Gabriela Rodriguez ’23 MEM (she/her/ella) has been named a recipient of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship, a prestigious program that supports future environmental leaders.
From Miami, Florida, Rodriguez completed her undergraduate studies at Florida International University, then worked with the nonprofit CLEO Institute on climate change education and advocacy. It was through that experience, Rodriguez says, that she developed a deep passion for community-focused climate action, particularly in vulnerable South Florida.
“There was this people-focused lens — how does climate change affect my community and how do we respond to it,” she says. “It’s what ultimately brought me to YSE because I wanted to learn how to assist underserved and overburdened communities dealing with climate change.”
Since arriving at YSE, Rodriguez has been involved with the Yale Center for Environmental Justice and has taken a particular interest in equitable engagement and participation strategies that center unheard voices in the clean energy transition.
This summer, Rodriguez is interning at the U.S. Department of Energy. She is working on equitable stakeholder and community engagement for President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which requires that at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate, the environment, and clean energy go to disadvantaged communities.
“It’s a very exciting time to be working in the government space, with more conversations surrounding clean energy and environmental justice,” Rodriguez says. “I want to keep advancing this vision and helping everyday people. It’s their transition to lead, and they need to be at the forefront, shaping what their future will look like.”
The environmental fellowship program is a core program of the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in individuals and organizations that drive positive environmental change across a range of disciplines. Recipients receive a $15,000 award for academic study and leadership training. The Yale scholars also join a network of nearly 650 Fellows located across the U.S. and the world.
Coming from diverse social, academic, and economic backgrounds, the Switzer fellows “are on the leading edge of environmental and social change through efforts in environmental science, policy, conservation, environmental justice, public health, economics, journalism, urban planning, business, law, and more.”