UT Climate Leaders Program

What is the Climate Leaders Program (Climate LEAP)?

Office of Sustainability launched the UT Climate Leaders Program in Fall 2022. The Climate Leaders Program (Climate LEAP) offers a cohort of ten students hands-on, practical experience developing a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan for a UT college, school, or unit. Climate LEAP is a year-long, paid, internship program open to undergraduates of ALL majors.

For 2023-2024, the Climate LEAP cohort will be working with five UT Austin colleges to develop college-level greenhouse gas emissions reduction proposals. Climate Leaders work in interdisciplinary pairs with one student acting as a Climate Data Analyst and the other as a Climate Engagement Specialist. Each pair works with a single college. Climate LEAP cohort meetings include presentations, workshops, and discussions led by experts in diverse fields, providing students with the broad knowledge base needed to be successful as future sustainability and climate professionals. 

Thank you to President Hartzell, the University Budget Council, and the Green Fund for funding this new program.

Please contact climateleaders@austin.utexas.edu with any questions about the UT Climate Leaders Program. 

Application Information

Eligibility and application information can be found on the Application Information page. Applications for the 2023-24 cohort are closed.

2023-24 Climate Leaders

Lauren Barrow

Lauren Barrow

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Biology (Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior Track)
Minors/Certificates: Core Texts and Ideas
Climate Hero: Dr. Vandana Shiva. Her work in the field of ecofeminist climate reform movements like Navdanya, which aimed to combat monoculture agriculture in Asia, as well as her scientific research and numerous books she's published on climate maintenance and the role of women in the fight for climate change inspires my love for blending public policy outreach, scientific research, and positive change. I hope in whatever career I pursue one day to bring half as much passion, intelligence, and desire to better the future that Dr. Shiva brings to the ecofeminist movement.

Mia Fuentes

Mia Fuentes

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: Urban Studies
Minors/Certificates: Environment and Sustainability BDP
Climate A-ha Moment: During a guest lecture, the speaker, Michael Osborne, brought up the question of "how do we hang on to nature connectedness in the constantly-changing modern world?" Although I have always cared deeply for the environment, that question completely shifted my focus from feeling the need to turn back time to having hope that we are able to shift the direction our climate is heading while finding ways to co-habitate with our environment again.

Anya Gandavadi

Anya Gandavadi

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Environmental Science (Biology Track)
Minors/Certificates: Ethics & Leadership in Law, Policy, & Government BDP
Climate A-ha Moment: My climate a-ha moment was when the government declared beluga whales as endangered and at 6 years old, I could not understand how we got to the point where this creature was threatened and I decided I wanted to do whatever I could to help!

Kate Hughes

Kate Hughes

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Sustainability
Minors/Certificates: Government
Climate A-ha Moment: I grew up in Texas and Florida, meaning I saw the damage caused by severe hurricanes every single year. I knew that I wanted to be involved in solving the climate crisis when I was first told that the hurricanes I had thought were normal were actually made stronger and more deadly by warming global temperatures.

Clara Hurter

Clara Hurter

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: International Relations and Global Studies
Minors/Certificates: Business and Spanish
Climate A-ha Moment: Realizing that Indonesia’s palm oil industry is detrimentally affecting the environment in many ways. The depletion of forests and carbon sinks are at the hands of unethical practices and the lack of government involvement, so I knew I wanted to do something to help my homeland.

Liz Kinerk

Liz Kinerk

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Biology
Minors/Certificates: Media and Entertainment Industries Minor & Evidence and Inquiry Certificate
Climate Dream Job: To be a science communicator and make documentaries that inspire people to change their attitudes and behaviors related to climate change.

Jimmy O'Brien

Jimmy O'Brien

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Plan II Honors, Government, Sociology
Climate Dream Job: My dream environmental job is either working as an environmental lawyer specializing in policy or conducting research and advocating for climate action at a think tank.

Lorine Salel

Lorine Salel

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: Environmental Engineering and International Relations
Minors/Certificates: Smart Cities BDP
Climate Dream Job: To be an ecological engineer, especially in marine ecosystems. Ecological engineering is a relatively new type of profession that applies engineering concepts to the restoration of ecosystems and land management. I'd like to focus on the ocean and other bodies of water as they have such a large impact on our planet and sequester more CO2 than our forests. The health of our oceans is extremely important as a food source but also to help us combat climate change and my dream would be to be part of restoring and protecting them.

Megha Sengupta

Megha Sengupta

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: Management Information Systems
Minors/Certificates: Educational Psychology, Elements of Computing
Climate Dream Job: I want to combine my interests in entrepreneurship and sustainability by launching my own business that leverages technology to create sustainable products. An example of a product I love and draw inspiration from is EcoCart, which helps users to offset the carbon footprint of their online purchases. Overall, my goal is to use technology in order to innovate unique sustainable solutions!

Vedika Shirtekar

Vedika Shirtekar

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: Environmental Science (Biology track)
Minors/Certificates: Certificate in Applied Statistical Modeling
Climate A-ha Moment: Once when I went snorkeling in the Caribbean, I encountered a beautiful coral reef that was ghostly white. Excitedly, I googled the reason for a stark color change in the corals and discovered what coral bleaching was. The more I read about the topic, the more I yearned to save the reefs from anthropogenic climate change. I consider this my climate a-ha moment because I want to be a part of the solution and see the reefs recover!

Elena Talarico Ribeiro

Elena Talarico Ribeiro

Role: Climate Engagement Specialist
Major: Sustainability, Geography, and Government
Minors/Certificates: Business and Public Policy, Liberal Arts Honors Plan I
Climate Dream Job: My dream environmental job is to be working as an environmental lawyer for a prominent international organization. I am passionate about helping mitigate climate change using ESG and CSR strategies within corporations. I believe that all businesses play a vital role in the fight against climate change. I want to be at the forefront of this critical mission, advocating for sustainable practices, ensuring regulatory compliance, and fostering a more environmentally conscious corporate landscape.

Mandy Tran

Mandy Tran

Role: Climate Data Analyst
Major: Environmental Science (Biology Track)
Minors/Certificates: Public Policy BDP
Climate Hero: Pattie Gonia (@pattiegonia) is a drag queen who promotes DEI, environmentalism, and climate action—I can only dream of multitasking as fiercely as her.