Upon stepping into an Uber at her home in Indianapolis, Earlham class of ’20 alum, Sitashma Thapa, was greeted with a rather jarring question from her driver: What do you consider to be true happiness? After initially feeling annoyed about the stranger’s philosophical curiosity, Sitashma thought about the question; Her answer, “growth.”
Growth is a concept that feels familiar to Sitashma. She came to Earlham from Nepal with the notion that environmental science should primarily be concerned with, well, science. Through her coursework, participation in Earlham’s Center for Environmental Leadership, mentorship by faculty and campus advocacy work, Sitashma grew to understand environmental science not only as a means to pursue reliable knowledge of our world, but also a way to seek justice for her local and global community.
After graduating with her Bachelors in Environmental Sustainability from Earlham in 2020, she was accepted into the Philanthropic Studies graduate program at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and was awarded the coveted McKinney Fellowship, which places fellows at local nonprofit organizations focused on environmental sustainability, and provides opportunities to collaborate with IUPUI faculty on environmental research.
Working with the Hoosier Environmental Council, Sitashma contributed to projects progressing environmental justice and corporations’ activity in carbon markets. After completing her master’s degree in May of 2022, she immediately began working for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a Climate and Energy Program Fellow, while also pursuing philanthropy research on the side with her alma mater, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Sitashma’s experiences at Earlham taught her to approach the work of environmental justice not only as a scientist, but as a human. “People have the preconceived notion that there isn’t room for- or people don’t want- environmental change in rural Indiana communities,” stated Sitashma. Her work with the NWF is focused on finding common ground, and challenging the fallacy that we cannot change the environment, change the climate, or change our minds.
Sitashma plans to continue working for the NWF, and pursue doctoral studies in environmental policy; grow her podcast, Anthropause, which presents climate science and research in an accessible way to the public; develop her professional identity as an immigrant working in the environmental sector, and maybe find a bit of happiness in the process.