Campus News

Environmental Studies Students Present Research at Climate Change Conference

December 9, 2019
Communications Staff
students standing together, smiling at the seventh annual HBCU Climate Change Conference.
(From left) Robert Bullard, distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, Santiago Roman, Eli Presberg, Beverly Wright, founder and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Imani Badillo, Zimmy Chu. Photo credit: Courtesy of Janet Fiskio

Environmental studies students presented research, received a third-place award, and met the “father of environmental justice.”

Environmental studies students and faculty mentor Janet Fiskio, associate professor of environmental studies, attended the seventh annual HBCU Climate Change Conference in New Orleans.

The four-day conference in November, hosted by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, offered students the opportunity to learn from the foremost figures in the environmental justice movement as well as from their peers. The students attended the conference, presented research in a plenary session, and exhibited the poster, "Environmental Justice and Local Knowledge in Africatown, Alabama.” Poster author and senior Eli Presberg was recognized with a third-place award, out of 51 submissions. 

Africatown, Alabama, is recognized as one of the first towns founded and led by African Americans in the United States, with some of its original residents who were among a group of Africans forcibly transported to the United States aboard an illegal slave ship. Today, Africatown is also known for its reports of industrial pollution and public health problems.

For their research, the students collaborated with the Africatown, Alabama, community and participated as interviewers, videographers, transcribers, and web designers in the development of the Africatown Digital Archive.

“The students are models of engaged researchers, with a nuanced understanding of the ethics of community-based partnerships,” says Janet Fisko. “This project values the knowledge that community historians hold and their role as mentors of students. This was evident at the conference, where Africatown community members and Oberlin students attended and warmly supported each other's presentations.” 

Presberg appreciated having the opportunity to learn from those at the conference who are considered foundational figures in environmental justice.

“As a student interested in environmental justice work, being able to learn from their wisdom, experience, and advice was excellent,” says Presberg. “Beyond this, being able to participate in the academic conference with our partners from Africatown, have them hear us present, support them in their presentation, and just learn alongside each other was an incredible and unique experience.”

The group’s participation at the conference was supported by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Environmental Studies Program, the Blank fund, and a grant from the Consortium on High Achievement and Success.

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