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President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship Welcomes New Cohort and Returning Fellows

Students sit underneath cherry blossom tree

Eight Swarthmore students have been newly selected for the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF), a high-impact learning experience where students take stewardship over vital sustainability challenges at the College. The program matches motivated students with small teams of staff and faculty mentors to research, develop, and implement projects in a yearlong course and associated internship.

The program is jointly run by the President’s Office, the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and has led or contributed to many of the College’s sustainability efforts, including the College’s energy plan, To Zero by Thirty-Five, the restoration of Crum Woods, the infusion of sustainability into the curriculum, and more. Additionally, five fellows will be returning to continue their sustainability projects.

The incoming 2024-2025 President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship cohort includes:

Serafia CecilSerafia Cecil ’27 became interested in understanding policy approaches towards environmental restoration after working as a student gardener assistant and public composter, and getting involved in local environmental justice organizations. Next year, Serafia will be working with Jeff Jabco, director of grounds and coordinator of horticulture for the Scott Arboretum, and the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee to advance the ongoing ecological restoration of the Crum Woods. Serafia’s work will build on past PSRF projects focused on stewarding this natural resource while providing opportunities for the community to engage with the woods.

“I'm excited to understand the Crum Woods from new perspectives, and to work alongside people who are invested in its care,” Serafina says. “I look forward to building relationships, within and outside of the woods.”

David Diaz GarciaDavid Diaz Garcia ’25, majoring in engineering with minors with Latin American/Latino Studies and environmental studies, is passionate about sustainable engineering. Their past experiences with community gardens and the blossoming renewable energy industry in Los Angeles has led them to explore the College's sustainability initiatives. David sees sustainability as a societal and systemic process and hopes to use this as a guiding principle for their future work.

As a PSRF mentored by Elizabeth Drake, director of sustainability, and Roderick Wolfson, senior planner/project manager, David will conduct research to determine how green building standards should be used in capital projects on campus.

“I am looking forward to learning more about sustainability in construction and architecture,” David says, “as well as expanding the scope of sustainability past the materials and toward sourcing, labor, and cultural systems.”

Angela GilAngela Gil ’25 was born in Atlanta to Colombian parents, and grew up in a few different cities around the world. Her interest in zero waste began with research on lithium battery recycling, which led to working with the Office of Sustainability. She loves problem solving through design, and values community engagement, authentic sustainability, and circularity.

Angela’s project is focused on advancing circular economy principles of reuse and repair on campus in order to advance our zero waste goals. This project will be mentored by Clare Hyre, associate director of sustainability. 

“I'm excited to apply the things I have learned about in the Environmental Studies courses at Swarthmore, and to learn more about leadership in sustainability,” Angela says. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the Office of Sustainability again and make a difference on campus.”

Emmy LiEmmy Li ’25 grew up in Richmond, Va., and is double majoring in economics and environmental governance and policy. As a Green Advisor on campus, she has worked with the Global Engagement Office (GEO) to incorporate sustainability into study abroad and is passionate about connecting with others to increase climate action and awareness. She also has previous experience conducting climate finance research and will intern this summer at the EPA to better understand the enforcement of environmental regulations.

Emmy will be working with the Office of Sustainability’s Climate Action Manager to implement strategies designed to reduce scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. As part of her work, Emmy will also help conduct the College’s annual greenhouse gas inventory. 

“I am excited to learn more about Swarthmore’s engagement with scope 3 emissions. My work with GEO and my abroad experience in South Africa have stressed the impacts from travel emissions,” Emmy says. “I hope to help shape the College’s scope 3 emissions policies to be responsible, equitable, and transparent.”

Ella PeyreElla Peyre ’26 is a rising junior from Rochester, N.Y., who is passionate about environmental justice and environmental education on campus. As a psychology and political science major, she is interested in how research can propel policy work and thinks that PSRF is the perfect mechanism to continue driving change on our campus.

“I am super excited to get started as a PSRF and learn from other students and faculty that have a shared passion for sustainability,” Ella says. “With the development of new Athletics facilities in progress I am excited to help make the space better for our college, students, and environment.”

Ella will be working with Pete Carroll, head men’s & women’s cross country/track & field coach, to help imagine how sustainability can be incorporated into athletic facilities at the College.

Juna SaitoJuna Saito ’25 enjoys community-oriented work and has worked closely with Swarthmore’s campus waste system as a Green Advisor in the Office of Sustainability for the past two years. After spending last summer in Japan working on small organic farms, she realized the impact of applying the practices and mindsets that her hosts followed to her own community food system sustainability efforts.

As a PSRF, Juna will be working with Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jennifer Pfluger and the Swarthmore Borough Environmental Advisory Council to advance zero waste efforts in the community. Building on Green Advisor Will Trone ’26’s work during 2023-24, Juna will be pursuing specific strategies that could be implemented in the Borough to increase waste diversion.

“My PSRF goal is to learn how to adapt sustainability efforts to best fit the needs of the community where they are being implemented,” Juna says. “I’m really looking forward to working with the Swarthmore Borough, as the work I’ve done thus far has taken place mostly within my closed campus community.”

Sophia SchmitzSophia Schmitz ’25 is from Urbana, Ill., and is double majoring in economics and political science. Her internship at the Office of Sustainability, research on droughts in Mexico for Associate Professor of Economics Syon Bhanot, as well as her coursework at Swarthmore sparked her interest in the practical policy applications of sustainability. As a PSRF, Sophia aims to make tangible contributions to sustainability initiatives on campus.

