The nine YSE graduate students and recent graduates in the 2021 Environmental Fellows program have diverse backgrounds and experiences, but share the same impassioned commitment to their environmental work. Their Fellowship host organizations included a wide range of non-profit and advocacy organizations — from a Brooklyn media company to a Southern farming initiative — all that place an emphasis on justice and equity for communities of color and low-income communities who suffer disproportionate consequences of climate change and other environmental threats.
Ashia Ajani — ’21 MEM
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Fellowship host: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Key takeaway: “Philanthropic support shouldn’t be a one-and-done encounter but instead a long-term commitment to redistribute wealth and empower communities.”
Next step: Doctoral program in environmental studies at the University of Oregon.
Simon Bunyan — ’22 MEM
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Fellowship host: UPROSE
Key takeaway: “When you center impacted communities and support their goals and visions, the solutions we achieve are more equitable, just, and lasting.”
Next step: Completing MEM degree and then seeking a position in the renewable energy field.
Liam Gunn — ’21 MEM
Hometown: Southern California
Fellowship host: WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Key takeaway: There needs to be a network for leaders of grassroots environmental justice groups. Grassroots is hard, and being able to share resources, skills, and knowledge will help build out the movement.”
Next step: Attending law school
Tevin Hamilton — ’21 MEM
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Fellowship host: The Pisces Foundation
Key takeaway: “I’ve been given firsthand experience of the ins and outs of environmental grantmaking, and it has inspired me to possibly start my own grantmaking foundation down the line.”
Next step: Looking for a position in environmental philanthropy.
Cam Humphrey — ’21 MEM
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Fellowship host: Race Forward
Key takeaway: “The knowledge, network, and resources I’ve gained through the fellowship molded me into someone who can be a servant to others.”
Next step: Working in the Environmental Justice space.
Pari Kasotia — ’22 MEM
Fellowship host: Just Climate
Key takeaway: “Success is more than a person’s portfolio or a country’s GDP. It comes down to the question ‘Are we investing in sustainable approaches that create a livable world?’”
Next step: Seeking a position in the private or public sector.
Liz Plascencia — ’22 MEM
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Fellowship host: Restore America’s Estuaries
Key takeaway: “It’s crucial for coastal conservation organizations to have an Environmental Justice perspective and create more intentionally diverse working groups on climate change impacts along coastlines.”
Next step: Finishing the MEM program and then seeking a position in a science-based federal agency.
Tabitha Sookdeo — ‘25 MEM / Joint JD
Hometown: Guyana and Sint Maarten in the Dutch Caribbean
Fellowship host: Clean Water Action
Key takeaway: “Even though I’m focusing on water issues in different regions, I find myself constantly tracing things back to the source. The destructiveness of colonialism has caused so many of today’s environmental burdens for disenfranchised communities of color, so I find myself thinking a lot about how I can contribute to anti-colonialism through policy and through law.”
Next step: Moving to Vermont to attend Vermont Law School as part of the joint degree program combining a master’s degree in environmental management with a JD (law degree).
Tiana Wilson-Blindman — ’21 MEM
Hometown: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota
Fellowship host: NorthLight Foundation
Key takeaway: “I’ve been connecting NorthLight with people in my Indigenous community and teaching them how to really communicate with each other. These open conversations have changed my life. This kind of work is what I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know what form it would take.”
Next step: JD candidate, UC Berkeley School of Law
From Doris Duke Conservation Scholars to YSE Class of 2023: Meet Six Future Environmental Leaders
This fall, the Yale School of the Environment welcomed six Doris Duke Conservation Scholars into the class of 2023.Read this Story