Harvard Climate Justice Design Fellowship Announces Inaugural Fellows Cohort

May 16, 2022
Climate Justice Design Fellowship logo

The Harvard Climate Justice Design Fellowship has selected its inaugural cohort of fellows, a remarkable group of seven leaders in environmental justice advocacy, organizing, and law from throughout the United States.

A program of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Fellowship program is focused on the belief that everyone deserves equal access to participate in decision making about their environment, and information is key to that participation. The Fellowship program is designed to support advocates fighting for change; public agencies serving the welfare of their constituents; as well as researchers in climate, sociology, and design.

Harvard’s Climate Justice Design Fellows will each pursue a project that generates data-oriented tools to support their own environmental justice advocacy, research, service, or education work with their community. The fellowship will enable collaboration with technical experts at Harvard and mentors nationwide to develop new skills and implement their project designs.

The Climate Justice Design Fellowship program is being operated as a pilot project of the Harvard-Google Data+Climate initiative, which engages Harvard scholars and Google engineers to uncover novel solutions to climate and sustainability challenges by building on top of tools from the Google Data Commons, the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and the data visualization suite Glue. The Fellowship is operated by IQSS in partnership with scholars affiliated with the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. You can follow the Fellowship program on Twitter @ClimateFellow and Instagram @climatefellowship and contact its leaders at climatejusticedesignfellowship@gmail.com. Visit the Fellowship website for more information.  

The inaugural cohort of Climate Justice Design Fellows is:

J'reyesha Brannon

City of Portland

J'Reyesha Brannon

J'reyesha is making data more accessible for frontline communities, while exploring Portland's Urban Heat Dome and tree canopy equity.

J'reyesha is a born and raised Portlander. She is a University of Portland alumni (’15), where she graduated with a degree in civil engineering with an environmental focus and minor. J'reyesha currently works as a design engineer and project manager for the City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services. She is passionate about accessibility and inclusion for communities of color, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Outside of work she is a lifelong volunteer, holding roles in a variety of community organizations - NAACP Portland Branch 1120B Environmental Justice Chair, President of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Portland Professionals, Good in the Hood Planning Committee, and more.


Carlos Claussell Velez

Institute for Sustainable Communities

Carlos Claussell Velez

Carlos implements equity-driven processes that support environmental justice and communities of color in Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, and the U.S.

Carlos Claussell Velez (he/his/él), an Afro-Caribbean from Puerto Rico based in Philadelphia, works in the intersections of Climate Change, Social and Environmental justice in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Trained as an architect and engineer, Carlos focuses on implementing equity-driven, community-centered processes and supporting community-based organizations, non-profits, government and philanthropic entities advance climate equity strategies at the local, regional and national level. He works as a Senior Program Officer at the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) and serves as Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia’s inaugural Environmental Justice Advisory Commission. A 2022 Clean Energy Leadership Institute fellow and a 2020 Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow, he's a member of the USFW Delaware River Watershed Conservation Collaborative steering committee and the Caño Martín Peña Technical Advisory Committee - a community-led environmental justice project and community land trust from Puerto Rico, winner of the 2016 World Habitat Award. Carlos is a loving father to a very happy ‘bori-kore’ (Puertorican-Korean) 2 year old and loving husband to an amazing educator and communications professional.


Laura K Robinson

The Neighborhood Design Center

Laura Robinson

Laura is creating an interactive advocacy tool that quantifies the environmental and economic benefits of climate resilient school landscapes.

Laura is a landscape designer who combines her ecological and design perspectives to create comprehensive and inclusive landscape designs that benefit both people and the natural environment. She works on improving public and shared spaces in her role as Landscape Design Program Manager at The Neighborhood Design Center, a community design focused non-profit in Maryland. Her projects address landscape design, stormwater, and tree canopy for neighborhood parks, schoolyards, and streetscapes. She is an ISA certified Arborist, has a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Maryland and co-authored a stormwater management lesson plan book for school teachers. Previously, Laura received a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology and a B.A. in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University.


Jacqueline Thanh

VAYLA New Orleans

Jacqueline Thanh

Jacqueline is deepening Asian American and Pacific Islander leadership with data driven design justice for equity in the south and beyond.

Jacqueline is a scholar-activist and descendant of Chinese Vietnamese refugees with an extensive history in intersectional advocacy and leadership development. She is a clinically trained and trauma informed social worker and human rights advocate who brings expertise in culturally integrative survivor advocacy program development and sustainment. A first-generation college graduate, she holds a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Social Work and Global Health Administration and Policy Certification from the University of Chicago, and is currently a Social Work Doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California. Her work has ranged from narrative therapy, case management, programatic development and implementation with survivors of torture, houselessness, domestic violence, and human trafficking to migrant displacement trauma domestically and abroad. As the executive director of VAYLA New Orleans, she currently leads strategic initiatives in achieving equal opportunity and justice through innovating pathways for Asian American Leadership and environmental activism in New Orleans and the gulf south.


Dominique Thomas

Dominique Thomas

Dominique helps Black communities use an Afrofuturist Black Feminist Ecological praxis to build power in environmental justice.

Dominique Thomas is a grassroots organizer, Afrofuturist, trainer and researcher based in Harlem, New York. Dominique's theory of change is creating the material conditions for Black communities to build power across all levels and strategize to imagine and create worlds for her community outside of all systems of oppression. This is accomplished by awakening an organizing orientation to inspire and empower Black people to construct their own Afrofuture rooted in abolition and Black Feminist Thought. Dominique's current work focuses on training organizers to use different evidence-based insights to be more effective at building transformational relationships and developing just and equitable campaigns. Dominique believes relationships are essential to successful base-building and being strategic requires organizing from the intersections of climate and other social movements. In her free time, Dominique enjoys reading Black feminist writings and Octavia Butler, running along the Hudson River and cooking vegan meals.


Idalmis Vaquero

Idalmis Vaquero

Idalmis is finding and creating data for her advocacy on behalf of communities burdened by pollution in southeast Los Angeles.

Idalmis Vaquero is an Equal Justice Works fellow based in Communities for a Better Environment's Huntington Park office. Her Equal Justice Works fellowship project is focused on advocating for the cleanup of the Exide facility and communities affected, including her hometown of Boyle Heights. Idalmis started her journey with CBE as an organizing intern back in 2014. Idalmis is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and received her B.A. from Wellesley College.


Alexa White

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Alexa White

Alexa is engineering environmental justice screening and mapping tools for state and local governments.

Alexa White is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. Traditionally trained as an agroecologist and herpetologist, her dissertation research focuses on biophysical indicators of sustainable agriculture and international climate governance pertaining to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2: To End Hunger. Alexa is the Co-Founder of the AYA Research Institute, an environmental justice non-profit with two arms: (1) a fellowship program where scientists work on projects according to our grassroots EJ organization partners' needs, and (2) to use this data for AYA’s think tank; meant to provide innovative and practical recommendations for national EJ issues. She is also a Policy Entrepreneurship Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, where she works on environmental justice and sustainable development issues across the science and technology policy landscape. Alexa was awarded the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Conservation Leadership Award in 2020 for her research and profound discoveries in food sovereignty and food justice. In addition, she is a project lead for the University of Michigan’s Sustainability Without Borders project in Kampala, Uganda where she works to improve the country’s water filtration systems throughout the country.


For more information on the program, please visit the Climate Justice Design Fellowship website.