Tag: environmental justice

New internship program puts focus on hard work of social, environmental justice

Adya Kadambari ’23, seen here during Spring Term, is among the 12 Lawrence students taking part this summer in the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program. She’s working an internship with Bay Bridge in Whitefish Bay. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Adya Kadambari ’23 processes the slow movement on social justice issues she’s championing this summer and chooses to channel her frustration into more work. Always more work.

The Lawrence University government major from Bangalore, India, has found her summer internship with Bay Bridge, a Whitefish Bay-based nonprofit working to address systematic racism in the community, to be eye-opening in the sheer weight of the challenge.

“I have learned that being part of Bay Bridge means continuing to try—even if it goes unnoticed—because that is the point of being a racial justice organization,” she said.

Kadambari is one of 12 Lawrence students who are setting the foundation for the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, a new summer internship initiative at Lawrence, one that is unlike any the school has launched in the past. It’s focused on social and environmental justice issues and has been developed as a shared experience across multiple nonprofit organizations doing work in a particular geographic area.

In this case, the area is the City of Milwaukee and its suburbs. The students, working across nine organizations, meet weekly as a cohort, their discussions facilitated by Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, to share and reflect on their experiences—successes, failures, frustrations, and everything in between.

Jason Brozek meets with Naomi Torres ’22 and Fernando Ismael Delgado ’22, both of whom are working internships this summer with the Center for Urban Teaching in Milwaukee. Brozek meets weekly with the full Social and Environmental Justice Cohort via Zoom.

“The idea is to really be explicit and deliberate about the reflection piece of this,” Brozek said of the cohort structure built into the internship program. “One of the things I’ve learned is how important it is to not just hope students will reflect on their experience but to specifically and deliberately guide them through that process and give them space to do it, prompt them to do it.”

This is work that is often emotional and potentially life-changing. Being able to talk about it, process it, hear others’ experiences, can be educational and therapeutic at the same time.

“That process of reflection, I think that’s where the real impact and transformation of these experiences comes from,” Brozek said.

To date, more than $350,000 has been raised to support the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, with a goal of $1 million to grow it into an ongoing staple of the Lawrence summer.

The program came together quickly after an anonymous donor, moved by the activism that followed the murder of George Floyd, sought to fund internships that would aid community organizations, give students an avenue into social and environmental justice work, and allow those students to share their experiences with one another in a collaborative learning environment.

The program provides a stipend for the students, who are working for nonprofits that in many cases couldn’t otherwise afford interns.

“For me, that’s a really critical part of the program because it means these experiences are more accessible and equitable, and available to a wider range of students,” Brozek said.

Kenneth Penaherrera ’24 is working an internship this summer at a youth crisis center through Pathfinders in Milwaukee.

Mandy Netzel, assistant director of career services in Lawrence’s Career Center, went to work connecting with nonprofits in the Milwaukee region to set the scope of the internship program. Meanwhile, Cassie Curry, director of major and planned giving for Lawrence, set out to raise the monies needed to financially support the program as an annual endeavor.

Brozek came on board as the faculty advisor. He’s meeting weekly with the students via Zoom, a nod to the barriers still being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that those meetings will be in person by next summer, as will all of the internships.

It all came together in a matter of a few months. The early momentum suggests this is a program that will continue to thrive, perhaps growing in the number of participating students and organizations, possibly expanding at some point to other regions.

“We really have a chance to not just make it a great experience for the 12 students who are doing it this summer but to really build something that is distinctive for Lawrence and to keep it going,” Brozek said.

Some of the students are doing social media and communications work for their organizations. Others are working with young people or families in schools or shelters. All of the organizations are located in the Milwaukee metro area with the exception of Pillars, of Appleton. The list includes Pathfinders, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a Milwaukee aldermanic office, Bay Bridge, Legal Action Wisconsin, Center for Urban Teaching, Blue Lotus, and Walker’s Point.

“Spending time doing this justice work can be really draining,” Brozek said. “How do you make this kind of work sustainable? Not just sustainable for the organization, but personally as well? We’re talking about that and they’re learning from each other, and really supporting each other and being impressed with each other. I’ve really loved that part of it.”

For Ben DePasquale ’22, joining the team at Milwaukee Riverkeeper gave him a chance to gain valuable experience in environmental advocacy and politics. He’s working on website content, social media, surveys, and focus group questions alongside the organization’s communications manager. He’s learning about reader engagement, targeting particular audiences, and the power of clarity.

“Politics is local, yet the greatest environmental threat of our lifetime, climate change, is global,” DePasquale said. “I wanted to be part of this organization because I saw an opportunity to craft narratives around environmental issues that might appeal to people who may not always see the bigger picture.”

Ben DePasquale ’22 is working on environmentally focused social media campaigns as part of an internship with Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

Netzel said the response from partner organizations—some with alumni connections—and students has been “overwhelmingly positive” in the pilot year.

“The pace at which we were able to pull it all together indicates a need and desire in the community for social and environmental justice work, and Lawrentians are interested and ready to rise in serving that need,” she said.

