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Olivia Brister–Roosevelt Institute Emerging Fellow

Name: Olivia Brister

Class Year: 2021

Hometown: Bartow, FL

Major(s): Environmental Studies, Politics

Opportunity and Year: Roosevelt Institute Emerging Fellowships, 2019-20

Project Summary: The Roosevelt Institute’s Emerging Fellowship is a year-long fellowship during the academic year where students conduct formal research and advocacy efforts on a specific topic. The topic I will be focusing my research on is the impact of pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators as it relates to the pollinator crisis we are experiencing globally. The ultimate goal of the research is to craft an effective policy solution to the given issue and advocate for that policy to be implemented with the help of the Roosevelt Institute’s time, resources, and guidance. I am extremely excited about this opportunity to play a role in tackling the pollinator crisis with assistance and resources available to me through the Roosevelt Institute.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? Washington and Lee’s interdisciplinary approach to education particularly equipped me for this opportunity because of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental policy and the world in which we live. By studying the hard sciences, environmental thought, and politics, I have the tools necessary to effectively research and advocate for my policy solution. Furthermore, I believe Washington and Lee does a wonderful job at teaching students to communicate ideas both verbally and on paper, which will ultimately allow for an increased likelihood of success in my endeavors during this fellowship. The mentorship I have received from professors like Leah Green, Margaret Anne Hinkle, and Kim Hodge has helped to boost my confidence and broaden my understanding of the environmental sciences as a whole. I’m convinced their particular kindness and approach to fostering my personal learning and passion for the subject is unmatched and specific to Washington and Lee.

Why did you apply for this opportunity? I applied for this opportunity primarily because of my interest and passion for environmental policy, particularly for bees and other pollinators. I spent last summer working for Environment Florida, an environmental nonprofit in Florida. Seeing the intersection of science and policy advocacy, and experiencing how rewarding and important the work is really lit my fire to continue working to fight for environmentalism and policy action.

Post-graduation Plans: I plan to go into environmental policy work after graduation, either conducting research or working on the advocacy side. Ultimately I plan to get my M.Sc. in Environmental Science and most likely a J.D that would allow me to practice environmental law.

How will this opportunity help you achieve your goals? By conducting research on the pollinator crisis, compiling it, and advocating for a feasible policy solution, I will be able to work through the process of passing a specific environmental policy in every stage. I believe the tools that I will acquire and strengthen during fellowship will not only make me more marketable for a career in environmental policy, but will allow me to be more effective as well. I believe that I will carry the Roosevelt Institute’s guidance and connections throughout the rest of my professional life.

Extracurricular Involvement:

Student Environmental Action League, Treasurer
Mock Trial
Sustainability Intern
Chi Omega Fraternity

Off-campus Experience:

I participated in a Spring Term Abroad trip to China to study Chinese. I plan to go abroad for a full semester during the fall term of my senior year.

Research Experience:

I am currently conducting research through W&L’s Summer Research Scholar program with Professor Julie Youngman. We are looking at the Clean Water Act and determining where each U.S state and territory is in its triennial review process, what chemicals are regulated in each state or territory and why, and the potential benefit or harm those chemicals could or have brought to each state or territory.

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