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Rachel Stewart

Title of Program: Environmental Injustice in Central Asia

E-mail Address: rstewa36@vols.utk.edu

Hometown: McMinnville, TN

Year: Freshman

Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2023

Description of Program: The ways in which we interact with our environment and how
environmental hazards affect our communities are not neutral processes. Ranging from climate vulnerability and adaptation; to hazardous waste and pollution exposure; to access to natural resources and public services, such as clean water and open space; who is advantaged and disadvantaged is a matter of who has power. Environmental justice often remains elusive in our academic, economic, legal, and social discourse; thus, it is incumbent upon current and future generations to recognize, research, and react to the interconnectedness of social and biophysical factors. My program aims to critically examine environmental justice issues in Central Asia by focusing on underlying scientific and sociological factors as well as developing a regional expertise. Because the Soviet Union’s legacy informs the historical and political undertones in the region, a unique environmental challenge revolves around grappling with the after effects of tremendous nuclear activity. As such, I will develop a technical background in nuclear
engineering in order to contribute to my understanding.

Departmental Emphases: Sustainability, Sociology, Nuclear Engineering, Geography, Russian

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Paul Gellert ( Department of Sociology ) and Dr. Christina Ergas
( Department of Sociology)

Plans after graduation (career, graduate/professional school, etc.): After graduation, I plan to first pursue a number of scholarships and fellowships, such as the Fulbright and the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. My objective in pursuing these opportunities is to maximize my time and immersion in countries relevant to my region of study as well as conduct research that can contribute to a graduate or PhD program. I am interested in international and environmental law and foresee myself pursuing a degree accordingly, perhaps through a dual JD and Masters program. Additionally, I plan to volunteer with the Peace Corps. Ultimately, I aim to create a background and skill set that will culminate with a career with the State Department or an international NGO.

Other Academic Interests: Foreign languages (Spanish, Persian, Russian, and more),
Linguistics, Art history, Literature

Study Abroad: During the summer of 2019, I participated in a Persian language immersion program in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, through the NSLI-Y scholarship program. I plan to return to Central Asia through the CLS program either in Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, as well as travel to Mongolia for the SIT program: Geopolitics and the Environment.

Research Experiences or Internships: I currently intern with the UT Office of Sustainability. I have designed and implemented a pilot compost program (called “Compost Cubbies”) in Fred D. Brown Residence Hall. The program’s goal is to increase access and awareness of composting to students. I will continue to improve the program as well as expand it to other residence halls.

Part-time employment; Hobbies; Campus Clubs/Activities: Haslam Scholars Program, Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville (SPEAK), Baker Ambassadors, Model United Nations, TEDxUTK, Global Studies Club, Peace Corps Prep, leading the Garden Club at Inskip Elementary School, yoga, tennis, traveling, and taking spontaneous road trips


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