Elizabeth Hoover received the 2008 Switzer Fellowship Award for her exemplary leadership and supportive work related to environmental justice issues of Native American communities. One prominent contribution made by Elizabeth was her efforts to enhance community involvement with regard to environmental contamination. For her research, Elizabeth used the health research produced five to ten years ago by SUNY [Albany] researchers on the Akwesasne community. She related the health research to the residents’ perceptions of the results, and how it caused people to change their perceptions of the reservation environment, in general, and caused lifestyle changes, e.g., a cessation of gardening and fish consumption.
Since 1987, the Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program Award is given to California and New England graduate students who possess a strong commitment to solve problems that result in positive environmental change. Elizabeth’s work with Brown University’s Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Outreach Core (COC) " University-Community Partnerships to Address Local Toxic Contamination " aims to improve environmental quality, while positively impacting Native American communities. Recipients of the Switzer Award aim to improve environmental quality, while demonstrating leadership.
Currently, Elizabeth is a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University studying Anthropology with a focus on environmental justice and health in Native American communities. For the last three years, Elizabeth has been an active research assistant to the SRP’s COC led by Dr. Phil Brown. Through her graduate research, COC involvement, and her personal ties (she is of Mohawk descent), Elizabeth’s interests, along with Dr. Brown’s interdisciplinary work, led to her involvement with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI) . Her research experience continues to give her a substantial insight into environmental justice issues in Native and rural American communities, which contribute to her understanding of urban issues.
Elizabeth’s interest in environmentally contaminated communities allowed her to become involved in a mix of state and federal agencies, such as the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and local community groups, such as the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) and the Environmental Neighborhood Awareness Committee of Tiverton [Rhode Island] (ENACT). As a result of her vast interests and agency involvement, Elizabeth was inducted into the 2008 Environmental Leadership Program’s (ELP) New England Fellowship, a year-long program that offers the environmental field’s ‘most-promising emerging practitioners’ to become involved in “unique networking opportunities, leadership and skills training, support, and time for personal and professional reflection.”
Both the Switzer and ELP Fellowships give Elizabeth the opportunity to collaborate with other regional environmentalists. The ELP Fellowship continues to connect her with Fellows who have similar and/or overlapping interests. In the fall, Elizabeth will continue her research with the Akwesasne.
With an intended graduation date of May 2009, Elizabeth plans to apply for Postdocs and teaching jobs. Her goal: “to educate students and community leaders on the importance of community involvement in environmental clean-up and restoration, and keep academic work relevant to the people on which it is often based.”