Group of Kent State students take part in nationwide climate change project

Izzy Stewart Reporter

Since March 2021, a team of Kent State students has spent their time speaking with Ohio representatives, farmers and environmental activists to dig deeper into how climate change is affecting the Buckeye State.  

Findings of controversial policies, organic farming practices and the fashion economy have turned into stories and creative digital content to share with the world through the Project Citizen website and social media platforms

Project Citizen: Climate360 is a collaboration between a diverse group of students from across the United States who are devoted to reporting on climate change.

Grace Springer is a member of the Kent State team and explained that they have a clear mission behind their work. “It’s our mission is to find the stories, report on those stories and deliver them to a college audience. College students did not start the climate crisis but we can help end it.”

The Kent State team works as journalists, filmmakers, advocates, researchers and storytellers who shine a light on the effects of climate change and are dedicated to fostering civil conversations surrounding global warming along with finding solutions.

The students from Kent State are joined by student activists from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Meet the Kent State Team:

Spencer Hayes is a senior public communication studies major and media advocacy minor. She first heard about Project Citizen through an informative email and was interested right away.

As the executive producer, Hayes oversees the progress of the Kent State team and communicates with the other three schools on a regular basis. She produces content for the project and plays a lead role in managing. 

The effects of climate change have always been something that Hayes has thought about. “The long-term effects of climate change aren’t going to affect our parents or grandparents, or really even us; it’s gonna affect the kids. We can’t reverse the destruction, so the children who didn’t cause these problems are going to be the ones that are forced to deal with them,” Hayes said. 

Hayes has felt herself and her professional skills grow because of this experience. She has had to do aspects of journalism that she has not done at all before Project Citizens.

“Journalism is something I’ve never really done before in college. So being asked to do something I’ve never done before is both scary, but also seeing that I can do some of these things is kind of rewarding,” Hayes said. 

Grace Springer is a sophomore journalism major and media advocacy minor. When she learned about Project Citizen, she was immediately committed.

“What was so intriguing about the project was the collaborative nature and the opportunity to be able to work with the other schools,” Springer said.

Springer is the managing editor for the Kent State team. Her responsibilities include overseeing the editing process and working on editing the stories that the Kent State team creates. The managing editors at all four universities also help each other out with second and third edits of stories from each team. Springer also works as a content producer and creates some of her own stories. 

“With producing content, I’m building my portfolio, and I feel like this has been an experience that’s really helped me grow. I’ve been able to work on myself but also produce this content and be able to teach others with that,” Springer said. 

While also being a part of the Sunrise Movement at Kent State, an organization tackling climate change, Springer has a deep passion for helping the environment. 

“Climate change, to me, is the defining crisis of our generation, and I think that what we do now is going to be what lasts in the future,” Springer said. 

Connor Fallon is a senior advertising major and media advocacy minor. When learning about the opportunity, he knew it would be a chance to become educated on the climate crisis.

“When learning about Project Citizen, I thought it sounded super cool. Then, I was like, I don’t really know much about climate change but there’s always room to educate myself,” Fallon said. 

As a content creator, Fallon focuses on writing stories, researching different issues at hand and communicating with potential audiences. He has had little experience with journalism so this opportunity has pushed him out of his comfort zone. 

“Staying on task to meet deadlines and being self-motivated has helped me grow. Also, like just facing everyday challenges that like normally would stress me out and like having just to get over those hurdles,” Fallon said. 

After learning more about climate change, Fallon has a better understanding. “Climate change to me is risking the earth that we live on. People need to care about their environmental impact.”

Madison King is a junior digital media production major and theater performance minor. Like Fallon, King did not know much about climate change but was knew it was an opportunity he needed to pursue.

“I knew that there was a lot of disconnect with what climate change was and how people discover what their actions did and how it affected the climate overall,” King said. 

King is a content producer, mostly focusing on the video aspect of storytelling. He is able to bring the visual aspect to the conversations being had about climate change. King also was a part of the website development team. 

“Being from the North East, climate change is really apparent where we live, and the effects of it. So I felt like now is a good time to be able to share the stories,” King said. 

The collaborative environment of Project Citizen has continued to amaze King. “The collaborative effort of it all and being a part of like this project that’s at branches across the nation, it’s insane. Especially because of how it is organized and handled, you know, by the leaders and by the faculty that are a part of it.”

Willow Campbell is a senior filmmaking major and creative writing director. They joined Project Citizen because they were looking for something new and meaningful to be a part of. 

“To me, nature is sacred. Everything we know comes from the earth,” Campbell said.

Campbell is a content producer for the Kent State team. Their role comes with responsibilities like finding new stories and figuring out how to tell them. This means keeping an eye open for any interesting things relating to climate change and following where they lead.

“I want to use the skills I have like writing and telling stories to give back and maybe spark a change that will help someone new think about the issues our planet is facing,” Campbell said. 

Although Campbell is very familiar with writing, this is their first time trying out journalism which has allowed them to experience a new view of the world. “This project has also just opened up my awareness of the world, in a way I had never really thought about before. When you’re always looking for an interesting story to tell, you sort of have to engage with the world in a more attentive way — you have to really be present.”

Kevin Dilley is the director of student media at Kent State and is the Project Citizen faculty advisor for the Kent State team. His role is to offer the students guidance and advice while staying connected to the other universities’ advisors. 

Dilley explained that each student is receiving a stipend for their work but more importantly gaining top-level experience. “Projects like these are so important for Kent students because it gives them a chance to dig into important storytelling journalism while figuring out how to connect with new partners. The Kent team has stepped up in a strong way on all fronts.”

Each university and individual has a different goal for the project outcome, according to Dilley. 

“For me, the goal was to get the Kent team up and running and have them collaborate with their partners in the creation of content on their topic – climate change. Their website is launched and is filling up with meaningful stories told civilly. And they are collaborating with not one, but three universities. This is a good result so far.”

Izzy Stewart is a reporter. Contact them at [email protected].