Riena Harker’20

My interest in environmental justice began in Beijing, when I taught violin lessons at a home for children with incarcerated parents. None of my students owned masks to wear on “hazardous” air days, and their rooms did not have even rudimentary air filters. It was shocking to contrast my students’ rooms with the world-class ventilation systems used by my own privileged social sphere.

Now, I hope to protect both the environment and the people impacted by environmental injustice through policy. My ultimate goal is to work for the Environmental Protection Agency or an environmental nonprofit to help generate and pass legislation addressing environmental issues. I am studying Government & Legal Studies, Biology, and Environmental Studies specifically so that I will be able to apply an informed scientific background to creating thoughtful policy. A Career Planning Center (CPC) Funded Internship Grant will help me achieve this aim by funding my work as an Environmental Policy intern with the Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC), and giving me experience in nonprofit environmental justice work.

I specifically chose to intern with the EHSC because it is a nonprofit organization that combines science with policy to address environmental justice issues such as safe drinking water and chemical reform. The combination of science and policy perfectly complements my academic background, and I also deeply appreciate the EHSC’s mission to promote human health and safer chemicals while maintaining a sustainable economy. Through my interdisciplinary coursework, I have come to understand how environmental issues are composed of interwoven systems. The EHSC’s commitment to both the environment and the economy represents a smart and realistic approach to dealing with the complicated webs within sustainability and environmental justice.

Over the past two summers, I worked in Beijing at both the US Embassy and WildChina Travel, where I gained extensive experience in social media outreach, research, writing, and event organization. By working in both the public and private sectors, I have gained a unique perspective on community outreach and event coordination. Not only do I have the skillsets to successfully plan events and organize political activity for the EHSC, but I will also be able to contribute fresh ideas informed by how different types of organizations conduct similar kinds of outreach.