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    Jessica Olson

Southwestern student is attending an international climate change conference in the Middle East

Jessica Olson’s first foray out of the United States is going to take her more than 8,000 miles from Georgetown.

Olson is a youth delegate to the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference is being held in Doha, Qatar, from Nov. 26 – Dec. 7.

Olson is one of 12 students who will be representing the Sierra Student Coalition at the conference. The Sierra Student Coalition is the national youth-led section of the Sierra Club. Olson sits on the Executive Committee of the Sierra Student Coalition and was selected in July to attend the conference.

Olson’s role at the conference will be to work with the youth delegation to make sure that people back in the United States are aware of what is being discussed and voice their opinions about different issues. While Olson will not be a part of the actual negotiations, she will get to sit in on the negotiations and draft different messages about what is being discussed to send to those who cannot attend the conference.

“A lot of what is said during the negotiations and in treaties signed is very technical,” Olson said. “By learning more and getting experience, I hope to be able to inform others about what these decisions might mean for them. I also want to understand how the United States impacts the international world with our national policies.”

Olsen is actually going to Qatar a week early to participate in a conference just for youth. She plans to blog about her experience while she is there.

Olson said she was inspired to become an environmental activist attending the Power Shift  conference with other Southwestern students in 2011 and attending the Sierra Student Coalition’s Summer Leadership Training Program known as SPROG. She interned with the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter last summer and has been working for the Chapter since last December coordinating its internship program.

Olson is junior with a double major in environmental studies and feminist studies. This year she is co-chair of the student environmental group on campus, Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK), and has a paid internship through the Department of Energy in which she is working for a local group called Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance. Olson is working with that group to create  alternative transportation options such as public transportation, plug-in electric vehicles, and bike and car share programs.

After she graduates from Southwestern, Olson said she would like to attend graduate school to study environmental science and policy. She would eventually like to work in the area of environmental policy and advocacy as a lobbyist or perhaps even a negotiator for the United Nations.

“I hope to make the positive change in the world that I see possible,” she said.  “It is very Gandhi of me… but if you don’t have [optimism], you have nothing.”

Olson received a SEED grant from Southwestern to help pay for some of her trip, but she is still trying to raise additional funds. Those wishing to make a donation to Olson may do so here.

−Isaac Bernal