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Rediscovering Public Engagement and Interdisciplinarity

Beginning the third year of my graduate program, I was focused on completing the program requirements and progressing in my research. This singular focus on my academic work totally consumed my time and energy.

In the rush towards my goals of becoming a candidate and finishing my program, my other interests fell to the wayside. I’ve always been an interdisciplinary scholar, and I graduated with a B.A. in Geoscience, Chinese, and Africana Studies. My future interests lie in ecology, climate research and environmental justice.

Zeke King Phillips, PEWS Sustainability Video and Social Media Fellow

Upon completing my program requirements, I realized how much I had missed being involved in other activities and applied for the PEWS Sustainability Graduate Fellowship. I’d participated in a variety of science-related public outreach and engagement activities in the past, and I thought that this might be a good way to further these interests. I was grateful to be awarded the position of Video and Social Media Fellow. Over the course of several months, I worked with several faculty leading parts of the PEWS Sustainability initiative, including especially Lucas Dunlap, PEWS Video and Media Producer.

Through this fellowship, I’ve learned a lot about how to create and frame research-related content for public consumption. The videos that I helped to film and edit were made with the purpose of publicizing and demystifying the sustainability research and other related work happening at UC.

Increased circulation of misinformation in online spaces has reduced confidence in academics and their research, and as many researchers focus solely on publishing and disseminating their research within their respective academic communities, it is more important that ever for us to increase our public messaging.

I feel that my recent focus on sustainability content production and marketing has opened me up to a new world of possibilities. I am now focusing on developing accessible materials for public outreach and engagement based on my own research using the tools I gained from this experience.

I also joined the PEWS’ new Sustainability Research and  Discussion Group, where I found a community of people who are interested in interdisciplinary sustainability work. This past year the group held panels, discussion, and workshops about building and maintaining interdisciplinary research teams. These meetings have helped me better understand my goals as a researcher and how to collaborate more effectively with others.

I’m grateful to my mentors and advisors for this opportunity and the experience that I’ve gained over the past 7 months. My time in this fellowship has informed my approach to research and will continue to impact my future public outreach efforts.

Click on the image to see the list of PEWS Sustainability videos.
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