By Lindsay Key

As an Associate Marketing Director for an environment-focused nonprofit book publisher, Island Press, Jason Leppig sees loads of books cross his desk that are full of doom and gloom. Climate change, forest degradation, and air pollution are not issues that are going away any time soon.

But the books that stand out to him and his colleagues at Island Press are the ones that offer hope and potential solutions—books like Leadership for Sustainability: Strategies for Tackling Wicked Problems by Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability faculty members Drs. Bruce Hull and David Robertson, and Center Founding Director Dr. Michael Mortimer, which came out this week.

book cover
Photo by David Robertson

“Bruce, David, and Michael’s book is a breath of fresh air. It says that we have to just move past this narrative of doom because we’re just not going to get anywhere with that thinking,” says Jason. “There has to be some light at the end of this tunnel that we’re all working towards.”

The book stood out to Jason for another reason—he’s a 2016 graduate of the Online Master’s of Natural Resources program (OMNR) at Virginia Tech, which he began in 2007, around the time that he started at Island Press. The program was instrumental in helping him understand the topics he curates at the publishing house, he said.

Every Wednesday, Jason participates in roundtable meetings with Island Press editors to review book proposals from potential authors about a wide range of environmental topics. His role as Marketing Director is to provide insight into which books are likely to do well with target audiences in the consumer arena, and that takes an in-depth understanding of the types of environmental topics that are popular and relevant. The OMNR program helped him tremendously with this, he said.

“You have to read the materials and you have to come in with questions,” Jason explained. “Just because we’re mission driven doesn’t mean we can just publish anything. We still have to go out and fight for funds from foundations and individuals. We rely on that to help us operate and print.”

Leppig said that it was a rewarding experience to work with authors from his alma mater on their book, watching as it moved from the editing stage to production. One of his favorite themes in the book is its focus on leadership from every corner. “The book stresses that anyone can be a leader,” he emphasized. “As long as you take up the cause and you are eager to put in the work, you can be part of the team.”

Dr. Hull explains why he wanted to publish the book with Island Press: “Island Press plays a critical role in today’s increasingly disrupted and politicized media. They are a solutions-oriented publisher that tackles pressing issues and provides trusted, accessible resources for professionals and engaged citizens. It’s been an honor and pleasure working with Jason and his colleagues as they’ve guided us through the publishing process.”

During his time in the program, Leppig also got to see textbooks published by his employer used in some of the OMNR courses, such as the Ecological Economics text book by Herman Daly and Joshua Farley used in former visiting professor Brian Czech’s course.

“Having to read lots of Island Press textbooks in the program, and the education I received there, helps me to be better informed during these roundtable meetings when we’re discussing proposals,” he said.

Leppig’s undergraduate degree was in English from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, and he said he’s wanted to work in book publishing for as long as he can remember. “I like to read, and when I got my first job in book publishing it seemed like one of those cool MTV-type jobs,” he recalled. “As an assistant in a publishing house, I was in academic publishing and you’re just filled with knowledge and cool ideas and really interesting people.”

Leppig worked as a Marketing Associate for Routledge Publishing in New York for three years and taught English in China for several years after that. In 2004, he moved to Washington D.C. and worked as the Marketing Manager for the Shakespeare Theatre Company before starting his position at Island Press—and the Online MNR program—in 2006.

Jason Leppig

“Working at a nonprofit book publisher, the mission of the nonprofit always comes first,” said Leppig. “Working at Island Press has helped me get a good night’s sleep, knowing that what I’m doing is a good thing, that I’m working towards something better.”


Where to get the book: If you’d like to purchase a copy from Island Press, use the code LEAD, which is good for a 20% discount. You can also order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookseller. To make the price of the book more accessible to more people, the authors waived royalties, in true nonprofit spirit.