2017 Fellows


Kemet Azubuike 

Kemet Azubuike resides from Dayton, Ohio and is currently a graduate student at Howard University studying sociology with concentrations in environmental, urban, and economic sociology. Kemet enjoys reading, helping organize communities, watching documentaries, mentoring, meeting new people, and playing a good game of basketball. Kemet plans to use this fellowship experience to aid in his understanding of the socioeconomic effects of renewable energies on low-income communities.

Foundation Partner: The 11th Hour Project

Host Organization: Vote Solar, Washington DC

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Ashley Bell

My name is Ashley Bell and I am a Ph.D. Student at Tulane University through the school of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. I am originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and completed both my Bachelor and Master degrees at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. The original life was to be a veterinarian, however after completing a study abroad program in South Africa, I realized that my degree could be better used working towards improving public health via environmental health. My passion within environmental health is environmental justice. The merging of social and environmental issues is right up my alley because I wholeheartedly believe that quality of health should not be geographically or status dependent. In my spare time I like to listen to music, read a book (that’s not school related), play with Mylo (my mini dachshund), or sleep.

Foundation Partner: Island Foundation

Host Organization: New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, New Market, NH

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Cheryl Bennett

Cheryl Bennett is enrolled in the Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management at the Milano School where she is positing sustainable food systems as a driver of environmental conservation. Agriculture is the largest interface humans have with the environment yet the current industrial agriculture model is based on a linear economy which views waste management and social costs as externalities and not part of production costs. And that is a problem.

Foundation Partner: The New York Community Trust

Host Organization: The Nature Conservancy, New York, NY


Lauren Beriont

Originally from the shores of New Jersey, and with a background in environmental science, I am currently pursuing a Masters in Macro Social Work at the University of Michigan to better work at the intersection of equity and the environment. I am interested in helping fundamentally re-imagine the way people can work together in mutually beneficial ways for community well-being for all.

Foundation Partner/Host Organization: Pisces Foundation, San Francisco, CA

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Sindhu Bharadwaj

Sindhu is an MS student in Environmental Justice and Policy at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE).  She received a BA from New York University in Politics and Cultural Studies. At SNRE, Sindhu focuses on developing policy frameworks and recommendations to address issues at the intersection of environment and social inequality in urban contexts. Her professional background is in communications.

Foundation Partner: Barr Foundation

Host Organization: Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, Boston, MA


I am a Ph.D. student in Geography at the University of California – Davis from Houston, Texas.  My research interests include environmental justice and critical race studies.  Particularly, I hope to examine state-society relations and how the state engages in activities regarding the uneven distribution of environmental burdens and benefits in the urban setting with the use of mixed-methods.  Other than my research, I really like doing conservation work with youth.

Foundation Partner: The 11th Hour Project

Host Organization: Center on Race, Poverty, and Environment, Oakland, CA

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Mayra Cruz is the Climate Resilience Program Manager at Catalyst Miami. She manages CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience) Miami, which provides social justice, community organizing, and climate resilience training to community members. She also supports Catalyst’s work on disaster preparedness and increasing clean energy opportunities for vulnerable communities. Cruz graduated from Columbia University with a Master of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences with a Certificate in Climate and Health.

Foundation Partner: Barr Foundation

Host Organization: Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Boston, MA


Alexis Cureton

My name is Alexis Omar Cureton. Currently, I am a Graduate student receiving my MPA from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs with a concentration in Energy and Policy Analysis. I received my undergraduate degree from Clark Atlanta University in Sociology. I seek to gain a better understanding of the intersectionality of energy access as it pertains to energy equity being uses as a tool to achieve sustainable economic development for minority communities. My favorite quote is “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” -Malcolm X

Foundation Partner: The 11th Hour Project

Host Organization: Northwest SEED, Seattle, Washington


Karina Herrera

My name is Karina Herrera. I graduated from Harvard University in 2013 with a degree in Environmental Science and Engineering. Following graduation, I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in my hometown, Fresno, CA. There I worked at Fresno State on increasing the number of underrepresented minorities receiving STEM degrees and at the nonprofit HandsOn on addressing low early education literacy rates through increased classroom volunteers. I am currently a first-year graduate student at the Bren School for Environmental Science & Management, UC Santa Barbara, specializing in water resources management.

Foundation Partner/Host Organizations: William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia, PA


Kassandra Hishida

I grew up in Fresno, CA and earned my BS in Environmental Science at Fresno State. Despite being situated in a city greatly impacted by air pollution, pesticide drift, and food insecurity, few of my science classes discussed the issues facing our own community members. I applied to graduate programs in order to better understand the connections between these social and environmental issues. I am currently studying food justice, environmental justice, and environmental education in the Environmental Studies Master’s Program at the University of Oregon. My ultimate goal is to return to Fresno and support environmental justice work in my hometown.

Foundation Partner: Barr Foundation

Host Organization: Toxics Action Center, Boston, MA


Mary Jones

Mary will be wrapping up her degree in Environmental Justice from the University of Michigan in spring of 2017. She is passionate about the dynamic intersection between the environment and social justice and is committed to community building through authentic partnership and collaboration. In her spare time she devours books and knits up a storm with her cat, Jellyby.

