Students gathered in the Dwight Hall Common Room last night to discuss environmental leadership beyond Yale’s Gothic gates.
Green Corps Associate Director Cindy Kang ’99 spoke on “The Future of Environmental Leadership: Winning Victories from the Grassroots Up,” discussing environmental activism with the Yale Student Environmental Coalition. She also encouraged graduating seniors to apply to the Green Corps program, a nonprofit environmental training program specializing in grassroots organizing. Green Corps offers one-year fellowships to recent college graduates and provides temporary field support to partner nonprofit organizations.
“The group trains a new generation of environmental and social change leaders,” Kang said. “Accepted students receive seven weeks of classroom training and are then placed with a few partner groups where they organize grassroots efforts.”
Several Yale graduates, including Kang, have already passed through the program.
While at Yale, Kang was a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major but also worked with Dwight Hall, YSEC and a local campaign of the Toxics Action Center. While she originally wanted to make an impact through science and research and go to graduate school after college, she said campaign organizing offered tangible results. She took a leap of faith, applied to Green Corps, and worked on four different campaigns, including one in Atlanta, Ga.
Glenn Hurowitz ’00, who spoke at the event along with Kang, also received training from Green Corps. After college, he moved to Israel and worked on a Kibbutz, harvesting organic potatoes. But after the 2000 elections, he wanted to have an impact back in the United States, so he applied to the Green Corps program.
Eventually, Hurowitz’s organizing career led him to become the deputy national field director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmental, public health and safety issues. But now, he is writing a book on fear and courage in the Democratic Party.
Over the past few years, Kang has returned to Yale to recruit the next generation of environmental leaders for Green Corps.
“I think that Yale has a very vibrant student environmental activism community,” she said. “I come back to Yale every year.”
The Green Corps program is competitive, admitting 25 to 30 students from an applicant pool of approximately 700 applications, Kang said.
“I think that probably the biggest thing is that it is hard to get in,” Hurowitz said. “Many of those who can get in are Yalies.”
While there are many Green Corps participants who come from top schools, the program is still diverse, said Hurowitz.
“They are coming to us because we are the best of the best academically, [and they] will also get students from the environmental and social change interest base at Yale,” said Emily Biesecker ’08, a co-chair of YSEC. “They will get students who are incredibly committed.”
In addition, Hurowitz said, the group is attempting to appeal beyond just environmentally-inclined students, to students generally interested in political action.
“I think that more people would benefit than those who apply for it,” he said. “It is seen solely as an environmental training program. It really is a great training program for working in any type of politics,” he said.