Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

Student Spotlights & Events

Students in the Minor Shaping Emory

Sustainability Minor Alumna, Claire Pomykala, Coordinates Mural at Cox Hall

claire-pomykala.jpgSustainability Minor Claire Pomykala successfully pitched her vision of a mural to The Pulse in 2018. She managed a team of students in 2019 to complete the Atlanta-inspired artwork on the walls facing Cox Hall.

"Making this mural was a transformational experience. Not only did I learn what kind of a leader I am, but I learned how desperately the Emory community craves art, and that I can take part in amending this problem." Claire Pomykala, Emory Class of 2021

Student Honors

You are a Religion and Philosophy major and a Sustainability minor. How did you choose this combination? How do the major and minor align?

I knew I wanted to be a Religion major prior to my undergraduate experience. I attended a program with the Candler School of Theology while in high school and fell in love with the academic study of religion despite being in a theological setting. I didn't grow up with religion, and therefore felt compelled to study its influence on culture, politics, philosophy, and the human experience. I am a joint Religion and Philosophy major, and I realized in my first year of coursework that I was very much interested in the philosophical question of being.

My minor in sustainability at first aligned with my extra-curricular interests related to food. Writing an honors thesis this semester, I combined my interests in religion and food. I ended up writing my honors thesis on the intersection of sacredness and Indigenous food sovereignty movements in the US. I utilized both theoretical frames from food studies and religion. 

What sparked your interest for sustainability?

When I first arrived on Emory's campus, I began working at the Emory Farmers Market with the Office of Sustainability. From there, I delved into studying food through the lens of sustainability.

Connecting to food producers and farmers at the Farmers Market intensified my love of food. While my love of food was realized at Emory, I had always been interested in gardening since my time in high school.

This interest in gardening arose from not having a strong food culture at home, yet growing up in one of the most culinarily blessed cities: Los Angeles. I talked about this frequently in the Bobby Jones application process—that I study both food and religion because I was not exposed to it or did not have it.

Through studying the sustainability of food I was able to understand how my lack of food culture fit within the broader globalization and commercialization of food. My major and minor, as I talked about above, cumulated in a cohesive way in my honors thesis project.

Tell us about your projects you have done and organizations you got involved in.

Outside of my academics, I am a member of the Interdisciplinary Exploration and Scholarship (IDEAS) Fellowship, a Senior Advisor in Residence Life and Housing, and re-founder of the Slow Food Movement on campus.

One of the most rewarding projects I worked on at Emory was via the Slow Food chapter. As President, I applied for an Office of Sustainability Incentives Fund Grant to create a series of images that explore how Emory engages with sustainable food. When the Emory Student Center was under construction, the images lined the construction fence in two spots. The images are now semi-permanently installed by Cox Food Court. You can view the images here.

Through the Slow Food Movement, I have also been able to serve as a US delegate to the conference Terra Madre: Food for Change. The conference is hosted by the International Slow Food Movement. There, I was able to hear from a global community of food scholars, activists, and producers. Being involved with the Slow Food movement on a campus and global level is one of the most rewarding experiences of my time at Emory.

What inspires you? Did you have a class, teacher or event that sparked your interest and created the drive we see today?

I am inspired by what I eat and drink—particularly coffee. This semester, I am enrolled in a business course titled "Social Enterprises in Latin America." A major portion of this class involved traveling to Guatemala over spring break to learn about coffee farming and other social enterprises, such as upcycling factories and entrepreneurial hubs. The professor of this course, Wesley Longhofer, is inspiring as a human and teacher. So for one, the pedagogy of this class is purely inspiring.

More specifically, my favorite part of the trip was reflecting on coffee while drinking it every day in the heart of Guatemala's coffee country. Collectively, coffee itself, learning outside the classroom, and good pedagogy have inspired me this semester.

Tell us about your engagements outside of school?

One of the main engagements I have outside of school, yet connected to the university, is related to international climate change discussions. I was fortunate to attend the United Nations 23rd Conference of the Parties in 2017 with Emory's student delegation. The COP Conference is a forum where UN member states discuss climate change policy and implementation. For example, the Paris Agreement was created in 2015 at COP 21.

At the conference, I conducted research on the Indigenous and Local Peoples Operational Platform. This was an amazing experience as I got to sit in on international climate negotiations and experience what diplomacy looked like at a time when the United States was removing itself from the Paris Agreement.

This semester, at the University for a Greener Georgia Conference, I am moderating a panel and presenting my work with student researchers from Emory's 2016, 2017, and 2018 delegations. Another amazing experience that I have had because of being a sustainability minor (thank you to Eva and the minor listserv)!

What's next? Tell us about the next steps, what are you planning to do at the University of St Andrews and what are your goals?

At the University of St Andrews, I will pursue a degree in International Political Theory, housed in the School of International Relations. I am excited about this program as I can combine my interest in international issues of food and indigeneity with theoretical frameworks.

Outside of the classroom, I hope to get involved with the sustainability group Transition, the Foreign Affairs Society, and the Fine Food and Dining Society.

Anything you want to add?

The sustainability minor is awesome! Sustainability is the future. Not only in its application, but in its application to fields that are adverse to discussions of sustainability. You can apply the lens of sustainability to any discipline, and because of that, I believe the minor is invaluable to this University, students, and the future of the world.

kaufman-kristen.pngKristen graduated in May with a Minor in Sustainability and highest honors in Anthropology. She has worked with the Office of Sustainability Initiative on the zero waste policies.

"I have learned so much about how to make change happen thanks to the sustainability initiatives at Emory. Through collaborating with administrators, faculty, staff, and student peers in the process of working towards a sustainable Emory, I have met inspiring people across the University and forged connections that contribute not only to my sense of place but also to my professional development.

Through working as a student employee with the Office, I have also been able to understand the links between my education in the classroom and real-world translation and application. I think people are so fundamental to understanding sustainability and sustainable outcomes, so studying anthropology has been a necessary supplement to my sustainability work and a fundamental influence in my thinking. Both working with OSI and studying anthropology were invaluable for my skills development, my understanding of people and the world around me, and the evolution of my sustainable vision for the future."

Following her graduation, she will work at Tufts University as a Recycling and Waste Fellow. Congratulations!