Foundation Partner/Host Organization: Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, Ann Arbor, MI


Ragini Kathail

Ragini Kathail is an experienced environmental health professional with an MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a BA from Pomona College. She has spent a cumulative total of two and a half years working in India on issues around water, sanitation, and agriculture. She has additional experience in digital fundraising, email marketing, and supporter recruitment for non-profits. She currently lives in New York.

Foundation Partner: The New York Community Trust

Host Organization: Natural Resources Defense Council

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Priscila Papias

My name is Priscila Papias, and I am originally from South East Los Angeles, California. I am completing my MS degree at the University of Michigan, where my focus is conservation ecology. I have a background in environmental history from the UC Berkeley, and am interested in community development, bilingual environmental education, and urban sustainability.

Foundation Partner: Barr Foundation

Host Organization: Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, Boston, MA


ValaRae Partee

ValaRae is a Project Engineer and Sustainability Consultant for Wilmot Inc. in Nashville, TN. She earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Environmental Engineering from the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University, respectively. ValaRae is on a mission to help ensure a world with healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities, ecosystems, and economies. Because of her passion for people and the environment, she chose to blend her interests of engineering, policy, and advocacy together to help her clients develop thoughtful, impactful and sustainable solutions.

Foundation Partner: The New York Community Trust

Organization: Earthjustice

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Carolina Prado

Carolina Prado is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental and women’s studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research examines hazardous waste sites, air pollution and environmental stewardship of rivers in the Tijuana-San Diego region.  She has been an active environmental justice advocate in the border region and participates in a food justice collective in Oakland.  As a future action-oriented professor, Carolina envisions transforming the cross-border environment to be more healthy and just for communities on both sides of the border.

Foundation Partner: The 11th Hour Project

Host Organization: Solutions Project, Oakland, CA

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Frances Roberts-Gregory

Frances Roberts-Gregory is a Ph.D. candidate in Society and Environment at the University of California – Berkeley. She also teaches environmental racism and climate justice courses as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and Bard Early College New Orleans. Her autoethnographic research focuses on how women of color in Gulf Coast Louisiana advocate for climate justice while navigating contradictory relationships with energy and petrochemical industries. She earned a BA in Sociology and Anthropology, with concentrations in Spanish and Environmental Science, from Spelman College. 

Foundation Partner/Host Organization: Environmental Grantmakers Association, New York, NY

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Victoria Ruddle

Victoria Ruddle recently completed her Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. Originally from upstate New York, she has a BS in Biology from St. Lawrence University. Though her graduate research focused on the population status of endangered sturgeon in South Carolina, she developed an interest in marine policy and the intersection of research and conservation. She combined her research skills with her passion for outreach and science communication at the Ocean Research Conservation Association in Fort Pierce, Florida as a part of the Environmental Fellows Program. She is now an Assistant Grant Specialist with the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program at the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Massachusetts, where she reports on federal initiatives to fund wildlife conservation in the Northeast.

Foundation Partner: The 11th Hour Project

Host Organization: Ocean Research Conservation Association, Fort Pierce, FL

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Malavika Sahai

Malavika Sahai is an Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy & Planning student at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Her research involves issues of urban water security, and is directly concerned with infrastructure and affordability. In her experience she has conducted work on social research, environmental communications, labor rights organizing, and food pantry organizing. During her EFP placement, she worked with the National Wildlife Federation on urban initiatives and habitat co-benefits. She has received a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning from Virginia Tech.

Foundation Partner: Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Host Organization: National Wildlife Federation , Ann Arbor, MI


Marie Schaefer

Marie Schaefer is a Ph.D. candidate in Community Sustainability at Michigan State University (MSU). Schaefer is a founding member of the MSU Indigenous Graduate Student Collective, and a Graduate Fellow in the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center. She received a bachelor’s in Anthropology from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s in Applied Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. Schaeffer is of Anishinaabe (Odawa) descent. She has worked with tribes from all over the country. Her work focuses on the revitalization of indigenous knowledge systems, especially manoomin (wild rice). Schaefer is interested in using community-based participatory methods to understand the braiding of indigenous knowledges with scientific knowledge. 

Foundation Partner: Wege Foundation

Host Organization: Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, Grand Rapids, MI


Soli Shin

Soli Shin graduated from Duke University with a Master of Environmental Management degree in 2018, with a focus on energy. She views climate and energy issues through the lens of the humanities. Her dream is to solve global energy inefficiencies by matching people with tools and to present renewables as the right choice. She is currently in a rotational program at Southern California Edison’s Energy Procurement & Management Unit.

Foundation Partner: The New York Community Trust

Host Organization: Environmental Defense Fund, New York, NY


Rachel Smith

Rachel recently completed her M.S. in Forestry from The University of Montana, where her research focused on developing geospatial tools to assist tribal land managers in meeting their conservation goals.  Rachel is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.  She is interested in learning how non-profits can support tribal communities to build capacity, and develop movements, focused on the protection and conservation of land, water, air, community health and cultural identity.  She enjoys exploring hot springs, hiking with her family, and traveling.

Foundation Partner/Host Organization: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

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