Meet the 2022 Class of NWF Graduate Student Research Fellows

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is pleased to introduce the recipients of this year’s graduate student research fellowships.

Each year, NWF Graduate Student Research Fellows support the advancement of NWF Education and Engagement programs through dedicated research projects. This research helps to expand the content and development of a variety of efforts across NWF’s Education and Engagement programs.

Community Partnerships Fellowship

In an effort to better serve the hundreds of communities we work with, the Community Partnerships Research Fellow will support the growth and expansion of National Wildlife Federation’s community-based programs by researching Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), or women-led organizations that are doing community-based environmental/conservation work. This research should grasp the models and practices such organizations use to create meaningful relationships and enact lasting change in historically marginalized communities.

Megan Harwell

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Megan graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Central Florida. Upon graduation, she moved abroad for 10 years, and returned to the U.S. last year to pursue a M.S. in Environmental Studies, with a self-designed focus in Conservation Psychology.  As a communication coach who works extensively with software engineers from different countries, and through her travels, Megan values cross-cultural communication and in building collaborative relationships both in and outside of the workplace. She has always loved nature and wants to work at the intersection of environmental conservation and human well-being, specifically in facilitating the implementation of programs that are jointly owned and run with the local communities. She has a dog that she rescued in Colombia named Estrella (a foster fail) and spends her free time outside, dancing, or reading (currently, with the Master’s, a lot of reading).

 “I am extremely honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with the NWF as a Communities Team fellow. I believe strongly in creating a world that is safe and equitable for everyone, yet many groups have been historically marginalized, and are simultaneously disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental issues. Empowering locals and their communities to protect their land, water, and resources gives the power back to those who are being most affected by these decisions, allows innovative and sustainable resource use, and reconnects people to nature. I want to better understand the dynamics of successful community organizations working in conservation and how larger organizations like the NWF can build beneficial relationships and support them.”

EcoLeader Community Fellowship

In an effort to better serve the NWF EcoLeaders community, the NWF EcoLeader Community Fellows will support continuous improvement of the EcoLeaders and EcoCareers programs based on research into the latest innovations and best practices in youth leadership and career development programs, the advancement of equity and justice principles, stakeholder engagement, as well as the creation of new or revised content.

Chedeya Brown

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Chedeya is a doctoral student in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES) at UCLA. She will also be a 2022-23 NSF Research Traineeship — Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) Fellow. She received her B.A. from UCLA in American Literature & Culture and Spanish. During her undergraduate studies, she conducted research on Green Gentrification in Barcelona. She most recently worked at Cypress Creek, a utility-scale solar energy firm as an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Associate. As an ESG associate, she led the ESG Council in the research and creation of the Company’s inaugural ESG report. In her free time, she enjoys running, looking after her dog, Zuko, and maintaining her houseplants.

“During this fellowship, I am most interested in creating resources that reflect culturally sensitive principles of engagement for community outreach practices. Creating a knowledge base that can be employed by scholars and researchers to direct them on best engagement practices with BIPOC communities is imperative for the establishment of just and sound environmental policies and for addressing environmental racism. Today, we have the opportunity to correct the disproportionate harms communities of color have endured for decades. I aim to prevent future conflict between non-profit environmental organizations and the communities they work in. I believe cultural competency is key when expanding into new areas and communities that have been historically overlooked or underserved.”

Christine Burrill

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Christine graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in Geology and a minor in Mathematics. She spent four years working for a consulting company, then went on to graduate school and completed her Masters in Geoscience at UMass Amherst. She is now currently working on her PhD at New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology. The small, rural campus lacked a recycling program when she arrived in 2017. Luckily the Property Director was already working on bringing recycling back to campus when she approached him about it. She helped support the recycling efforts on campus and, as an Event Officer for the Graduate Student Association, she organized a symposium on Recycling and Sustainability in part to bring awareness to the new recycling program. Other guests from around the U.S. were invited to speak, including a representative from Terracycle. Christine also spearheaded the school’s participation in the Campus Race to Zero Waste (formerly RecycleMania). Her efforts are widely known throughout the campus and she received the school’s Student Appreciation Award in 2019.

“Recycling, waste reduction and breaking free from plastic as much as possible are very important issues to me. Through my efforts to help promote the recycling program at New Mexico Tech, I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is to educate a community on environmental topics and build support around a recycling program in certain contexts. I am excited for the opportunity to learn more about collaboration, outreach and education through this NWF Fellowship and to contribute to the NWF’s mission. I’m looking forward to helping revise and develop some of the online content that will help others make a difference within their own campuses or communities.”

