Throughout this challenging academic year, the President’s Sustainability Research Fellows charged ahead with 9 extraordinary projects.
On Monday, the fifth cohort of fellows presented their projects in a Zoom webinar. Funded by the President’s Office, the Office of Sustainability, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and the Environmental Studies program, the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) encourages students to learn by leading. Through the fellowship, students spent the past year addressing specific and practical tools for environmental change identified by the College and surrounding communities.
President Valerie Smith, Professor of Sociology Joy Charlton, and Chuck Gentlemoon, Chief of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, made opening remarks.
“I always look forward to hearing from the PSRFs about their projects at the end of the year,” said Smith. “The fellows’ passion and commitment for advancing our sustainability goals across all aspects of campus life is truly inspiring.”
“These students have been actively working on practical skills, and solutions to real-life, practical problems,” said Charlton.
The presentations included:
Martin Tomlinson ’23 and Maya Tipton ’23: Climate Community at Swarthmore
“Our goal was to engage Swarthmore’s community in the urgent work of building resilience in the face of the climate crisis and its intersecting crises,” said Tomlinson. “We need to support community and policy solutions with a concerted effort to shift the college’s collective paradigm,” added Tipton. The pair’s project involved expanding the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, generating recommendations for Swarthmore’s future engagement with fossil fuel policy in Pennsylvania through extensive research, and organizing the Climate Essentials Workshop series, designed to foster engagement at Swarthmore around the climate crisis.
Ananya Bhattacharya ’21: Chester Semester
“The purpose of my project was to facilitate the integration of environmental justice into College community engagement programs and identify opportunities for program improvement in order to best serve Swarthmore students and Chester community partners,” said Battacharya. “There were three main outcomes of the project: strengthening the program structure of the relatively new Chester Semester program, integrating environmental justice into the course curriculum, and as the year progressed, creating opportunities for EJ-oriented collaboration at the college.”
To fulfill these purposes, Battacharya first held a stakeholder discussion session, which led to her creating a set of program recommendations for the Chester Semester teaching team, and also helped reform the Chester Semester course to be approved for Environmental Studies credit. Finally, Battacharya revitalized C4, a decades-old student group advocating for environmental justice in Chester and the shut-down of the nation’s largest municipal waste incinerator. Battacharya even worked with C4 to identify long-term funding opportunities to sustain itself in the future.
Daniel Balauro ’23: Indigenous Interconnections
“When we talk about the climate crisis, who do we forget?” asked Balauro. “Indigenous Interconnections was a process-based project dedicated to re-centering indigenous perspectives, re-imagining rightful institutional allyship, and reconceptualizing Swarthmore’s commitment to environmental justice.”
Balauro built relationships with various indigenous community members at Swarthmore and beyond, especially with the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. Balauro also helped research and interview candidates for the Environmental Studies department’s new tenure-track position for a scholar of Environmental Humanities and Native American studies, and laid the foundations for an Indigenous Environmentalism Lecture Series at Swarthmore.
Alex Flowers ’21: Sustainable Space Management
“How can we take a data-informed approach to making the best use of the space we have in order to minimize new space growth?” Through research, data analysis, and dialogue with stakeholders on campus and experts off campus, Flowers was able to learn about how Swarthmore can measure and quantify space, and identified best practices for managing space as that valuable resource.
Chris Stone ’23: Energy Efficiency
“What can we do to bring carbon emissions down to 0 [at Swarthmore]? How exactly do we have these conversations as a community to meet this commitment for our buildings?”
Conducting extensive research and reaching out to consultants with experience working with Swarthmore’s building development projects, Stone created an energy plan, which was approved by the Board of Managers in February. The plan proposes a pathway to carbon neutrality for electricity and natural gas on campus. Stone specifically focused on transitioning to sustainable energy systems that would bring campus buildings to zero carbon emissions.
Olivia Stoetzer ’23: Carbon Offset — 1968 Fellow
“My goal this year was to look into carbon offsets as a way to address these emissions and to develop an institutional policy for making that purchase. I wanted to learn how we could purchase offsets in the most thoughtful way possible.”
Stoetzer first conducted a series of benchmarking interviews with 9 other colleges and universities to better understand how offsets are being used at the institutional level. With that information, Stoetzer hosted two carbon offsets community conversations with faculty, students, and staff to collect feedback: the first on criteria and preferences, and the second on decision-making and governance.
Alfi Muhamad ’23: International Climate Engagement
“Even though international climate engagement is global, through my project I was able to find my relationship to it.” Muhamed’s project led to curriculum college partnerships and group facilitations, creating a six-college COP (Conference of the Parties) consortium, in which students would work together to attend domestic climate conferences, share resources, and connect student groups. He proposed a 360 program in which students would explore the climate crisis from several disciplines, and take a COP research course in which students would be able to formulate their own research topics and questions they aimed to tackle at the conference itself.
Colin Donahue ’22: Infusing Sustainability in the Curriculum
“One of the goals of this project was to strengthen the strengthen the Environmental Studies program by benchmarking the curriculum against peer institutions to see if we were following best practices; the second goal of the project was to pilot focus groups to measure the environmental knowledge of the student body; and the third goal was to identify institutional strategies to infuse topics, sustainability across more departments and programs.”
In his research, Donahue learned that Swarthmore students are interested in learning more about how Swarthmore contributes to environmental justice, how to deal with climate anxiety, and how to identify credible information in the news and media.
Chelsea Semper ’21: Crum Woods
“My project was on the restoration of the sewer line right of way, through the replanting of native flora for the ecological benefit of the Crum Woods.”
Throughout the fall, Semper collected data on the various units of the right of way, and analyzed them for their ecological properties. She compiled this information to create a comprehensive 3-year plan for the right of way restoration plan, which includes ecological data, the restoration timeline and rationale, planting recommendations, invasive species treatment protocol, and other restoration and ecology resources. Semper also created an extensive budget document that estimates the total cost of the project and accounts for supplies, land preparation, installation, and maintenance costs.
Director of Sustainability Aurora Winslade followed these presentations with gratitude for the students and PSRF family for their hard work in a difficult year. “I am incredibly grateful and proud to be standing here as we close this year, and we see just how much was accomplished,” Winslade said.