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Reflecting On Skyler Kriese’s Yale Environmental Fellowship

For the past three months, We The People of Detroit (WPD) has had the honor of working with Skyler Kriese, a Masters student at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. Skyler has an impressive track record in research and environmental justice work. As an undergrad student, she volunteered for fossil fuel divestment and worked as an environmental justice and agroecology research assistant. Before moving to Ann Arbor for her Master’s studies, she worked on climate action and resilience planning as a CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow in Butte County, California. With her Master's project team, she is mapping environmental justice and community resiliency in southwest Detroit.

Skyler connected to We the People of Detroit through The Yale Environmental Fellowship. The fellowship’s 12-week summer program is a diversity initiative that cultivates the career aspirations of master’s and doctoral students from historically underrepresented groups. Each fellow has the opportunity to work in the environmental nonprofits, grantmaking, and government sectors.

One of the things Skyler noted as being unique to WPD is the extraordinary love that the team has for one another and the community. “A lot of organizations run on wanting to do good work” she stated, “but I think so few have a connection or team this powerful and loving of one another and rooted in the community they serve.”

While at WPD, Skyler led several important projects. Primarily, she worked on cataloging articles, reports, and publications related to WPD into a library database. Additionally, Skyler conducted GIS mapping of the recently purchased WPD office. She surveyed the grounds and explored the possibility of installing rain gardens on the property. Skyler frequently worked with the WPD policy expert, Victoria Loong. They participated as panelists at an event with Common Cause, where members discussed the importance of holding elected officials accountable.

Overall, Skyler expressed tremendous gratitude towards her experience as a Yale Environmental Fellow with We The People of Detroit. She says, “Being a part of this powerful, tight-knit workspace has meant so much to me and given me so much fuel going into my last year of Grad School." Her advice to future fellows with WPD is to spend as much time working in person as possible. Her best memories from the summer are from conversations with team members at the office.

Although her Yale Environmental Fellowship is coming to an end, Skyler says this is only the beginning of her work with WPD. She is set to run the Detroit Free Press Marathon, with hopes to work in collaboration with WPD for a marathon fundraiser. “We are deeply grateful and extremely proud of Skyler and all that she has brought to our work for social & environmental justice,” said Monica Lewis Patrick, Co-Founder, and CEO of WPD. There is no doubt that she has an incredibly bright future ahead.


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