Sarah Gettel ’14, one of the leaders of Bay Bridge, said the fit has been ideal, with two Lawrence students, Kadambari and Sierra Johnson ’22, doing important advocacy work.

“Right from the start, Adya and Sierra jumped into the storm of moving projects and pieces,” Gettel said. “They asked excellent questions, raised ideas, and brought their creativity and intentionality to every project. Their support has been an incredible help to us at Bay Bridge and has helped us to build our supportive infrastructure to invite more people in our community into this work, from designing a volunteer orientation, to creating eye-catching event posters, to extending our social media reach, to facilitating a book discussion, to helping us work on a communications strategy to help connect systemic justice and equity to people’s values and lived experiences.”

Curry said a gift from a second donor that followed the initial gift has put Lawrence in position to fund the program for at least the next five years, providing time to secure financial support that will hopefully feed an endowment that’ll make the program ongoing.

“The donors want to ensure that Lawrence students can share what they are learning for the betterment of society, while at the same time growing and learning themselves through the process,” Curry said. “That was part of their motivation for a cohort model and faculty involvement.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Elizabeth Bridgwater named Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar

Strong interests in atmospheric science helped Lawrence University junior Elizabeth Bridgwater be named an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar.

Elizaberth Bridgwater
Elizabeth Bridgwater

A chemistry and environmental studies major from Fort Collins, Colo., Bridgwater was one of 150 undergraduates nationally selected for the scholarship. Named in honor of long-time former U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, who was well known for supporting ocean policy and conservation, the award includes a two-year academic scholarship and a summer internship opportunity.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” said Bridgwater, who recently met with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C. to discuss internship possibilities for next summer. “I’m particularly interested in it for its environmental applications.

“It was amazing to learn about all of the work that goes into predicting and understanding our weather and climate, protecting our oceans and coasts and sharing this information with policymakers in Washington and communities,” she added. “As someone who has developed a passion for understanding how our behaviors influence both air quality and climate change, I feel really grateful for the opportunity to engage with the incredible work being done at NOAA.”

As a Hollings Scholar, Bridgwater will receive a $9,500 academic award for each of the next two years and a 10-week, full-time, paid summer internship, including travel expenses, at any NOAA facility nationwide in the summer of 2019. She also will receive funding to present the results of her NOAA research project at up to two national scientific conferences. Later this year, she will choose from a variety of internships and connect with the mentor associated with that project.

“As I learn more as a scientist, something I work to keep in perspective is that certain communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities, face disproportionate levels of pollution and public health concerns.”
— Elizabeth Bridgewater

Bridgwater’s interests in becoming a scientist are motivated in part by her desire to improve the health and quality of local communities through a better understanding of the world around us.

“NOAA is a really cool organization in that the scientific work done there is ultimately geared toward serving the United States and protecting the resources and ecosystems that are vital to our daily lives,” said Bridgwater. “I feel lucky and honored for this chance to be a part of that science and to continue developing as a scientist so I can help people in the future.”

Her long-term goals have Bridgwater pursuing graduate studies with an eventual eye on working on public policy.

“I’m interested in going to grad school for atmospheric science and to develop expertise in that field. But at some point, I would like to engage with the policy side of things and to take on a leadership role that will allow me to influence the decisions we make about air quality and climate change.

“As I learn more as a scientist, something I work to keep in perspective is that certain communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities, face disproportionate levels of pollution and public health concerns,” she added. “It is really important for scientists and policymakers alike to incorporate an understanding of environmental justice issues into their work so that as we better understand and alleviate the challenges of environmental degradation that these communities receive the attention and resources they deserve.”

The Hollings Scholarship was established in 2005. Bridgwater was selected from among more than 600 eligible applications nationwide.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

NYC environmental justice advocate Peggy Shepard to be honored at Lawrence’s 169th commencement

As a strong supporter of community-based efforts, Peggy Shepard believes if you want to find a solution to a problem, go directly to the people most affected.

Shepard, the executive director of the New York City-based organization WE ACT For Environmental Justice, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree Sunday, June 10 by Lawrence University and serve as the principal speaker during its 169th commencement ceremonies at begin at 10 a.m. on the Main Hall green.

Peggy Shepard
Peggy Shepard, executive director of New York City-based WE ACT For Environmental Justice, will receive an honorary degree June 10 at Lawrence’s 169th commencement.

This will be Shepard’s second honorary degree, having previously been recognized by Smith College in 2010.

A total of 335 bachelor degrees are expected to be awarded to the class of 2018. Seventeen graduates are earning both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of music degree.

A live webcast of the commencement ceremony will be available at go.lawrence.edu/livestream.

A baccalaureate service will be conducted Saturday, June 9 at 11 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. David McGlynn, associate professor of English, will deliver the main address, “Two Words.”  The baccalaureate service and commencement exercise are both free and open to the public.

Six retiring faculty members — Janet Anthony, James DeCorsey, Nick Keelan, Carol Lawton, Howard Niblock and Dirck Vorenkamp — representing 191 years of teaching experience will be recognized with honorary master of arts degrees, ad eundem.

