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Udall Scholarship for Environmental Justice Activism Awarded to Kayla Miller ’25 :: News & Events :: Swarthmore College

Kayla Molenaar

When people think about the front lines of environmental activism, they may not immediately picture urban areas and their residents—but Kayla Miller ’25 wants to change that.

The Environmental Studies major recently received a Udall Scholarship, an honor given to future leaders in the fields of the environment, tribal policy and health care.

“It brings me so much joy that as a kid from Brooklyn, NY, I was able to win a scholarship for environmental leadership,” said Miller, who aspires to become an environmental justice journalist.

The highly competitive scholarship was awarded to 55 students this year. Scholars will receive $7,000 and the opportunity to meet fellow scientists, environmental and tribal leaders and elected officials during a four-day orientation in Tucson, Arizona in August.

Miller demonstrates her passion for environmental justice activism as the leader of Campus Coalition Concerning Chester (C4), a student-led environmental justice organization that partners with Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) to combat environmental racism in Chester, as well as through the connection between black women and the natural world through her courses.

“It’s incredibly valuable to see the work I’ve done (in Chester) being recognized nationally,” she says, “and to apply what I learn in the classroom to actually make an impact in the real world .”

The Tucson conference provides an exciting opportunity for Miller to connect with a network of colleagues who share her passion for the environment. It’s also an opportunity to interact with fellow women of color, like Wawa Gatheru, a Udall and Rhodes Scholar who founded Black Girl Environmentalist, a national organization that empowers Black girls, women, and nonbinary people in the climate sector.

“It’s rare for women of color, especially Black women, to be represented in this field,” Miller says.

“Overall, I’m excited to nerd out about environmental justice!”

Miller credits her Swarthmore experience with sharpening her focus on environmental justice, citing the professors, classmates and community partners who helped broaden her knowledge and perspective.

“I would especially like to thank Professor of Environmental Studies Giovanna Di Chiro and Zulene Mayfield, chair of CRCQL, my two mentors who give me dual perspectives on how to approach environmental justice work,” Miller said. “They are both so wise and caring. I couldn’t have done this without them.”

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