Agents of Change: New fellows will focus on collaboration, impact, and justice

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The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program, a partnership between Environmental Health News and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, is excited to announce our fourth group of fellows.


The mission of our program, which began in 2019, is to empower emerging leaders from historically excluded backgrounds in science and academia to reimagine solutions for a just and healthy planet. The program, founded by Dr. Ami Zota of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, began with a small group of eight fellows and has grown into one of the premiere national fellowships focused on increasing science communication and public engagement among early career scientists from marginalized backgrounds.

We have trained more than 30 scholars-researchers who are advancing environmental and climate justice, and are broadly disseminating their voices, stories and research contributions. Our fellows have published 40 original essays in EHN, which are freely available in English and Spanish, and have reached 1.4 million readers (nearly 200,000 readers in Spanish). We also started a popular podcast where we dive into the career paths and big ideas from fellows and other leaders in the field.

Vision realized 

Our vision—to foster a new cadre of diverse and inclusive leaders in environmental justice who can help create systemic change—is increasingly becoming realized:

  • Senior fellows now hold faculty positions at prestigious institutions across the U.S.
  • Professors are integrating Agents of Change essays and podcasts into university curriculums.
  • Senior fellows are collaborating beyond the program in research projects and efforts to center justice in state and federal policy.
  • Agents of Change fellows have participated on webinars through partnerships with Collaborative on Health and the Environment, International Society of Exposure Science, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.

Leadership team grows 

Our diverse leadership team is growing in dynamic ways. Dr. Veena Singla, our new associate director and senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council, will help enhance our training on science communication for community and policy engagement. Three alumni of the program — Dr. Yoshira Van Horn, Dr. Max Aung, and Dr. Lariah Edwards — have also joined the leadership team as Assistant Directors. Finally, María Paula Rubiano A., a journalist, editor and translator based in Medellín, Colombia, is our new assistant editor.

Our new cohort, which features 14 scholars from universities, NGOs and government agencies, will carry forward this work in new and exciting directions.

The new fellows will bring expertise in varied topics, including mental health impacts from climate change, Indigenous water sovereignty, toxics and retail redlining, urban planning in the Global South, energy justice, and agroecological practices and resilience. They will still produce podcasts, first-person essays and social media takeovers — but we’re aiming higher, with collaborative audio projects and community partnerships aimed at on-the-ground impact.

We are excited to watch this program grow and remain humbled at the support and engagement from readers and listeners. Keep your eye on this space — or visit the program’s homepage — to catch all of their science, their ideas and their stories.

Our new fellows

  • Jan-Michael Archer, M.S., doctoral student at the Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health
  • Robbie M. Parks, Ph.D. NIH NIEHS K99/R00, postdoctoral fellow at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Alexa White, M.S., Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Valerisa Joe-Gaddy, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate at the Water Resources Research Center – University of Arizona
  • Denise Moreno Ramírez, Ph.D., M.S., a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
  • Gabriel I. Gadsden, M.S., second year Ph.D. student and teaching fellow at the Yale University School of the Environment
  • JoRee LaFrance, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona Department of Environmental Science
  • Candis M. Hunter, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., R.E.H.S., an environmental health officer/ public health advisor at the United States Public Health Service (USPHS)/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Lisbeth Iglesias-Rios, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A., a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health
  • Kevin Patterson, M.P.H., a Ph.D. student at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Carolyn E. Ramírez, Ph.D., a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Sabah Usmani, M.C.P., a Ph.D. student at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Marissa Chan, M.S., a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Nsilo Berry, M.S., a health impact researcher at the Healthy Building Network
Want to keep on top of the program and the fellows’ work? Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn. Learn more about current and senior fellows at agentsofchangeinej.org.