My interests have always lain at the intersection of people, nature, and aesthetics. The better we understand people, the better we can design ways of relating that nourish us—and our planet—by building connection and belonging in communities that transcend cultural and species boundaries. With these goals in mind, my interest has gravitated to an applied career in informal education. Informal education in science, nature and cultural studies offers a path forward in mediating the current moment of heightened cultural division, anti-intellectualism, and increasingly catastrophic climate devastation. By meeting people where they are, museums, researchers, and academics can open doors for people to engage with critical scholarship and explore their curiosity in safe, natural, and meaningful ways.
After earning BAs in Anthropology and Studio Art, I came to UC to continue my interdisciplinary exploration of how people make and communicate deeply-held meaning through my master’s program in Cultural Anthropology and certificate in Public Art and Placemaking. I applied for the PEWS Sustainability Fellowship to strengthen my understanding of public engagement and connect with people from other disciplinary backgrounds who were likewise committed to environmental sustainability and the sharing of knowledge. I wanted to be part of the conversation.
Throughout this fellowship, I spearheaded the launch of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Sustainability Research and Discussion group, helped coordinate and moderate guest speaker panels, and updated the visual language of PEWS event advertising. Planning and leading workshops and discussions for the PEWS Sustainability R&D have sharpened my organizational and communication skills and exposed me to dozens of inspiring projects and change-makers. But what I value most is the practice I’ve had in facilitation, in bringing people together in community and thoughtful conversation.
I’m learning that effective facilitation is not about tightly controlling the outcome. It’s about learning to ask questions that invite reflection, discussion, and collaboration. It’s about making people feel welcome and respected, so each person feels their voice and unique perspective are valued. It’s about creating a fertile environment for ideas to collide and cross-pollinate, so new layered possibilities can open and unfold, iterating and expanding like the petals of a blooming dahlia.
I continue to learn what collaborative leadership can look like—how to nurture opportunities for people to come together in meaningful, productive discussions and mutual support. My advisors Dr. Melissa Jacquart and Dr. Angela Potochnik are excellent role models for the kind of leadership that explores, connects, and uplifts. Their mentorship has been a real privilege.
Overcoming problems like disinformation and the climate crisis will require many good faith conversations with many voices. Working with PEWS has energized my commitment to helping those conversations blossom.
Header image by MIO ITO on Unsplash