Environmental Fellows Share Impassioned Commitment to Justice

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

 Ashia Ajani

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

Simon Bunyan 23 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

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

Tevin Hamilton

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

Cam Humphrey

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

Pari Kasotia

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 

Liz Plascencia

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

Tabitha Sookdeo

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  

Tiana Wilson-Blindman

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 

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