Social Impact Internships: Kathleen Bailey (’24)
My name is Kathleen Bailey, and I’m a rising sophomore in Course 10, Chemical Engineering. I’m very interested in working on methods to combat climate change and understanding how climate change affects different aspects of society. This summer, I’ve been working remotely with Bennett College, a women’s HBCU in North Carolina, as their Climate Action Plan Research Intern on initiatives to help promote sustainability among students and staff on Bennett’s campus.
A central issue motivating my work at Bennett College is intersectional environmentalism. As temperatures in the atmosphere rise due to increased carbon emissions, the environmental impact has become more apparent. Habitat loss, ocean acidification, and increased natural disasters are just a few of these effects that harm everyone. However, minority communities are disproportionately affected by climate change. By reading works such as All We Can Save, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, I’ve learned more about how climate change impacts different communities and how there are many areas that need improvement.
Although the voices of African American women are essential to understanding how they, along with other minority communities, have been disproportionately affected by climate change, these voices are ignored the most. The media tends to bring more attention to white, wealthy environmentalists than to African American women who have been fighting for the health of their communities for decades. As a result, environmental justice issues are often ignored and thus persist.
As a women’s HBCU, Bennett College seeks to elevate the voices of African American women so that their concerns about climate change are considered. While working for Bennett College, I’ve been able to help promote sustainability initiatives that directly involve the students. For instance, I’ve created job descriptions for new Green Work Study internships for Bennett Students so that they can be directly supported by Bennett to implement their ideas to make Bennett more sustainable. By meeting with members of Belles Going Green, Bennett College’s sustainability club, I’ve been able to talk to students directly about the actions they want to see from Bennett and receive feedback from them about my work so far.
I’ve enjoyed working for Bennett College this summer a lot, and I’m grateful that I got to learn more about the importance of intersectionality, especially in the context of climate change. Moving forward, I’ll be able to look at climate change with a new perspective and carry that with me as I learn more.