villegas ’21 pursues interest in enviro justice

Jolie Villegas ’21 grew up in San Francisco and majored in environmental studies and biology at Wes. After receiving her master’s degree at Columbia, she became a clean power analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund. Today, she is an analyst at the World Resources Institute.

How did you develop an interest in studying and working in the environment? How did your experience at Wesleyan influence your decision to work in this industry?
I was born and raised in San Francisco, California, which is a very green and environmentally focused city. It’s easy to adapt individual sustainable behavior practices when you’re surrounded by a community of like-minded people.

I initially thought about environmentalism as an individual issue, caused by consumerism and waste. Then, through my classes at Wes, I got a much more holistic picture of climate change and all of the anthropogenic actions that are contributing to inequitable climate impact. I shifted my field of study from the conservation side, into climate and environmental justice.

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meet our bailey coe 2024 summer fellows!

Every year, the Bailey COE awards fellowships to fund summer (and spring and fall) research opportunities for Wesleyan students across all majors and class years. Most recently, the Bailey COE awarded almost 40 fellowships to Wes students. Learn a little bit more about each, below! Applications for summer 2024, fall 2024 and spring 2025 Bailey COE fellowships will open in January 2024.

Ava Guralnick ‘25 plans to use personal storytelling narratives to combine the perspectives of Asian American Studies and Environmental Studies. She will examine the ways in which various spatial and temporal geographies of land can provide new ways to understand and locate the interwoven histories of imperial conflict, connection, and new kinship/family making processes.

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senior spotlight: kiran kling ’24

How did you first become interested in the environment?
I started thinking and asking and learning about different ways to deal with climate change when I was really young. I used to have a plan to build an electric car company, and I would drag my parents to conferences on renewable energy. I was very concerned that there was this problem, and nobody was paying attention, and felt like somebody had to do something about it. I thought that I would try and play as much of a role as I could. When I finally had the freedom to study climate solutions in college I jumped at the chance.

What led you to choose your majors, environmental studies and government? 
When I got to Wesleyan I decided that I really loved the environmental studies major, and I didn’t want to be boxed into taking the entire earth and environmental science curriculum, particularly online during covid. I liked the variety within the environmental studies major, and I really liked learning about policy, which led me to pursue the government major as well. I chose Wesleyan in large part because of our open curriculum and academic flexibility. I’ve been lucky to take fantastic IDEAS, biology, E&ES, and religion classes alongside my major coursework.

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senior spotlight: amara leazer ’24

What are your combined majors/minors?
My primary major is a university major for environmental and ecological design and engineering. It’s linked with environmental studies and I have a minor in IDEAS. 

Can you tell me about your university major? How you created it, what drew you to it, and what it consists of?
I was originally in earth and environmental science. I liked it but some of the requirements were just not going to be helpful for what I wanted to do, and I wouldn’t be able to take other classes that would be more helpful. IDEAS wasn’t a major yet—now, it’s the College of Design and Engineering Studies. So, there was no major that let you build stuff, and I wanted to build stuff. That’s why I made the university major. It’s been super fun and I haven’t had to take too many classes that I don’t want to, so I recommend it.

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zaks ’99 relishes role in enviro communications

Laura Zaks ’99 is an international food security specialist with expertise in the intersection of agriculture, climate, economic development, nutrition, and public health. She is the associate director of communications and development for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, DC.

Hello Laura! Would you tell me about your path into working in food security?
It’s been a long journey, when I was at Wesleyan I didn’t know that I wanted to work in food security. I was more interested in broader issues surrounding economic development and community development, but wasn’t really sure how I would work in that space.

I had a period of trial and error. I was actually a College of Letters major and was originally focused on humanities. I really loved history and thought about law school, but because I had studied languages, I was also interested in working abroad. I ended up traveling to Panama, and working there for two years.

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senior spotlight: mira begg ’24

Hi Mira! Where are you from, and what led you to major in environmental etudies? 
I’m from Lake Tahoe, California. I’m studying economics and environmental studies. I grew up in an outdoor place, and because of this I’ve inherently been interested and connected to the outdoors throughout my life. When I got to college, I didn’t think I wanted to major in environmental studies  at all, but then I took a class called Dynamic Earth, and realized that I actually really did want to pursue the maor. I’ve changed directions completely, which I’m very happy about. I’m much more interested in this major combination than only majoring in economics. 

What are some of your favorite classes? 
My  favorite class was Renewable Energy and Negative Emissions Technologies with Professor Rosemary Ostfeld. I enjoyed it primarily because I’m really interested in  clean energy, the tech startup industry, and carbon sequestration. I like following the new ideas that come from those fields. 

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senior spotlight: andie glanzer ’24

Hello! How did you decide to major in environmental studies, and what has your experience been as a part of the Bailey COE?
I’m Andie. I am a government and environmental studies major from Long Island, New York. I’ve always had a passion for the environment and nature. In high school, I was really interested in protecting against climate change, so naturally I was drawn to the environmental studies linked major at Wesleyan. When I was in highs chool, I was mostly involved with science research, but I didn’t enjoy it. I was happy that at Wesleyan I could pursue my passion for sustainability while learning about policy and politics related to the environment.

The government and environmental studies combination works well, because as an environmental studies major you learn about major climate problems and solutions, and then the government gives you the tools to implement change. You learn how governments function and how regulatory processes work, and you begin to see that the way people perceive an issue shapes political responses to problems.

What classes have you enjoyed during your time at Wesleyan?
One class I enjoyed was the Environmental Law and Politics class with Professor Earl Phillip. It was probably the most difficult class I’ve taken at Wesleyan, but it was also one of the most rewarding. It introduced me to environmental law and regulations, which is something that I’m interested in pursuing in the future.

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