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Hadley and Rast, Class of 2013, Named Udall Scholars

May 9, 2012

Udall Scholars, Katherine Hadley (left) and Rebecca Rast (right)Udall Scholars, Katherine Hadley (left) and Rebecca Rast (right)The Dean of the College is pleased to announce that Katherine Hadley and Rebecca Rast, both Class of 2013, have been selected as 2012 Udall Scholars. The scholarship is named after Morris Udall, who represented Southern Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Stewart Udall, who served as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Both brothers were deeply invested in environmental and Native American issues, as well as in public service. Fittingly, Udall Scholars are chosen for this competitive award on the basis of their leadership potential, academic achievement, and commitment to careers in either the environment or tribal health care and governance. As Scholars, Hadley and Rast will receive up to $5,000 for their senior years of study, as well as the opportunity to meet with policymakers and community leaders in their fields this summer in Arizona.

Katherine Hadley ’13 came to Brown from Wayne, Pennsylvania. During high school, Hadley worked at her high school’s biodynamic farm as well as at Las Canadas, an environmental intentional community in Veracruz, Mexico. Both experiences helped her to broaden and deepen her commitment to environmental sustainability, while also exposing her to some of the ways that local communities were vigorously addressing issues of environmental degradation and injustice through food production and consumption. At Brown, Hadley has continued this work, seeking to expand and rethink the ways that we define “justice” and “sustainability,” to bridge the gap, as she writes in her winning Udall essay, between those who believe that economic concerns, such as fair wages, must always be pitted against environmental ones.  An Environmental Studies concentrator, Hadley has approached questions of sustainability from a technical angle, assessing the impacts that food production has upon the environment and human health in quantifiable data while also thinking through how science-based interventions can ameliorate negative environmental impacts. Hadley has also supplemented her study of soil science with a “grassroots” education. Believing that a sustainable world is one where we see the health of the planet as deeply interconnected to the health of all the people upon it, Hadley has worked as organizer for the rights of workers in a variety of forms, on campus and off. Most notably, Hadley was an organizer for the Student Farmworker Alliance, a group that has worked in partnership with the Coalition of Immolakee Workers in a “Fair Food” campaign to improve the wages and working conditions of farm workers in Florida who have been subjected to sweatshop conditions and modern-day slavery in the fields. After graduating, Hadley hopes to study environmental law, with an eye towards providing legal guidance to underresourced smaller environmental organizations.

Rebecca Rast ’13 is also from Pennsylvania, hailing from Lancaster. During high school, Rast became active in various groups opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in activism surrounding issues of economic and environmental justice. At Brown, she has continued this organizing as a means of achieving a more equitable and sustainable world.  Her on-campus organizing includes working as a coordinator at emPower, the umbrella organization for the majority of environmental organizations at Brown; co-creating the Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition, a statewide alliance of students and youth that focuses upon finding solutions to climate change and engaging young people in this struggle; and serving as the co-coordinator and Treasurer of the Student Labor Alliance, supporting workers’ efforts to secure a living wage and have access to affordable health care on Brown’s campus as well as within the local community. Rast has also done extensive work with Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, the Environmental Justice League and English for Action, a veritable “Who’s Who” of Providence’s leading progressive organizations. While much of this organizing work is not explicitly tied to the environment, Rast, like Hadley, is interested in redefining the terms of our current debates about sustainability. She argues in her Udall essay, for example, that supporting workers in our community is deeply connected to our ability to build a society that is sustainable and one in which the environment is prioritized: “If communities are continually worried about being able to pay for healthcare, education, and putting food on our table we will never be able to build a society that prioritizes the environment in any real way.” In her academic research, Rast is exploring this particular set of entanglements, the push and pull between environmental and economic health, in her home state of Pennsylvania. In particular, she is studying the impacts of hydrofracking on agriculture. Here, hydrofracking has created a complex situation for hard-pressed farmers: royalties from leasing their land can allow them to maintain an agricultural livelihood; however, the negative environmental and heath impacts could destroy their livelihood. She hopes that such research will help her to understand the difficult place that rural America is in right now and how different people are reacting to the diminishing support for small and medium scale agriculture, as well as provide insight into the impact of natural resource extraction. This knowledge is critical for understanding what real, sustainable, economic development could look like for rural America. After college, Rast hopes to continue working in this vein of political organizing.