In addition to Shepard, Lawrence President Mark Burstein, Board of Trustees Chair Susan Stillman Kane and senior Hitkarsh Kumar from Chandigarh, India, also will address the graduates.

Shepard’s initiation into environmental justice started in the mid-1980s over a sewage treatment plant in West Harlem, from which the odors and emissions were making people sick. A research report released at the time talked about environmental racism and how the primary predictor of where toxic sites are typically located were communities of color and low-income.

“That’s when I began to understand the environmental impact and that we were being disproportionately impacted by those issues,” said Shepard.

“That really gave us some of the thinking and research behind what was going on, behind what we saw happening in our community around air quality and housing.”

Shepard co-founded WE ACT in 1998 and three years later, was among 1,000 delegates who met in Washington, D.C., where they developed 17 principles of environmental justice.

“Our mandate was to go back home and develop a grass-roots space of support,” said Shepard. “We didn’t want to have a centralized movement where you had one person or celebrity speaking for everyone. We all spoke for ourselves individually and it was about a movement.”

A graduating student in cap and gown with a flower on her mortar boardFor young people interested in pursuing an environmental-related career, Shepard encourages them to test drive opportunities with different organizations to see what area would best suit their interests and talents.

“I’m on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund and we talk about environmental groups that have different approaches,” said Shepard. “Some have a justice approach, some have a policy approach, some have a business approach or a legal approach. If they’re really interested in these issues, they should try volunteering or interning, or getting a fellowship at these organizations so they really understand the differences.”

A former journalist, Shepard’s efforts to affect environmental protection and health policy have been recognized with numerous honors.

She was the recipient of the Heinz Award for the Environment in recognition of her “courageous advocacy and determined leadership in combating environmental injustice in urban America.” In 2008, she received the Jane Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rockefeller Foundation for her activism to build healthier communities by engaging residents in environmental and land-use decision. The National Audubon Society presented Shepard its Rachel Carson Award, which recognizes female environmental leaders and promotes women’s roles in the environmental movement.

Her passion for environmental health and justice extends beyond WE ACT. Shepard is a former chair of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She has worked with the National Institutes of Health, serving on its National Children’s Study Advisory Committee and its National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council.

A graduate of Howard University, Shepard has contributed her expertise to numerous non-profit boards, including the Environmental Defense Fund, New York League of Conservation Voters and the News Corporation Diversity Council, among others. She’s also served as a member of the New York City Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board and the New York City Waterfront Management Advisory Board.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Environmental justice advocate to receive honorary degree at 2018 commencement

One of the country’s leading environmental advocates and a pioneer in advancing environmental justice in urban communities will be recognized by Lawrence University with an honorary degree June 10 at its 169th commencement.

Peggy Shepard
Peggy Shepard

Peggy Shepard, executive director of the New York City-based organization WE ACT For Environmental Justice, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and serve as the principal commencement speaker.

Since its founding in 1988, Shepard has nurtured and guided WE ACT from a grassroots organization of West Harlem volunteers into a professionally-staffed advocacy organization that works to ensure the rights to clean air, water and soil extends to people of all communities.

“I experienced Peggy’s passion for improving public health and her strong commitment to environmental justice for members of the Harlem community through an extended negotiation close to 15 years ago,” said Lawrence President Mark Burstein. “Her strong commitment to important human values and her willingness to negotiate and compromise to achieve her objectives serve as a wonderful example for our graduating class and for all of us in the Lawrence community. I look forward to welcoming her to Appleton this June. “

Shepard has been at the forefront of developing community-academic research partnerships to improve children’s environmental health. Through WE ACT, she has established cooperative partnerships with physicians and scientists at leading medical institutions, law schools, labor unions and diverse environmental, public health and urban constituencies.

A former journalist and a TEDx presenter, Shepard’s efforts to affect environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally have been recognized with numerous honors.

She was the recipient of the Heinz Award for the Environment in 2002 in recognition of her “courageous advocacy and determined leadership in combating environmental injustice in urban America.” Named in honor of former U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz awards celebrate recognize the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him.

In 2008, she was presented the Jane Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rockefeller Foundation for her activism to build healthier communities by engaging residents in environmental and land-use decision.

The National Audubon Society in 2004 presented Shepard its Rachel Carson Award, which recognizes female environmental leaders and promotes women’s roles in the environmental movement.

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health honored Shepard with its Dean’s Distinguished Service Award in 2004.

“Her strong commitment to important human values and her willingness to negotiate and compromise to achieve her objectives serve as a wonderful example for our graduating class and for all of us in the Lawrence community.
— Lawrence President Mark Burstein

Her passion for environmental health and justice extends beyond WE ACT. Shepard is a former chair of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She has worked with the National Institutes of Health, serving on its National Children’s Study Advisory Committee and its National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council.

A graduate of Howard University, Shepard has contributed her expertise to numerous non-profit boards, including the Environmental Defense Fund, New York League of Conservation Voters and the News Corporation Diversity Council, among others. She’s also served as a member of the New York City Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board and the New York City Waterfront Management Advisory Board.

Lawrence’s honorary degree will be Shepard’s second. She was previously recognized by Smith College in 2010.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.