CLIMATE CHANGE POSES SIGNIFICANT and complex challenges to policymakers in every nation. From typhoons to hurricanes to droughts, extreme weather events cause people across the planet—especially the most vulnerable populations—to experience physical and economic suffering.

Through the generosity of Louis and Gabrielle Bacon, the Kennedy School now has a student fellowship program to support change-makers interested in working at the nexus of the environment and public policy. The Bacon Environmental Leadership Fellowship, which provides full tuition and robust cocurricular experiences to recipients, has funded 17 student fellowships since 2016.

“Our overriding passion for the natural world aside, the pressing burden of our planetary degradation is the most globally encompassing concern, one that extends beyond national boundaries, beyond gender and race, even beyond humanity, enveloping all living beings and ecological systems,” say Gabrielle and Louis Bacon. “The Kennedy School instills a critical sense of mission in its students, fostering an outward vision gently laced with obligations to society and to an environment in need of cleaner air, purer drinking water, and consideration for the marginalized and vulnerable people in the face of climate challenges and social injustices.”

Here are snapshots of a few current and past Bacon Fellows who are making a difference for our planet.

View at the banks of the Ganges river in India.

Mehul Jain MPA/ID 2017

Climate Change Specialist, The World Bank

“In 2007, I reached Boston to study at MIT and was pleasantly surprised to see that the Charles River was as clean. It was a turning point for me. I studied water engineering and water resourcing, and went back to India determined to clean the River Ganges. I kept coming up with technical solutions but didn’t make much headway. I realized that I needed to get involved in policymaking and build my credibility. I applied to HKS. It was the Bacon Fellowship’s first year and I was extremely fortunate to be selected as a Bacon Fellow. I am convinced that my journey at HKS wouldn’t have been as rewarding without the fellowship support.”

Cole Wheeler MPP 2018

Senior Climate Resilience Analyst, ICF International Inc.

Headshot of Cole Wheeler against a brick wall.“My interest in the environment emerged from my own feeling of dread about climate change—a feeling common to a lot of people in my generation. Friends and I would talk about it but not really know how to think about it. I still have this experience when I talk about climate change—people don’t know how to grasp such an existentially challenging topic. I felt like if I really wanted to be a force for change in the environmental field, I needed to know more. The Bacon Fellowship was the deciding factor in my ability to go to graduate school. It gave me the freedom to dig into the issues that I felt were most interesting and important rather than focus so heavily on setting myself up for how to get a job that would help me cover loan payments.”

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Martina Müller MPP 2019

Headshot of Martina Müller against a dark gray backdrop.“I’m a lawyer by training. I was working in the government of the state of São Paulo as a cabinet advisor, where I managed environmental policy and worked on international cooperation with other states and countries. I knew there were important elements I needed to get more skilled on because I never studied how to plan a budget, how to plan for contingencies, how to consider a country’s macroeconomic situation—and that’s why I decided to go back to school. I would not have applied to the Kennedy School if I hadn’t known about the Bacon Fellowship, and I found it to be the perfect way to complement what I’d learn in class. Because it’s not just about the money. Bacon Fellows have weekly meetings on environmental issues and leadership, field trips, and events. We are a family. It is extremely valuable to be here and bring an environmental perspective to so many different policy issues, such as housing, women’s rights, and employment. Environmental concerns are very much related to all these issues. My challenge here and when I leave is to promote a bigger integration between this policy area and the work done in other fields.”

Wide-angle shot of the Miami Skyline.

Lia Cattaneo MPP 2020

“I primarily work at the intersection of climate and transportation policy, and I’m particularly interested in the climate impacts of autonomous vehicles. The fellowship is more than just financial support. This year, the Bacon Fellows went on a trip to Miami, which is ground zero for climate change. We are going to speak with a variety of stakeholders to learn how development interests conflict and align with climate needs. Miami passed a $400 million bond measure to spend money on climate projects, and we are interested in figuring out the decision-making structures and perhaps making some recommendations. The Bacon Fellowship has been a great way to sharpen my focus and to come back to the environmental community that I love so much and feel so passionate about.”