Sophia will be working with Chris Kane, director of procurement, and returning Senior Fellow Anastasia Erley ’25 to develop a sustainable purchasing program for the College.

“I'm excited to bridge the gap between classroom theory and on-the-ground practice by working to implement a sustainable purchasing policy,” Sophia says. “The PRSF offers a unique platform to integrate insights from the entire campus community and explore innovative solutions to advance sustainability on campus.”

Mahika ShergillMahika Shergill ’26 is a rising junior from Mumbai, India, studying Honors economics and environmental studies. Her passion for environmental justice started through her engagement with farmers in her home state of Maharashtra, where she worked on water conservation and sustainable agricultural practices. Since coming to Swarthmore, she has continued supporting local communities such as Chester and North Philadelphia as a direct action leader and treasurer of C4. She hopes to build a career in environmental policy and law and believes PSRF will be a wonderful learning experience. 
Mentored by Professor of Environmental Studies Giovanna Di Chiro, Mahika will be supporting the Lang Center’s Environmental Justice and Community Resilience Program. Her work will focus on the Good Energy Collaborative, an effort to partner with organizations in Chester to educate local residents about the benefits of solar technology and solar training opportunities leading to healthy, sustainable, and career-path green jobs.

“I hope to support and amplify the voices of local communities fighting environmental injustice around us,” Mahika says. “It is easy to feel helpless in the face of climate change — I want my project to give Swarthmore students greater agency and the tools to engage with environmental policy and justice.”

Additionally, five previous PSRFs will be returning for the 2024-25 year to continue working on campus sustainability efforts:

Anastasia ErleyAnastasia Erley ’25 has cultivated a strong background in zero waste practices, particularly focusing on end-of-life materials as a Green Advisor and as a zero waste intern at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Through these roles, she gained invaluable insights into the complexities of the waste cycle. Her exploration of waste management led her to a realization: Despite efforts to minimize waste, the sheer volume remains overwhelming. This shifted her focus towards improving practices earlier in the materials cycle, which led to her interest in sustainable procurement and the importance of proactive measures in waste reduction.

Anastasia will be continuing her work with Chris Kane, director of procurement, and incoming PSRF Sophia Schmitz to develop a sustainable purchasing program for the College. 

“I'm excited to work with my mentor Chris and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council in advancing sustainable procurement on campus!” Anastasia says. “I've often wondered how I will use my environmental degree, and this project helps me develop project management skills, and a unique set of knowledge for future sustainability work endeavors.”

Isabela IbrahimIsabela Ibrahim ’25, grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is majoring in engineering with a minor in environmental studies. Her life experiences, work as a Green Advisor, and coursework at Swarthmore contributed to a passion for sustainable food systems. In her spare time, Isabela enjoys listening to bossa nova, watching cooking videos, and playing ultimate frisbee.

Isabela will be continuing her work to evaluate the feasibility of creating a campus farm at Swarthmore, working with Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach and members of the Food Systems Working Group. 

“As a Senior PSRF, I am looking forward to advancing plans for an educational farm on campus. I am especially excited to explore opportunities within our prototype farm,” Isabela says. “Additionally, I am eager to seek partnerships with local farmers and keen on expanding the curricular tie-ins of a campus farm.”

Jacob HerboldJacob Herbold ’26 has always been interested in working at the intersection of sustainability and public policy. As a PSRF sophomore year, Jake was thrilled to research and apply for a host of federal, state, and private clean energy and transportation grants on behalf of Swarthmore Borough.

Next year, Jake will be continuing his work with his mentor, Phil Coleman, and other members of the Environmental Advisory Council to purchase funding opportunities for public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the Borough. 

“I am excited to continue working with Borough partners to identify and pursue funding opportunities for electric vehicle charging stations,” Jacob says. “We are in the process of applying for two separate pieces of funding that would fully fund our proposal to install between six and eight new EV chargers in the Borough.”

Clara LeeClara Lee ’26 first became interested in environmental issues after Hurricane Ida hit her hometown of Ponchatoula, La. At Swarthmore, Clara has grown an interest in environmental chemistry as well as environmental justice, as she does activism work with C4. She is passionate about connecting the gaps between the social sciences, STEM, and humanities fields to curate a more intersectional world of academics.

Next year, Clara will be continuing her work to implement a glove recycling program in the College’s chemistry labs, as well as exploring other opportunities to improve the sustainability of labs on campus. She will be mentored by Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Kathryn Riley ’10.

“I'm the first fellow to lead the Lab Waste PSRF project, so my first year was mainly dedicated to research,” Clara says. “I'm super excited to be able to start pilot stages and do some real implementation to the chemistry labs at Swat this year!”

Saumya RajSaumya Raj ’25 has a passion for sustainability that comes from the grassroots-level practices she grew up with in Kerala, India. Over the past year, Saumya focused on creating a unique food recovery space on campus that is easy to scale up and replicate. She aims to spend the next year seamlessly integrating sustainability into daily life and making green choices easy and appealing for everyone.

As a returning fellow, Saumya will be continuing her work to develop a food recovery program for the campus in collaboration with Clare Hyre, associate director of sustainability. This spring, Saumya received an Amplify Grant to create a community fridge for food recovery, which will be the focus of her ongoing project. 

“I am excited to reimagine our food system with local solutions to tackle global challenges,” says Saumya. “This is an opportunity for innovation and improved equity. I truly believe food waste is a reflection of our values and priorities and we can change the future of the earth through conscious choices.”

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