RCC 2024 Stanback Fellows

RCC Stanback Presidential Fellow – Sophie Valkenberg

Sophie Valkenberg is a Master of Environmental Management student at Duke University, concentrating in Community Engagement & Environmental Justice and Ecotoxicology & Environmental Health. She was born in the Netherlands but quickly moved to and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Coming from a country with a very robust eco-friendly infrastructure initially sparked her interest in environmental studies and sustainable living. She hopes to work in a field that enables her to promote justice and inclusion in environmental work, particularly within communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and suffering negative health effects due to these circumstances. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and improving her (very minimal) sewing skills. Sophie is honored and eager to expand her experience and contribute to the incredible work of the RCC.

RCC Stanback Presidential Fellow – Chloe Wetzler

Chloe Wetzler is a dual Master of Environmental Management and Juris Doctor student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Law School. At Duke, she is the symposium coordinator for the Ocean Policy Working Group and a student researcher for the Nicholas Institute of Environment, Energy, and Sustainability. Chloe is also a member of EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council. Before coming to Duke, she studied Environmental Thought & Practice and Spanish at the University of Virginia. Chloe grew up in Virginia Beach, so she is particularly passionate about coastal and marine ecosystems. Chloe aspires to protect marine biodiversity and make coastal communities more resilient to climate and sea-level rise threats with policy tools. Chloe is incredibly excited to be joining the RCC as a Presidential Fellow.

RCC Stanback Presidential Fellow – Rachel Weaver

Rachel Weaver is a Master of Environmental Management student at Duke University from West Jefferson, North Carolina studying Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecosystems and Environmental Economics and Policy. At Duke, she currently serves as graduate research assistant and a member of the Secretariat for the Environmental Peacebuilding Association. Prior to coming to Duke, she received a B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from North Carolina State University, along with a certificate in Renewable Energy Innovation and Sustainability from Reykjavik University. Previously, she was a 2022 Directorate Fellow for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Combating Wildlife Trafficking team and conducted research in 2023 at NC State University on the impact of climate change on ornate box turtles’ home ranges and movement patterns. Passionate about fostering interdisciplinary collaboration for biodiversity conservation and environmental policy, Rachel draws hope from Rachel Carson’s legacy to inspire others in the environmental field.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Maria Ding

Maria Ding is a rising sophomore at Duke University majoring in Financial Economics with an Energy & Environment Certificate. Passionate about energy, she aspires to promote energy transition for the world. Maria is now the Associate Director of Special Programming at the Duke Energy & Climate Club, where she helps committed young people better explore their interests in energy. She has also volunteered at the EPA-RTP office to facilitate environmental education and worked on pro bono consulting projects for 180 Degrees Consulting with companies to achieve their sustainability goals. Before coming to Duke, Maria studied Environmental Science and researched methane emissions regulations and lithium-ion battery technologies. She also popularized information on the Green Olympics as a reporter for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and organized community climate advocacy events as her high school’s Environmental Ecological Club president. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, traveling, and walking in the Duke Garden.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Zoe Kolenovsky

Zoe Kolenovsky is a rising junior at Duke University studying Public Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, and Journalism and Media Studies. Originally from New Orleans, she experienced the effects of the climate crisis firsthand throughout her childhood and has been engaged in climate justice work since Hurricane Ida hit her hometown in 2021. Zoe is particularly interested in the role communications media can play in improving climate literacy and uplifting the voices of frontline communities to find policy solutions to environmental problems. She serves as the news editor of The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, and is also an executive producer of Operation Climate, a student-produced podcast about environmental issues. She was previously secretary of the Duke chapter of Amnesty International and project lead for a partnership between the Penny Pilgram George Women’s Leadership Initiative and Keep Durham Beautiful, where she worked to produce a sustainability guide for the City of Durham. Zoe is incredibly passionate about environmental justice, and she received the 2023 Chester P. Middlesworth award for her research paper that uses archival sources to examine the centuries of race- and class-based discrimination leading up to the current situation in Cancer Alley, Louisiana. She is excited to join the Rachel Carson Council, where she hopes to leverage her communications experience to promote environmental justice and advocacy.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Jackson Ronald

Jackson Ronald is a Master of Environmental Management student at Duke University studying Environmental Economics & Policy and Energy in the Environment. Deeply curious and interested in the environment, he is passionate about the intersection of environmental law, indigenous justice and the energy transition. From California, Jackson has seen first-hand the stress that droughts, fires and sea level rise can put on local communities. An active member of Duke Restore’s Eco-cultural team, he helped organize events between Duke and the local Coharie Tribe in North Carolina. Before coming to Duke, Jackson double majored in applied environmental studies and German language & culture studies at Tufts University. His interests include cooking, reading, volleyball and spending time outdoors.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Jack Sanitate

Jack Sanitate is a rising senior at Duke University double majoring in Public Policy and Theater Studies, with a minor in Environmental Sciences & Policy. Growing up in Michigan around the Great Lakes, he has always been passionate about environmental justice, especially regarding plastic pollution in our oceans and freshwater. He worked at the Duke University Marine Lab last summer researching the effects of light pollution and climate change on sea turtle nesting habits, as well as advocacy for integrating living shorelines into North Carolina coastal properties. At Duke, he is the Fundraising Chair for Alpha Phi Omega, and aims to incorporate environmental consciousness through volunteer work and service. In his spare time, he loves to perform theater and serves as the Publicity Chair of Duke’s musical theater organization, Hoof ‘N’ Horn.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Hiwot Shaw

Hiwot Shaw is a rising senior at Duke University studying environmental science and policy with an ethics and society certificate. Adopted from Ethiopia and growing up in eastern North Carolina, she is passionate about environmental justice and addressing unique challenges faced by communities domestically and internationally. She engages in environmental research and advocacy specifically on issues such as clean water, sustainability, and equity within policy. On campus she is a member of Duke Climate Coalition, Street Medicine and Defining Movement (two dance groups). In her free time, she loves dancing, reading, and exploring nature. She is looking forward to her time at the Rachel Carson Council and hopes to learn how to construct legislation that better involves minority communities in the decision-making process.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Caison Gray

Caison Gray is a first-year Master’s in Environmental Management graduate student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a graduate of Davidson College with degrees in Environmental Humanities and concentrations in Public Health and Spanish.

At Davidson, Caison completed two environmentally-based study abroad programs with research in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Puerto Natales, Chile. She is deeply committed to work relating to environmental justice, environmental health, and social inequality. Having addressed these issues in Patagonia, in Panama, and her home state of North Carolina, Caison has made having a global and varied perspective on the importance of environmental health and community engagement a priority in her professional and personal life.

Caison brings honed skills in mixed-method research, writing, history, and leadership with a justice-oriented lens to the Rachel Carson Council. She was born and raised in Cary, North Carolina.

RCC Stanback Fellow – Emely Arredondo

Emely Arredondo is a rising junior at Duke University with a double major in Environmental Science and Policy and International Comparative Studies. Originally from the Caribbean and having lived in coastal communities in the U.S., Emely is driven by environmental work that focuses on coastal resiliency, post-disaster relief, and urban studies. She is particularly interested in how these topics intersect with environmental justice and building community resilience. In high school, Emely was active in two environmental nonprofits, Green Saves Green, and Citizens Climate Lobby. At Duke, she is involved with Green Devils, a student-led environmental internship program via the Sustainable Duke department. She has also worked as a fellow with the Duke Partnership for Service, as a Sarah P. Duke Gardens volunteer, and with the Mi Gente (student Latine organization) Programming Committee.

Emely loves baking (especially bread!), cooking, gardening, walking her two dogs, and listening to Spanish music.