Climate Leadership Certificate Cohort

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The Climate Leadership Certificate provides the training and experience needed for students to apply a variety of skills to critical work in climate action and justice, as well as other vital areas of sustainability, including social justice, economic vitality, and well-being. Throughout the 1.5-year program, students engage in curriculum targeted at sustainability literacy, planning, and leadership, while also participating in hands-on practicum work with a variety of sustainability organizations in Whatcom County and the Methow Valley.


About the Certificate Meet the 2021-2022 Cohort Donate


Avia Breiter headshot

Avia Breiter

Hi, my name is Avia. I am an environmental science major and am currently planning on minoring in sustainable studies. My interest in the sciences was sparked by experiences growing up that taught me to appreciate the environment and want to protect it. I have always been a water baby and the ocean in particular has been a significant part of my life. I have seen first hand how the ocean’s ecosystem has been impacted by climate change and in turn has impacted local communities who rely on it for subsistence. I am looking forward to applying my passion towards environmental protection, equity and sustainability to create real change and to make local connections that will help guide my journey.

Ella Brinkman Headshot

Ella Brinkman

My name is Ella Brinkman, I am an Interdisciplinary Major with a concentration in Environmentalism Through Regenerative Agriculture, Collaborative Relationships, and Leadership. Growing up surrounded by nature on the coast of Northern California is what inspired me to join the climate justice movement. My environmental club in high school gave me the opportunity to get involved in climate action in my own community and inspired me to continue studying climate change in college. I am looking forward to working with my peers and creating a community of students that support one another in what can be a disheartening field. I am excited to have the opportunity to work with a local nonprofit in Bellingham and engage with my local community on climate justice issues.

Julia Downing headshot

Julia Downing

Hello! My name is Julia and I am studying Energy Science with a minor in Economics at Western. Growing up I had the privilege of traveling and exploring the outdoors with my family and found a lot of joy and peace from being outside. I’ve always loved learning about sustainability and more specifically about the global and local need for various energy resources. I believe implementing and improving technology in the energy sector is a key to mitigating climate disasters. Through this certificate program, I am looking forward to learning about climate action work being done throughout our local communities.

Solomon Duke headshot

Solomon Duke

My name is Solomon Duke, I use “He/Him” pronouns, and I am majoring in Energy Science and Technology. I began thinking about climate issues at the age of eight while at Sunnyside Environmental School (Portland). There I learned about the causes, effects and possible solutions to climate change. This sparked my passion for climate justice which I pursued in high school through the Portland Youth Climate Council as a youth activist. I was lucky to be exposed to this issue by adults who cared and knew how to talk to young people.

Jennifer Gonzalez headshot

Jennifer Gonzalez

I am majoring in Urban Planning and minoring in Disaster Risk Reduction. I was first inspired to think about climate justice when I became aware of inequalities like critical facilities that are hazardous to humans, being present within certain communities which impact the livelihoods and environment of the community members, and future generations. Thinking about this one issue, led me to become more interested in improving how and where we live, and framing this with the constant fact that climate change is an issue we should always consider moving forward in our planning. Through this program, I hope to become a more skilled communicator through my public speaking and writing to ensure that I am able to represent my ideas to the best of my ability and responsibly present the ideas and needs of those who remain unheard.

Devan Gunther headshot

Devan Gunther

My name is Devan Gunther (though “Dev” is often fine, as well!), and my pronouns are she/her/hers and they/them/theirs. I’m a 3rd year senior majoring in Political Science, though I’m exploring the idea of staying longer for a double major! Climate change has always been in the background of my life but it became a topic of focus for me in my senior year of high school due to my horticulture teacher. He urged me to join his afterschool environmental science team and, through that, I got to learn a lot of hands-on material that made it blatantly clear that I knew less about the environment than I thought I did! The connection of the climate with social justice occurred gradually through my college experiences via activism groups.
I’m looking forward to the certificate program because it’ll really develop my knowledge of climate justice which is immensely important for any activism! As well as being excited to make more community connections!

