Gail Gunst Heffner

Gail Gunst Heffner

  • Dr. Gail Gunst Heffner
  • Emerita Professor; Co-founder of Plaster Creek Stewards
  • Spoelhof University Center (Map)


  • BA, Grove City College, Psychology and Religion, 1975
  • MPIA, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (Concentration in Economic and Social Development), 1980
  • PhD, Michigan State University (Interdisciplinary Program in Urban Studies and Resource Development), 2005

Professional History

  • Director of community engagement, provost’s office, 2004-present
    Associate director, Center for Social Research, 2001-2004
    Director of academically based service-learning, Service-Learning Center, 1994-2001

Academic interests

Urban sustainability, reconciliation ecology, environmental justice, American racism

Research and scholarship


"Caring for a Shared Place: Undergraduate Research to Restore an Urban Watershed” (with D. Warners). CUR Quarterly 35, no. 1 (Fall 2014).

“Emergence of a College-based Watershed Group in West Michigan” (with D. Warners and M. Ryskamp). River Voices 23, no. 2 (2013): 14-17.

“Expanding the Social Imagination: Lessons from Northern Ireland.” Review of Hope and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland: The Role of Faith-Based Organisations, by Ronald A. Wells.  Perspectives, June-July 2012. 

“Loving Our Downstream Neighbor: A story of reconciliation.” Presentation at the Grand Forum, Grand Rapids, MI: February 24, 2016.

“Climate Leadership in Communities of Faith.” Panel moderator at the 5th Annual Women and the Environment Symposium, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, February 24, 2016.

“Urban Watershed Restoration: Unique Contributions from College and High School Students.” Presentation at the RCE Conference of the Americas, August 10, 2015. 

“Community Engagement for Watershed Restoration in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” Presentation at the 9th Global RCE Conference, Okayama, Japan: November 4-7, 2014.

Professional services

Grand River Corridor Planning Committee (appointed by Mayor and City Commission), 2014-present.

Board of directors, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, 2006-present; vice president of board, 2008-12; president of the Board, 2012-15.

Board of directors, Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds (LGROW), 2013-present.

Advisory council, Groundswell (Grand Valley State University), 2009-present.

Caucus leader, Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR), 2008-present.

Professional associations

  • Urban Affairs Association (UAA)
  • Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
  • Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
  • Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU)


Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) Award for Outstanding Flagship Project, given to Plaster Creek Stewards at the 9th Global RCE Conference, Okayama, Japan: November 4-7, 2014

Grant from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to the Plaster Creek Stewards, for the Plaster Creek Watershed Restoration Project 2, $1,145,915, 2015-2017.

Grant from Environmental Protection Agency Urban Waters to the Plaster Creek Stewards for Reducing Stormwater in the Lower Grand River Watershed through Green Team Training and Regional Rainscaping Planning, $60,000, 2014-2016.

Grant from Michigan Colleges Foundation for creation of the Green Team, $7,000 to the Plaster Creek Stewards project, 2013.

Honoree, Women and the Environment Symposium at Grand Valley State University, sponsored by West Michigan Environmental Action Council, February 2013.

Grant from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for Watershed Education and Restoration, $515,367.28 to the Plaster Creek Stewards project, 2013-2015.


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