Christian Casillas of the Energy and Resource Group (ERG) and Kendra Klein of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) have been named Switzer Environmental Fellows by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.
Christian Casillas’s research explores rural poverty and marginalization. Much of his work over the last seven years has focused on understanding how electrification using renewable energy sources can complement development goals in rural communities. His dissertation research is based on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, and he has been involved in various aspects of design, testing, and implementation of renewable energy systems in the United States, Central and South America, and Africa.
Casillas is also passionate about the role of education and innovative learning methods for empowering marginalized communities. Part of his dissertation research explores the efficacy of collaborative game playing with rural fishers and farmers as a means of strengthening local knowledge and exploring new decision-making strategies.
Casillas has worked as an atmospheric and ocean research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and has served in the Peace Corps teaching math and science in rural Namibia. Currently a doctoral candidate in ERG, he has an environmental engineering degree from Harvard University and a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Johns Hopkins University.
ESPM Ph.D. candidate Kendra Klein works at the nexus of public health and sustainable agri-food systems. In collaboration with Health Care Without Harm’s “Healthy Food in Health Care” campaign, she is researching the supply chain obstacles and opportunities for increasing hospital procurement of local, organic, fair trade, and other sustainably produced foods nationwide. She is involved in pilot trainings organized by Health Care Without Harm to educate health professionals on an ecological approach to nutrition and to inspire them to advocate for a healthier, more sustainable food system within their health practices, communities, and at the federal level.
Klein also teaches the class Environmental Problems and Solutions at San Francisco State University. Her commitment to an ecological approach to food and health is rooted in her non-profit and academic work as well as her farming experience. As a community organizer at Breast Cancer Action, Kendra worked on a variety of environmental health campaigns including chemical policy reform, corporate accountability related to “pink ribbon” fundraising, and Precautionary Principle implementation.
Her career goal is to remain entrenched in food movements working to create ecologically resilient, economically viable, and socially just food systems, with a particular focus on the development of food hubs and mid-scale food system infrastructure that allows small and mid-sized farmers to reach larger markets.
This year, the Switzer Foundation awarded 20 fellowships for emerging environmental leaders who are pursuing graduate degrees and are dedicated to positive environmental change in their careers.