Student Spotlight: Siiri Bigalke ’15

20 Nov

Siiri Bigalke is a sophomore with a strong interest in environmental policy. She is highly involved on campus with the student group, Green Team and also does work outside school to pursue her interests in the environment. When Siiri came to Smith she already had the background to be a great environmental advocate; she was involved in a youth environmental group in high school and had gained experienced in the policy side of environmentalism.

Coming to Smith, she found she could still do want she loved as a Green Team Facilitator. As a first-year, she worked with the House Sustainability Reps to expand the Earth Day Festival in April to Earth Week . Earth Week brought awareness, in the form of a trash audit, and fun, in the form of a carnival, to sustainability. This year, Siiri and Green Team are focusing on a Divestment project. This is an attempt to encourage Smith to invest in a socially responsible way by withdrawing investment they might have in the fossil fuel industry. Green Team is collaborating with 40 other schools nationwide who have similar goals and with other schools that are in the same investment group as Smith. Another project that Green Team is working on is making composting and recycling more accessible in academic and administrative buildings. The goal with this project is to provide more locations for composting and recycling and then provide a map of campus with these locations land marked.

This past Summer, Siiri attended Rio +20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and at the end of November she will attend the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 18. She will be attending the COP 18 as a Youth Advocate to ensure that the goals of young people are met in the outcome of the conference (you can follow her as she blogs about her time at COP 18 here). One thing that Siiri noticed at Rio +20, and that she is aware will happen in COP 18, is that delegates are often unwilling to implement policy that will make a difference, especially when it comes to the “super powers” like the US and China. This is a frustration that Siiri has, but she realizes that there is not always an instant change and it is a struggle to implement environmental policy. She hopes to gain international experience that she can transfer to her work at Smith.

Siiri hopes to be able to connect what she learns at these conferences and in academia with what is happening outside of Smith. In the near future, Siiri is looking into possibly studying abroad and continuing her research and work. She is also planning on attending grad school in environmental policy or sustainable development. When it comes to future career, Siiri wants to work in the context of environmental policy, but is still unsure about whether she wants to go into national or international politics.

-Stephanie Cervantes ’13, CEEDS Intern

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