In high school, Katie became involved in environmental activism at her high school. She created and organized a town-wide event called the “Carbon Café,” which drew over 200 local residents to pledge to take simple actions to minimize their environmental impact, calculating their carbon footprints before and after these. She also organized recycling at her high school and co-wrote a course, passed by the public school board her senior year, called the “Environmental Activism Seminar” to instate student recycling and environmental learning. Katie also interned at the National Environmental Law Center in Boston and assisted chief attorney and paralegal in preparing lawsuit against the Houston Refinery of Shell Oil Company, which resulted in a $5 million fine.
Katie entered Vanderbilt as part of the Ingram Scholarship Program in 2009. During her first year, she organized Vanderbilt’s first “Climate Connections Carnival,” connecting the climate to topics such as shopping, religion and business. During this year, Katie also fundraised $2,600 for a clean-water pipeline for a home for abandoned widows in India. Katie then traveled with a fellow Ingram Scholar, Vasanth Kuppuswamy, to India to coordinate the construction of the 1-km-long water pipeline. During this time, Katie also taught yoga to the elderly widows each morning and made a short video about the complexities of building the pipeline ("Water for Widows"), viewed over 1,100 times on You Tube.
During her second year at Vanderbilt, Katie became involved in clean energy activism in the Southeast U.S., hired as one of four “Campus Fellows” by the Southern Alliance from Clean Energy. In this position, Katie helped run regional retreats and coordinate inter-campus activities. As Vice President of Vanderbilt’s first and largest environmental club, Katie led the first-ever successful campaign for a grant from Vanderbilt administration, negotiating $75,000 annually for the “Vanderbilt Green Fund,” which funds student-designed sustainability projects. Katie worked with administration to write the charter and set up the application process. Currently, Katie serves as student President of the Vanderbilt Green Fund, and sits on joint administrative-student board to allocate funds, and advise applicants.
During the summer of 2011, Katie traveled to Suva, Fiji and Majuro, Marshall Islands with fellow Ingram Scholar Drew Cornaghie to organize two Climate Change Youth Leadership workshops and document them in short videos. The first workshop in Fiji brought together 46 participants from 17 Pacific Islands. Based on the training, Katie and Drew then organized the first climate change workshop on the Marshall Islands, a nation scientists predict will be uninhabitable due to rising sea levels by the end of the Century. In the Marshall Islands, Katie also worked with local NGO’s and government on climate change education and adaptation plans.
In the fall of her third year, Katie interned in the City of Nashville Mayor’s first environmental office. There, she researched green job development, created a matrix of existing energy-efficiency rebate programs, and conducted outreach to local homeowners. Katie also served as Co-President of the campus’ environmental club on campus. Katie also organized for 50 Nashville residents to take a bus to Washingto,n D.C. to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, published an Op-Ed in the Tennessean about transitioning from dirty oil and presented at a TEDx youth event in Nashville about the power of protest.
During the spring of 2012, Katie studied abroad in South Africa and taught yoga and life-skills in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town’s maximum-security prison. Partnering with local non-government organization, Young in Prison, and finding local yoga teachers to take over, Katie helped facilitate the community partners in designing a 6-week yoga and life-skill program for the girls to continue. During the summer of 2012, Katie interned in the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office, developing a report on electric vehicle usage in the city and helping create a video to launch Boston’s new sustainability campaign.
Throughout her time at Vanderbilt, Katie has also led two 200-student ventures to recycle cardboard during Vanderbilt move-in, increasing the amount recycled from 7 tons in 2009 to 13.22 tons in 2010 and to 17.84 tons in 2011 by assessing and improving process. As a registered Yoga Alliance instructor, Katie also teaches a weekly Sunday evening yoga class “Yoga for a Cause @ Hillel,” to raise money for Vanderbilt service organizations.
Katie was selected as one of 27 sophomores in 2011 and one of seven repeat scholars in 2012 for the nationwide Udall Scholarship for commitment to environmental activism. Katie is majoring in American Studies, minoring in international development and hopes to work on urban environmental policy.