Karla Sofía García '21 Awarded Clementine Cope Fellowship
Through the newly awarded fellowship, García, who majored in astrophysics, will soon be embarking on her next academic venture—a master’s in Climate and Society at Columbia University. “Finding this fellowship was a dream,” she says, “and I am incredibly grateful and honored.”
The program not only delves into the scientific aspects of climate change, but also incorporates the effects of climate variability on society and the environment. “I know there were a lot of wonderful applicants. It’s incredible to know that the fellowship committee selected me. Clearly, they believe in me, and that makes me even more motivated.”
As a proud Puerto Rican, García’s identity plays a central role in her academic pursuits. Upon first arriving at Haverford College, García sought out other Latino students, finding solace and support within that community’s embrace. When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, García helped start a Relief Action Group on campus to aid people affected by the natural disaster in the Caribbean and Mexico, creating a space for shared mourning, support, and solidarity.
In 2018, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in quick succession in fall 2017, García decided to take a gap year to return to her homeland, where she worked on disaster relief initiatives.
During her time at Haverford, García was a José Padín Scholar. That award is granted each year to two students from Puerto Rico who have demonstrated academic excellence and who are socially and culturally sensitive and politically aware. She also helped start the Physics and Astronomy Student Group to shed light on systemic inequities and strive for educational justice in physics.
García’s passion for environmental justice and equality continued to blossom when she joined Ehaus, the campus’ Environmental Community House. Ehaus has since disbanded but still lives on through other initiatives such as The Nest: Haverford College’s Food Pantry. “In Ehaus, we cooked community dinners that were open to anyone,” she said. “We also held environmental events to create a space where people can learn about the environment and how it overlaps with intersectional communities and BIPOC identities.”
Currently, García is studying for her master’s in Sustainable Environmental Management at the University of Salamanca in Spain, and will be graduating in the fall. Her master’s thesis includes a collaboration with two environmental activist groups protesting illegal construction in Puerto Rico, Salva Aguadilla and Campamento Pelícano.
“It’s important to me to study what I’ve participated in already through my volunteer and social activities,” said García. “I aim to analyze the system dynamics of Aguadilla Bay and Cueva las Golondrinas in Puerto Rico. The primary objective of the research is to raise awareness about the potential harm to the ecosystem caused by ongoing construction. By incorporating a scientific perspective, we hope to shed light on the importance of preserving these natural habitats and the urgency of finding alternative solutions.”
And that leads to the degree García will be pursuing at Columbia University. “My drive definitely stems from the volunteer work I did,” she said, “but also from my own experiences living in Puerto Rico and seeing that devastation every year during hurricane season. That is what has made me understand the need for a more sustainable infrastructure that can protect the people of Puerto Rico, and other small island states that are more prone to climate disaster, so that the islands aren’t constantly ravaged and don’t have to recover again and again.”
García’s multifaceted journey as a student, scientist, and advocate reflects the values upheld by the Clementine Cope Fellowship. “My ultimate goal with these studies,” she said, “is to support small island states in their plans for mitigation, adaptation, self-sufficiency, and self-conservation.”
In addition to García, two other Haverford alums won honorable mention Cope Prizes to support their graduate work: Ngoc June Hoang '21 and Tomás Aramburu '19.