UConn student Wawa Gatheru to speak at climate change summit 

University of Connecticut student Wawa Gatheru speaking at the Climate Strike on the Student Union lawn this past Friday.  Photo by Charlotte Lao / The Daily Campus

University of Connecticut student Wawa Gatheru speaking at the Climate Strike on the Student Union lawn this past Friday. Photo by Charlotte Lao / The Daily Campus

University of Connecticut student Wawa Gatheru will be one of the speakers at a climate change summit at Dickinson College. 

The BEHive On Campus summit aims to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of universities by addressing and changing unsustainable behaviors, according to Zach Lowe, Director of Communications for Rare, one of the organizations hosting the event. 

Speakers at the Oct. 5 summit include student environmental advocates, academics, corporate leaders and actors.  

Rare, an international non-profit committed to correcting behavior that is detrimental to the environment, is co-hosting the event with Dickinson College.  

Kevin Green, Senior Director of Rare’s Center for Behavior and the Environment, said Rare recognized the importance of changing the habits of corporations and governments, as well as reorienting individual behavior to decrease carbon emissions. 

“Politicians and companies change to meet the demands of voters and consumers,” Green said. “By making climate-friendly habits such as adopting plant-rich diets or using renewable energy the new social norm, we can make it easier for governments and corporations to enact climate-friendly policies.” 

Based outside of Washington D.C., Rare is active internationally and has organized campaigns in countries all over the world to encourage sustainable behavior.  

Dickinson College, located in Carlise, Pa., was No. 12 on the coolest colleges list, a ranking of American colleges based on their carbon footprint and the emphasis they place on sustainability in their curricula. 

Christine Baksi, director of communications at Dickinson College, said Dickinson is committed  to ensuring sustainability is highlighted in education and students are provided with opportunities to contribute through workshops and events happening in and around campus.

“All of our students eat foods in our dining halls that are grown by student farmers on Dickinson’s eight-acre organic farm,” said Baksi. “Many become inspired to get involved by volunteering to work at the farm, or working as paid student farmers.”

Baksi also said Dickinson was proud to host an event that went beyond being purely instructional, but one that transcended discussion and generated behavioral solutions to solve environmental challenges on college campuses. 

“It’s time that we do more than educate and begin to build lasting effective programs of change,” Baski said. 

Gatheru, a seventh-semester environmental studies major, said the advocacy work she has done at UConn helped to prepare her to speak at the BeHive summit.  

For over two years she, along with some former UConn students, waged a campaign pressuring the UConn administration to add environmental literacy to the general education requirements.  

Gatheru said despite her environmental justice-focused activism, she has at times struggled to articulate climate change in a way that resonates emotionally with listeners. 

“Climate change is often discussed as a technical, clinical concept when it is, in reality, inherently personal and emotional,” Gatheru said. “As someone who is immersed in the environmental movement, I want to challenge BeHive participants to rethink how they should approach, discuss and relate to climate change.” 

Gatheru said she would use the unique perspective she has as former vice president of the Office of Sustainability to build on UConn’s achievements in the field of sustainability and demand more. 

“I believe that colleges have an obligation to support sustainability that extends beyond legal compliance,” Gatheru said. “While the university has done an exemplary job at achieving conventional standards of sustainability, the university has a lot to do in regards to integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in its environmental arenas.” 


Kobe Amos is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kobe.amos@uconn.edu