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Meet New Fellow Frances Roberts-Gregory

Welcome to Frances Roberts-Gregory, who is joining us as a Future Faculty Fellow in SPPUA this fall. Frances is a first-generation Ph.D. Candidate in Society & Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.

What is your elevator pitch for your work and research?
I am a feminist political ecologist, environmental educator, and ecowomanist ethnographer. My doctoral research explores how women of color in Gulf Coast Louisiana navigate contradictory relationships with energy and petrochemical industries, resist environmental racism, and advocate for environmental, energy, and climate justice. I am also a member of the Feminist Agenda for a Green New Deal Coalition and plan to conduct feminist climate research while mentoring the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) environmental leaders in the years to come. 

What have some of your favorite research endeavors been, and why?
So, I was, fortunately, able to participate in many research projects as an undergraduate student at Spelman College, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and former protege with Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research & Science (SOARS) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  As a Women in Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (Wi-STEM) intern at Spelman College, I was able to conduct collaborative research on soil erosion at Providence Canyon Park and attend my first hiking trip with other young Black women. I later wrote my senior honors thesis on activism within Black farmer and vegetarian communities. As a SOARS protege, I conducted modeling research on ozone formation in the upper troposphere, ethnobotanical and participatory action research with Louisiana bayou and Indigenous communities, and community geography research in collaboration with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) on greenspace accessibility in Southwest Atlanta. Finally, in graduate school, I conducted research on women of color’s environmental activism and climate change. All my past and current research experiences encourage me to see the interconnectedness of all struggles for justice, human rights, and earth democracy. They also influence my political commitment to fighting epistemic injustice and centering the environmental solutions of (BIPOC) communities in regard to the climate crisis and a just and equitable recovery from COVID-19. 

You talk about so many different interests on your website, both academic and non. How do they all inform each other?
All my personal and professional interests reflect my feminist politics and autoethnographic methodology. The feminist mantra that “the personal is political and the political is personal” is near and dear to my heart. My everyday lived reality as a Black woman from working-class origins informs my approach to interdisciplinary, collaborative, and feminist activist research. For example, the embodied knowledge of exhaustion, joy, and unease I experienced after salsa dancing with petroleum engineers in New Orleans shaped the formulation of my research questions and the direction of my feminist analysis during my doctoral research. My personal experience as a Black vegan, urban grower, lover of urban greenspaces, young climate feminist, and HBCU alum informs the networks I have access to as a scholar of color and the types of partial perspectives I value and uplift.  I think it is important that we all unapologetically bring our full selves into our research endeavors and dismiss the antiquated idea that good research is objective, value-neutral, apolitical, and separate from activism. My training as an anthropologist, ecowomanist, and feminist geographer leads me to conclude that critical reflection on identity, herstory, and legacy is essential for promoting ethical, participatory, and transformative research. 

What are some initiatives you’re looking forward to with SPPUA?
As a new member of the Northeastern family, I look forward to joining feminist and anti-racist groups and initiatives on campus. I also look forward to joining communities of likeminded scholar-activists within and outside of SPPUA, particularly the Initiative for Energy Justice, the Social Impact Lab, and the Global Resilience Institute. 

What are you reading right now?
Well, right now I’m reading Diversifying Power by Jennie Stephens, Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown, and A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jacquette Ray. I’m also reading Climate Cultures, edited by Jessica Barnes and Michael R. Dove, to better understand anthropological perspectives on climate change. I look forward to reading Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition by Shalanda Baker in the future. 

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