Four Randolph College environmental studies students recently discussed global warming with state regulators, officials, and peers from other institutions at the Virginia Power Dialog in Richmond.
The event, held Friday, April 8, at the University of Richmond, is one of a number of statewide dialogs being coordinated by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. The purpose of the dialog was to give students the opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation about how Virginia will help meet the U.S. climate commitment of 30 percent cuts in global warming emissions by 2030. Randolph was one of 12 participating colleges and universities at the event, which included a keynote from Department of Environmental Quality Director David K. Paylor and a discussion about opportunities and challenges presented by the Clean Power Plan with Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Angela Navarro.
The participating Randolph students—Jessy Spencer ’18, Caitlin Jones ’17, Catlenn Davis ’18, and Alyssa Umberger ’17—prepared for the discussion in an Environmental Policy class taught by Karin Warren, the Herzog Family Chair of Environmental Studies. The team formed a statement with their recommendations for combating climate change and prepared a list of questions about fracking and natural gas emission policies to ask the state environmental officials.
“I think it was definitely worth the trip,” Warren said. “We study policy in class all the time, but getting to ask direct questions of state officials is an experience you can’t get in the classroom.”
Spencer was nominated as one of nine Virginia student ambassadors and sat on a student-led panel next to Paylor and Mike Dowd, director of the Air Division for the Department of Environmental Quality. Spencer said the experience convinced her that she wants to attend law school and enter a career in environmental law.
“I really liked working with so many people with different ideas,” she added. “All the student panelists went to lunch together and talked about our questions and about the different environmental movements and activism taking place on our campuses. It was cool to get perspective from a broad range of places.”
The students took advantage of networking opportunities with state agencies as well. Along with a free T-shirt and button, Jones secured a summer internship with the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C.
“I was talking to the Sierra Club table during poster presentations, at first because they had buttons, and I wanted one,” Jones said with a laugh. “The representative was really enthusiastic, and I was talking to her about the issues they’re currently working on, not only in Virginia but on a national scale. What she said interested me a lot, so she encouraged me to get involved.”
The experience also proved to be both a great exercise in public speaking and the political process.
“It was encouraging that state officials were interested in what students like us had to say and that we were able to voice our concerns,” Umberger said. “I feel like we’re really underrepresented in our government because none of us could vote in the last presidential election, but we still care and have concerns that maybe our parents’ generation don’t because they’re not learning the new things we’re learning about the environment in class right now.”
For more information about the 2016 Virginia Power Dialog, visit https://blog.richmond.edu/vapowerdialog/Tags: Alyssa Umberger, environment, environmental science, environmental studies, environmental sustainability, Jessy Spencer '18, Karin Warren, sustainability