Pioneering Change: Jamil Bey Honored for Advancing Geosciences and Environmental Justice

Pittsburgh, Pa., USA: Dr. Jamil Bey, founder and CEO of Pittsburgh’s UrbanKind Institute, is the 2023 recipient of the Geological Society of America’s President's Medal, which is conferred on individuals whose impact has profoundly enhanced the geoscience profession. “Dr. Bey’s work [provides] an excellent model for identifying critical Earth system challenges, broadening participation in the geosciences, and using science in service of humankind,” says Mark Little, past president of GSA, who nominated Bey for the award.

Bey was selected as the recipient of this award because he excels at creating community experiences, sharing resources and information, and advocating for regional policy around the environment, climate change, food, and quality of life in Pittsburgh, where the society is hosting its GSA Connects 2023 meeting. While accepting the award, Bey noted, “this award is a testament to the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the recognition that urban issues are inherently tied to the earth sciences.”

Local engagement is at the heart of Dr. Bey’s work, and he fundamentally believes that cities should be kind places for people. He first got involved in community organizing while working as a high school teacher, observing and seeking to eliminate the barriers his students and their families were facing. Bey went on to found the UrbanKind Institute, whose mission is to lift up the voices of overburdened and under-resourced residents in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. “Our purpose was clear,” says Bey, “to bridge the gap between academia, community organizations, and residents themselves, fostering collaboration to uplift and revitalize neglected urban entities.”

Where do the geosciences come in? “The topography of the city is a challenge in Pittsburgh,” explains Bey. “Rivers and hills create barriers, they break up communities. There are over 90 separate neighborhoods in the city.” Unfortunately, those who are most vulnerable tend to be concentrated in specific locations in our cities, in a negative feedback loop, and multiple structural and historical injustices maintain and reinforce these vulnerabilities.

Today, Bey will present his work at GSA Connects 2023, focusing on a two-fold path forward. One avenue is improving researchers’ ability to engage with local communities on what is relevant and meaningful to them. “It is about connecting the researchers’ goals to the community goals,” explains Bey.

The other route is being deliberate about bringing people from vulnerable communities into the sciences and creating pathways for success. Nurturing young peoples’ curiosity can be a stabilizing force in their lives, and by becoming scientists themselves they can help refocus their field into what matters to local communities. “When researchers come from impacted communities they are more likely to have a personal perspective more so than an academic perspective,” says Bey.

Ultimately, Bey’s line of work is applied geosciences. “It is not what people think when they hear those words, but this really is it. This is what made receiving this award so special: seeing the link between urban landscapes and the geosciences recognized.”

GSA President’s Medal: Using the Earth Sciences to Address Community Goals and Priorities
Author: Jamil Bey, UrbanKind Institute President & CEO,
119: T15. Geology and Society Division at 20 I: How Geology Shapes Society—Past, Present, and Future
Monday, 16 October 2023, 1:50–2:10 p.m.

The Geological Society of America ( ) unites a diverse community of geoscientists in a common purpose to study the mysteries of our planet (and beyond) and share scientific findings. Members and friends around the world, from academia, government, and industry, participate in GSA meetings, publications, and programs at all career levels, to foster professional excellence. GSA values and supports inclusion through cooperative research, public dialogue on earth issues, science education, and the application of geoscience in the service of humankind.

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For Immediate Release
16 October 2023
GSA Release No. 23-39

Contributed by Arianna Soldati
GSA Science Communication Fellow

Justin Samuel

Jamil Bey
Dr. Jamil Bey, founder and CEO of Pittsburgh’s UrbanKind Institute