Nalini Moreshwar Nadkarni, a forest ecologist and outspoken advocate for the communication of science, will deliver the 2014 Baccalaureate address at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. Nadkarni will receive an honorary Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degree Sunday, May 25, during Commencement ceremonies on the College Green. 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Forest ecologist Nalini Moreshwar Nadkarni will deliver the 2014 Baccalaureate address at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. Nadkarni has titled her address “Branching Beyond Brown: Into the Space Between Earth and Sky.”

The University will confer an honorary Doctor of Science (Sc.D. degree) on Nadkarni during the Sunday, May 25, Commencement ceremonies on the College Green.  

Because the graduating class will fill the Meeting House to capacity for Nadkarni’s Baccalaureate address on Saturday, the Baccalaureate service will be simulcast to the College Green, where family and friends of the graduates may view the proceedings on a large-format video display.

Nadkarni is a forest ecologist and a science communicator who has devoted much of her career to the research of the ecological roles of canopy-dwelling biota in forest ecosystems. In 2011, she joined the University of Utah as a professor of biology and director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education. Prior to that, she served for 20 years on the faculty of The Evergreen State College.

Nadkarni carries out field research in the state of Washington and in Monteverde, Costa Rica, with the support of the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society and has so far published more than 100 scientific articles and four scholarly books on her research.

She is deeply interested in public engagement of science, has given two TED talks, and has been highlighted in magazines including the National Geographic. She created the Research Ambassador Program to train scientists to engage the public in nontraditional venues, such as churches, preschools, tattoo parlors, and sports stadiums. In 1994, Nadkarni co-founded and is president of the International Canopy Network, a nonprofit organization that fosters communication among researchers, educators, and conservationists concerned with forest canopies. In 2005, she co-founded the Sustainability in Prisons Project, which brings science, scientists, and nature to incarcerated men and women, and which is now being expanded to the national level.

She has received numerous awards and accolades for her work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship, the 2011 National Science Foundation Public Service Award, the 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Award for Public Engagement, and the 2013 Carr Medal for Conservation.

Nadkarni received an undergraduate degree in biology from Brown in 1976, and her Ph.D. in forest ecology from the University of Washington in 1983.

The Baccalaureate Service

The Baccalaureate Service, with roots in medieval academic tradition, honors the achievements of the candidates for the bachelor’s (“bacca”) degree by presenting them with the laurels (“lauri”) of oration. Brown’s baccalaureate tradition derives from the wide range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming.

The service is conducted in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, completed in 1775 “for the Publick Worship of Almighty God, and also for holding Commencement in.” Significant portions of the University’s Commencement ceremonies have been held in the church ever since.

Past speakers have included human rights crusader Kenneth Roth; international correspondent David Rohde; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; theologian Gustavo Gutierrez, foreign policy commentator Fareed Zakaria; Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; and Tougaloo College President Beverly Wade Hogan.