Fordham Hosts Workshop on Environmental Justice Leadership


The Environmental Justice Leadership Workshop was hosted by Act4Change. (Courtesy of Instagram)

On March 26, Dr. Christiana Zenner, associate professor in the theology department, and Sasha George, Esq., an alumna activist, spoke at an Environmental Justice Leadership Workshop with guests such as Act4Change and met with Fordham clubs and community partners. The event was sponsored by the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) Delegation of the Office of Mission and Ministry.

Every year a group of students attend an IFTJ conference in Washington, D.C. that is sponsored by Campus Ministry. The conference hosts students from Ignatian colleges and high schools across the country. They are able to meet with legislators, representatives of the House and Senate. Students Michela Fahy, FCRH ’23, Katie Bagin, GSB ’23 and Benedict Reilly, FCRH ’23, met with Cristo Rey New York High School, a Jesuit high school located in Harlem, to discuss the reasons why they do social justice work. Fordham students wanted to bring a piece of the conference to campus and have been planning this first workshop since November. The IFTJ conference in Washington, D.C. focuses on two main issues: environmental and migration justice. Fordham’s Environmental Justice Leadership Workshop focused on environmental justice.

Students attending the teach-in conference in Washington, D.C. explained what inspired the teach-in this spring. “Last fall, I was able to attend the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, which is a program bringing together students from Jesuit schools and others in the Ignatian tradition to learn about social justice and advocate with legislators in D.C., and a few of us decided we wanted to host a teach-in of our own. Carol Gibney from Campus Ministry rallied us together and developed this great teach-in,” said Reilly.

The workshop invited all Fordham students, staff and faculty as well as Cristo Rey students to amplify their voices. Fahy explained that they have been planning the workshop for the past few months, and they met with the Cristo Rey students at the IFTJ conference to talk about the reason that they are involved in social justice and advocacy. “We wanted high school voices too,” said Fahy.

“We got partnered with three high school students from Cristo Rey who went to IFTJ with us in November, and we worked with them [at the] Fordham Conference,” said Fahy. Fahy also explained that the teach-in acted as an unofficial opener to the university’s Earth Day programming throughout April.

Carol Gibney, director of Campus Ministry, explained that there were multiple people involved in the event. Besides the student who put together the teach-in, members of the Fordham community who are doing work in environmental justice were also present. Gibney added that people from St. Rose’s Garden also came.

Zenner, who was the keynote speaker, conducted a thought experiment on water based on her book “Just Water” and then broke the audience into groups for a larger discussion.

“Dr. Zenner’s discussion of the multidimensionality of water and environmental justice was illuminating of how ethics and theology connect with work for justice. I also really enjoyed Dr. Lopez’s ‘Theater of the Oppressed’ and how embodied work for justice must be,” said Reilly.

Act4Change is Dr. Eva Lopez’s nonprofit organization that facilitated the workshop using their experience and observations to define leaders for environmental justice discussing what social justice skills an environmental justice advocate possesses, what they sound like and how an environmental justice leader communicates.

Gibney said she hopes that students begin to discover their passion for environmental justice through this workshop. “The hope is if they walk away with better understanding and clarity of their own skill sets and how they can address environmental justice with what it is they’re looking to do with their gifts and strengths and their talents,” said Gibney.

Fahy said she hopes in helping to plan this event and bringing it to the Fordham community that environmental justice can be advocated. Fahy explained that the event opened up conversation, and there were all different types of students at the event that were able to learn about policy and different forms of advocacy. She explained that having the event at Fordham also made it more accessible since the conference is in Washington, D.C.

“[It is] important to us to make it accessible to everyone, and I hope the participants that were there today were able to learn different forms of advocacy can be as simple as just listening to other people’s lived experiences and how climate change affects other people,” said Fahy.

The Office of Campus Ministry is holding two upcoming events with the organization The Bronx is Blooming, and on April 22, they are partnering with the non-profit called Strive Higher. The event involves inviting 150 children from the Bronx community to come to campus to celebrate Earth Day.