Katharine Wilkinson, 2003 & 2004 Udall Scholar
A sophomore at a small liberal arts college when I applied, I’d been lucky to have some fantastic partners-in-crime in my early forays into environmental advocacy. But that work, and my deep concern for sustainability issues, often felt isolated. (I imagine, or at least hope, this is a less common experience today!)
Arriving in Tucson for our 2003 Scholar Orientation was kid-in-a-candy-store-esque. These were my people. My dig in, hands dirty, feet wet people. I remember feeling embraced, challenged, and inspired – by the program and speakers, but most especially by the scholars. I returned to Sewanee deeply energized, to take on more ambitious projects and pursue visions that might previously have seemed impossible. An environmental policy for our university. A campaign to bring clean energy to campus. Movement building with student leaders at other institutions. I also left that weekend with rich friendships – some which sustain more than a decade later.
Becoming part of the Udall community, then, was also a catalyst. It was a critical step in a journey that later led to the Natural Resources Defense Council, to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, to a PhD and publication of my first book, Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change. The scholarship has created profound ripples in my life.
Today, I am Senior Scholar & Writer at Project Drawdown, working with Paul Hawken and a global coalition to detail our one hundred most significant solutions to climate change and put forth an essential vision of possibility for our world. I am also co-founder of a civic venture, Civic Dinners, that uses the dinner table to connect people who care to conversations that matter. My work is guided by conviction that the intersection of community and purpose brings meaning to our lives and impact to our world. I couldn’t have anticipated it when I wrote my application, but that’s exactly what I experienced as a Udall Scholar.