Zoe Hemez headshot

Zoe Hemez

My name is Zoe Hemez and I use she and they pronouns. I’m double-majoring in mathematics and energy science. I was born and raised in Northern New Mexico, but chose to attend Western to take advantage of the university’s Institute for Energy Studies and Bellingham’s amazing access to the outdoors. I’ve been a lifelong admirer of nature and became involved in fighting against climate change soon after learning about it. In high school, the connections between climate change and social injustice became increasingly obvious to me. Many of those injustices were visible in New Mexican communities whose land and rivers are repeatedly poisoned by coal mining and fracking. Before long, I became a member and leader in several youth-led climate organizations, including Our Climate and the Sunrise Movement. Although I’ve had experience in climate activism, I’m excited to be participating in the Climate Leadership Certificate program so that I can study how to be a leader and get connected with other young activists.

Olivia Kaulfus headshot

Olivia Kaulfus

My name is Olivia, and I use she/they pronouns. I am majoring in Energy Science and Technology, and minoring in French & Sustainable Design. I was inspired to join this program because climate change is an issue that my generation has been warned about since we were young; from watching Bill Nye the Science Guy as a young girl to taking AP Environmental Science in high school, we have been well informed of the consequences of not fundamentally altering our way of life. Seeing the lack of widespread change while I was growing up has motivated me to pursue a career protecting the natural world by building a circular economy and integrating clean electricity into our grid. Completing this certificate will complement my coursework perfectly and will provide the holistic education I’m looking for. I am excited to get to know my fellow cohort members, especially those that I will be spending time with during the practicum. I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with professionals in the field and local governments to integrate more sustainable practices.

Sophie Manning headshot

Sophie Manning

My name is Sophie Manning, and I am a double major in Environmental Policy and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Growing up in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, I was surrounded by stunning natural spaces, and as I learned the natural history of the land, I have simultaneously watched it burn due to growing forest fires and overuse. I am very excited to engage with my peers within this sometimes-discouraging work, in order to find the vital intersection between climate action and social justice.

Jessi Peterson headshot

Jessi Peterson

I am majoring in environmental studies. Growing up, I was first inspired to think about climate change when I would hear stories of my dad going to Alaska and physically seeing significant glacier retreat year after year. This ultimately inspired me to learn more about climate change and how it is disproportionately affecting certain communities around the world. I am looking forward to doing my part in educating myself and inviting others to join the journey of acknowledging climate change and demanding for climate justice in our own communities and beyond.

I am looking forward to this program because I think it will be a wonderful opportunity to learn, connect, and grow with the other members of the certificate and with community leaders who are working to fight for climate justice. I hope this opportunity will allow me to better see my place in perpetuating social and climate injustices and allow me to direct my energy into fighting for a better world that cares about the earth and the people within it.

Sarah Quenemoen headshot

Sarah Quenemoen

I am an Environmental Policy major with a minor in Environmental Justice. The first time I ever thought about climate change was in the third grade when my class had the assignment to research the arctic region and what inhabits it. This is where I was introduced to polar bears as part of an ecosystem as well as the dangers they faced because of climate change. I am excited to learn next to like-minded students about prominent issues, and gain the knowledge and skill set required to work towards climate justice!

Natalie Sacker headshot

Natalie Sacker

I am majoring in Business and Sustainability. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was surrounded with lush, beautiful ecosystems that I took for granted as a child. There was always a baseline environmental rhetoric from local recycling or anti-littering initiatives in my community. In middle school I started to realize just how vulnerable these natural surroundings (and everyone depending on them) were in the face of the climate crisis. I knew that my privilege had already insulated me from the early effects of climate change, and that I had a responsibility to work for climate justice for those who can’t.
While my major and minor will give me knowledge on environmental and business issues, this program will give me the real experience and leadership skills I’ll need to make a successful career in climate work. I’m also looking forward to building relationships with other climate leaders, which will hopefully continue on after our time at Western.

Libby Taylor-Manning headshot

Libby Taylor-Manning

Hi there! My name is Libby Taylor-Manning, I use she/her/hers pronouns and I am a junior at Western majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry. I got involved with climate action and conservation work through my volunteering in high school with the Student Conservation Association in Seattle. This also exposed me to the barriers of accessibility in the environmental world, and I hope to continue my education on how to better serve marginalized communities which are disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental hazards through this program. One of the best things about the SCA was the fantastic community, and I am so excited to be able to participate in the certificate cohort and be a part of another environmental community here at Western!