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Udall Scholarship for Environmental Justice Activism Awarded to Kayla Miller ’25

Kayla Miller

When people think about the front lines of environmental activism, they may not immediately picture urban areas and their residents — but Kayla Miller ’25 wants to change that.

The environmental studies major recently received a Udall Scholarship, an honor bestowed upon future leaders in the environmental, Tribal public policy, and health care fields.

“It brings me so much joy that I, as a kid from Brooklyn, N.Y., could win a scholarship for environmental leadership,” says Miller, who aspires to be an environmental justice journalist.

The highly competitive scholarship was awarded to 55 students this year. Scholars receive $7,000 and the opportunity to meet fellow scholars, environmental and Tribal leaders, and elected officials at a four-day orientation in Tucson, Ariz. in August.

Miller exhibits her passion for environmental justice activism as the leader of Campus Coalition Concerning Chester (C4), a student-run environmental justice organization working with Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) to fight environmental racism in Chester, and also by exploring the interconnection between Black women and the natural world through her coursework.

“It is incredibly validating to see the work I’ve done [in Chester] recognized on a national level,” she says, “and to apply what I’m learning in class to actually impact the real world.”

The Tucson conference will offer Miller an exciting opportunity to engage with a network of peers who share her passion for the environment.  It’s also a chance to interact with fellow women of color, like Wawa Gatheru, a Udall and Rhodes Scholar who founded Black Girl Environmentalist, a national organization that empowers Black girls, women, and non-binary people across the climate sector.

“It’s rare to see women of color, especially Black women, represented in this field,” says Miller.

“Overall, I’m excited to nerd out about environmental justice!”

Miller credits her Swarthmore experience with sharpening her focus on environmental justice, pointing to the professors, classmates, and community partners who helped broaden her knowledge and perspective.                

“I’d like to especially thank Professor of Environmental Studies Giovanna Di Chiro and Zulene Mayfield, chairperson of CRCQL, my two mentors who give me a dual perspective on how to approach environmental justice work,” Miller says. “They’re both so wise and caring. I could not have done this without them.”

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