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Robin Okunowo ’21’s double major in environmental studies and philosophy perfectly combines her interests in environmentalism, social justice and ethical reasoning. She’s researched food deserts locally and conducted fieldwork in food studies, climate change and politics in Tanzania. As historian for the Black Student Union, she helped mark the 50th anniversary of Dickinson’s Black Arts Festival by coordinating several events last spring. And after serving an internship with the Center for Sustainability Education, she interned at the Captain Planet Foundation this summer, working with environmentalists across Atlanta to help make the world a greener place.
Clubs and organizations:
Black Student Union, Hypnotic, Liberty Caps, Tree Club and HOPE Station.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty.
Coming to America.
Why/how I decided on my major:
Since a young age, I have been a passionate environmentalist. It started with a surface-level dedication to recycling cans, picking up garbage and making sure everyone around me did the same. As I have gotten older and matured, so too did my passion for the environment. Dickinson’s commitment to sustainability was so appealing, and as a first-year student, environmental studies was an easy choice.
However, what was unexpected was my interest in philosophy. I took a logic course to avoid taking calculus—a laughable choice, now that I look back—and I found I had a natural talent for that kind of thing. I decided to take Moral Problems the next semester, and I instantly fell in love with ethics. Not only did I love theories and thought experiments, but I even made connections to my environmental classes. These two majors have come together perfectly, combining my interests in environmental responsibility, justice and virtues.
Favorite place on campus:
SoJo (Social Justice House).
Favorite Dining Hall food:
Lobster Mac and Cheese!
Environmental and Social Justice, with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Heather Bedi, was one of my favorite classes at Dickinson because it exemplified the interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies and put together multiple pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle, representing the entire picture of environmental issues in this day and age. Looking at environmental racism from a political, economic and social standpoint was very enlightening. This class also allowed me to do a project that sparked my interest in food justice. I did a project looking at the lasting effects of redlining in Atlanta in the postwar era, and the effects of food deserts.
As I kid, I wanted to be …
… a marine biologist.
As my dedication to environmentalism increases, I plan to focus specifically on marginalized communities affected by environmental racism. I want to give power back to those who have been stripped of it. The rights of people of color have been ignored, especially when it comes to exposure to environmental bads. I argue that environmental justice is one of the most important emerging fields. We are all affected by the choices of people in the past, and I do not have a problem with being the person to make things right.
I can knit. A lot.
If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …
… Kendrick Lamar.
On studying abroad:
The summer after my first year, I studied abroad in Tanzania. It was somewhat of an impulse decision. I had just completed my first year at college, and I did not want to stop progressing in learning about the things I am interested in.
The field school was focused on food studies in Tanzania and had a research component in the villages of Southwest Tanzania. This was the epitome of how I saw myself spending my first summer as a college student: learning about food insecurity, climate change, and political systems. The highlight of the trip for me was our time in Dar es Salaam. We attended classes at the University of Dar es Salaam, and I picked up on Swahili surprisingly fast. The classes we took on history, culture and civics were so engaging, even more so because they were taught by professors at the university. It was such an amazing experience, although the weekends in Zanzibar and Matema Beach weren’t too shabby either.
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Published October 11, 2019