Center for Sustainability Education Announces 2021 Baird Sustainability Fellows

Claire Jeantheau '21, Staff Writer

After a selective application process, a new class of honorees has been chosen for Dickinson’s Baird Sustainability Fellowship. The program allows seniors with experience in sustainability and environmental work at Dickinson to collaborate on projects within a shared colloquium. 

Founded in 2013, the Baird Sustainability Fellows program recognizes seniors across the academic disciplines who have made outstanding contributions to sustainability efforts in their time at Dickinson. Applicants are selected based on their academic, extracurricular, and service accomplishments, as well as an essay which states their sustainability goals, by a committee of faculty and staff.

Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education, noted that applicant decisions were especially difficult this year. Leary thought this year’s honorees stood out because of the breadth of their academic backgrounds compared to previous classes. The honorees  have experience across  Dickinson’s three academic disciplines in the social sciences, physical sciences,humanities and the arts.

“An outcome of this breadth is that this year’s applicants have nuanced understandings of sustainability as having social equity and economic dimensions and not just environmental,” Leary wrote in a written response.

Phoebe Galione ’21, one of the recently selected fellows, views the program as a culmination of her undergraduate experiences.

“The whole [selection] process allowed me to see the versatility and scope of what I have learned and experienced in these past three years between classes, my work at ALLARM [Dickinson’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring], internships, and even my brief time abroad in Iceland,” Galione wrote, reflecting on her application.

Sara Soba ’21, another new Baird Fellow, is looking forward to connecting with others about environmental issues, especially those who are entering a similar career path after graduation. 

“A program like this is especially helpful for those wishing to advance sustainability because ‘sustainability’ is so vague,” Soba wrote. “I’m an environmental science major and I’m excited to see what ‘sustainability’ means to students in physics, psychology, international relations, and sociology.”

Olivia Spildooren ’21, like Soba, is excited to hear from others who prioritize sustainability. As a Fellow, she wants to build on the skills she learned through her involvement with ALLARM and as a peer mentor with the Eco-Reps.

“[Baird Sustainability Fellows] allows me to continue personally growing my knowledge and understanding of sustainability as well as continue to teach others about a topic I am passionate about,” Spildooren wrote.

The programming of the fellowship is largely dependent on fellows’ interests—as Soba put it, ‘there’s this really fun aspect of ‘we can get whatever we want out of this course.’ The potential of this program is exciting!” 

According to Leary, one of the  next steps for the fellows will be the Baird Colloquium in spring 2021; this honors seminar includes skills workshops on subjects like science communication and community organizing. Fellows will also assemble digital portfolios throughout the semester which showcase their sustainability experiences. 

Last spring, after the sudden move to online classes due to the pandemic, the colloquium was held virtually. While Leary said this was initially  “highly disruptive,” the experience was rewarding—and could help the program adapt depending on upcoming changes.

“I am hoping that this coming spring the Baird Colloquium will be able to meet in person. But if that proves to be unsafe and unwise, we have the benefit of experience with remote learning from last spring and this fall,” Leary wrote. “We will draw on that experience to make the colloquium a valuable and enjoyable learning experience.”