for distinguished service to the field of environmental and sustainability education.



Andrea Muench, Executive


Andrea Muench is the Executive Secretary for The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education. She moved to Fort Myers from Libertyville, IL in the fall of 2014 with her husband and family. Andrea was the Department Assistant for the Education, Religion and Theater Departments at Lake Forest College for 13 years. She found it very interesting working for three diverse departments. While at Lake Forest College she was involved in Intervarsity, including being an advisor for a year, and was an Ally participant. She also started a Bible study for female staff.


Andrea’s passion is helping the homeless. She volunteers every Friday at Community Cooperative and is also involved with The Homeless Experience group at her church. In Illinois she volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, the county jail, was a mentor for homeless families in transition, served at mobile food pantries, took classes on poverty and studied the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, ADD and ADHD in children and teenagers.


Andrea misses her friends and colleagues back in Illinois but is very happy to be at Florida Gulf Coast University and to be a Floridian!


   Maryssa Pallis, Student Assistant

MaryssaPallis is an Honors student and Accelerated Collegiate Experience scholar majoring in Political Science at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is a Circumnavigators Foundation grant recipient,  School of International Training scholarship recipient, a passionate certified advocate for domestic violence survivors, and has conducted independent research on globalized trade and small farms in Geneva, Switzerland. Her interest in public policy led her to creating a Joint Plan of Action Against Climate Change between multiple departments at FGCU. She is the President of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and has worked locally and internationally on drug policy reform. She founded a civic engagement project creating a food forest garden at a domestic violence shelter to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables offered on site. She is an Honors College mentor, a Student Assistant for the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, and a Service Ambassador for Social Justice through the Office of Service Learning.


   Jonathan Salas, Student Assistant

Jonathan Salas is a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University. He is a Biochemistry Major and is in Phi Eta Sigma National Honors Society. His love of design and burning passion for helping people has lead him to his chosen major. Jonathan is also an animator with a desire for 3D renderings. Jonathan is also a new member at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education. His love for nature stems from his childhood home being on the edge of the Everglades. What led Jonathan to the Center was the willingness to seek further into the ways to help save and preserve the environment. Jonathan hopes to accomplish that by working for the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.


   Chase Rieg, Student Assistant

Chase Rieg is a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University working toward his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. He also plans to pursue an MBA. A new member of the Public Relations Team, Chase discovered the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education through service learning in “University Colloquium: A Sustainable Future,” a course that aims to bring students of all majors into the discussion of environmental awareness and sustainability.

Growing up in Ohio, Chase considers his experience in nature a significant part of his upbringing. He came to Florida specifically for college, but he never expected that he would fall in love with its unique environment so quickly. Now, he cannot imagine living anywhere else, and hopes to help preserve the valuable ecosystems and wildlife that call this place home. Above all, Chase wants to incorporate conservation and sustainability into whatever career he finds himself in, especially in an ever-expanding business world.


Jordin Medina, Student Assistant

Jordin Medina is an aspiring Software Engineer at Florida Gulf Coast University. His creative nature, love for technology, and passion for innovation were all factors that led him to his career choice. As a former student of Director Peter Blaze Corcoran, he learned about the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education through the University Colloquium course.


Growing up in sunny Southwest Florida, Jordin is no stranger to the natural world. He believes that it is his duty to help preserve the environment he grew up in for future generations to experience - and hopefully appreciate. As the world gravitates towards a ”Technological Era”, Jordin can’t help but fall in love with the idea of helping build the future. He wishes to incorporate his experience gained at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education into building a sustainable future where nature and the preservation of nature is at the heart of every matter.



Brielle Ruiz, Student Assistant

Brielle Ruiz is an Honors student majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Statistics at Florida Gulf Coast University. Though originally from Naples, Florida, it was not until attending FGCU that her appreciation for Florida’s diverse ecosystems and interest in plant ecology flourished.
During her time here, she and a fellow student have created and taught over fifty hours of environmentally-centered lessons at Pinewoods Elementary School here in Estero, Florida. This on-going project aims to teach students how to integrate simple sustainable practices at home, and hopes to encourage environmental curiosity and appreciation in young minds.
Brielle is now a member of the Public Relations Team at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, and is grateful to have the opportunity to work with and learn from such civically and environmentally engaged people. Through her work at the Center and in all future endeavors, she hopes to continue to teach, inspire, and instill her passion for the biodiversity and beauty of Southwest Florida in whoever cares to listen.





Recent Past Student Assistants