EcoLeader Tribal Colleges and Universities Fellowship

In an effort to strengthen the NWF EcoLeaders community, the NWF EcoLeader Community Fellow will support the growth and development of EcoLeaders and EcoCareers programs based on research of best practices related to strengthening and building relationships with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and the advancement of equity, justice, and inclusivity principles within these programs.

Christine Sanborn

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Christine is a graduate student pursuing her Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Educational Technology from Grand Valley State University (GVSU), in Allendale Michigan. She obtained her BS in Psychology from GVSU in 2020. Christine started her career supporting Urban Native Youth and their families with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) Native American Education Program (NAEP). She first became involved with NAEP as a student when she attended GRPS’ Bimaadiziwin High School, where she received academic support and cultural teachings. Her positive experiences with NAEP as a student inspired her to give back by devoting the last seven years to supporting Native American education and equity efforts with GRPS; which led her to pursue a career in education. When Christine isn’t hard at work, she’s busy volunteering her time to Native American organizations, crafting, and enjoying nature with her family.

Currently, Christine works for GRPS as a Project Coordinator, where she provides district wide support as part of the Districts Professional Learning Team. As a Project Coordinator she maintains district wide Professional Learning Systems, supports Professional Learning planning, acts as the District’s SCECH Coordinator, coordinates Title IIA Grant maintenance, and works on special projects. As an EchoLeader Fellow, Christine will focus her efforts towards advancing equity, justice, and inclusivity principles amongst EcoLeader programs and Tribal College and Universities (TCUs) .

“Aaniin,

Giiwedinkwe nindizhinikaaz , Cree Anishinaabekwe nindaaw, Migizi nindoodem, Grand Rapids MI nindoonjibaa.

Thank you for allowing me to formally introduce myself in Anishinaabemowin. What I said was, Hello, my Anishinaabe name is North Wind Women, I’m a descendant of the Cree Tribe, My Clan is Eagle, and I’m from Grand Rapids Michigan.

My experience with Native American Education and project coordination will prove to be invaluable as I work to strengthen relationships between NWF EcoLeader programs and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Exploring current NWF relationships with TCUs by identifying strengths, best practices, and opportunities for continued engagement through research, phone outreach, and writing are the goals I have identified for this project.”

Environmental Action Fellowship

In an effort to assist NWF’s Earth Tomorrow Program in developing new environmental education tools and promoting “education to action” opportunities, the Environmental Action Research Fellow will inventory the current environmental justice resources NWF has for youth, research new education tools for youth and share recommendations for which tools will be incorporated in an “education to action” toolkit.

Tre’Nard Morgan

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Tre’Nard is from a small town in south Florida called Belle Glade where his interest in the environmental career track originated. Tre’Nard graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S in Natural Resource Conservation in Fall of 2020. While on campus, he found a haven in organizations that supported and uplifted minority communities and educated them on the diversity that life and interdisciplinary careers offered.  Tre’Nard is a relaxed and nonchalant person, so he’s usually reading a novel or going on a nature walk if he’s not in the gym. He also loves video games. Tre’Nard will be continuing his educational track this fall at the University of Michigan pursuing a sustainability master’s degree specializing in Environmental Justice.

“I’m excited to uphold the principles of the NWF and leave my mark on the Earth Tomorrow program to help uplift the students willing to take initiative to better our natural world. As an eco leader I’m grateful to have a community that not only shares my values, but are the backbone to my progression. The fact that there is a program available to educate young minds at a critical development stage is a boon for the diversity we need in the ecological sector. Those diverse students come with essential perception from different backgrounds and help elevate low socioeconomic communities that face environmental injustice.

I plan to revolutionize how individuals perceive environmental issues and those citizens affected by them. The technology we have today can be utilized to broadcast environmental conflicts and how the individuals who are impacted engage with those problems and why awareness is required. I will gather data utilizing the University of Michigan resources and staff to integrate campus networks and local organizations to present modules for students to understand environmental justice and methods to spread awareness and get involved.”

Congratulations to our new class of Fellows! These Fellows join a national network of current and alumni fellows, many of whom have gone on to lead new businesses, agencies, and programs for sustainability all across the U.S. Read their stories and connect with them directly in the NWF EcoLeaders Community

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