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Out on the Mystic, Tisch Summer Fellows Make a Difference

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Kyrielle Lord, E24 and Sam Markowitz, A23 combined their interest in environmental stewardship and passion for social change as Tisch Summer Fellows at the Mystic River Watershed Association this summer.

Tufts students working on the Mystic River in a canoe

A summer on the river: what could be better? As Environmental Science and Stewardship Fellows at the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), one could easily imagine that Kyrielle Lord, E24 and Sam Markowitz, A23 would be happy studying and working on the river itself. However, their Tisch Summer Fellowships went much deeper than the flora and fauna they encountered. According to Sam, a senior double majoring in biology and environmental science, and an alum of Tisch College’s 1+4 bridge year program, “MyRWA is an organization that makes the watershed not just a better place for the local ecology, but also makes it a more equitable and accessible space for the humans that live there too.”

Kyrielle, a junior studying Environmental Engineering, was also drawn to the MyRWA for this reason, “it offered me a chance to develop scientific and community outreach skills in tandem. The Mystic River Watershed Association is doing an inspiring job creating and communicating science with their stakeholders.”

Sam and Kyrielle are among more than 100 Tisch Summer Fellows (TSF) from across Tufts who engaged in internships in the non-profit, public, and philanthropic sectors throughout Greater Boston, New York City, Providence, R.I., and Washington, D.C. this summer. The TSF program is designed to enhance students' career and professional development while building knowledge, skills, and values to promote social change. Tisch Summer Fellows build their networks of alumni and other professional contacts and connect with peers for intentional reflection sessions, events, and mentoring to make the most of the experience. Thanks to the generosity of donors, Tisch College provides stipends to all fellows to make these opportunities accessible to students of all backgrounds.

Reflecting on what she feels makes the program special, Jenna Logue, TSF Program Administrator, said, “managing TSF for the past three years has been a highlight of my two decades in higher education. At Tisch College, we center equity, incorporate career development with civic engagement, and value the importance of reflection in experiential learning. Importantly, we are able to provide a living allowance to students and take the burden off smaller organizations who might not otherwise be able to provide financial compensation to summer interns.” 

At MyRWA, Sam and Kyrielle not only did the valuable work of studying and maintaining a healthy watershed, but in growing and fostering a healthy community. Daria Clark, AG21, Engagement Manager at MyRWA, describes the organization’s vision for “a vibrant, healthy and resilient Mystic River watershed for the benefit of all our community members.” According to Clark, MyRWA puts an emphasis on “incorporating racial equity and justice throughout our programs, operations, staff and board. Within our programs, MyRWA focuses on building paths and improving parks in partnership with community members in communities generally underserved areas.”

This summer, Sam and Kyrielle collected water samples as part of a new cyanobacteria water quality monitoring program. And they ran community volunteer events, used geographic information system (GIS) to chart walking routes for a visual trash assessment, and streamlined outreach information so that the organization could better support priority communities in the watershed. Clark noted the impact that both students’ work had on the MyRWA community, “Sam and Kyrielle led a research project to better understand the landscape of community-based organizations in environmental justice communities. Meeting with and building relationships with these existing organizations is an important first step for identifying each community's wants and needs, and we are so grateful for the work that Sam and Kyrielle did to set up an equity-based foundation for our future work.”

This impact goes both ways. Over its 18-year history, the TSF program has had long-lasting effects on students, with a majority of fellows reporting that the program helps them develop skills that will be relevant to their work in the future. Fellows also report that they learned about new professional pathways that align with their career goals and interests. Sam and Kyrielle’s experiences were no different. According to Sam, “it has been really encouraging and informative to learn about all the ways that people engage with their local environment, either professionally or recreationally as a volunteer. Getting to really know people who are doing the kind of work that I want to do has helped transform a lot of nervousness about the uncertainty of my future into excitement for what could lie ahead.”

For Kyrielle, “the workplace at MyRWA was so transformative. They've developed such a loving and caring culture that made me feel comfortable bringing my whole self to work every day. My work and my identity felt meaningful and valued which was so freeing. I worked in a group with three other fellows for the whole summer and they truly made my experience. It was such a joy to learn from and with them.”

The Tisch Summer Fellows program provides invaluable experiences for both students and community organizations. For fellows, this comes not only from exploring potential future careers and building skills and networks, but as a pathway to making meaningful change in their communities and beyond.