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Senior profile: Miriam Gleckman, BC

  • ENVIRONMENT AND JUSTICE | Miriam Gleckman will head to Geneva after graduating to work at the World Health Organization.

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

Miriam Gleckman, BC ’14, said she built her college experience around her passion for advocating for justice.

Gleckman, who completed a joint major in human rights and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, has worked with nonprofits and politicians on issues ranging from women’s rights to environmentalism.

“I spent a lot of my Barnard experience figuring out how I could become the most effective advocate, because I’ve always known that advocacy is something I wanted to be involved in,” she said. “I feel like my experience, whether consciously or not, was formed by a strong desire to use the privileges I’ve been afforded along with my skill set to advocate.”

In her second year, Gleckman was one of the first group of leaders of a program called Under One Sky through the outdoor education nonprofit Trail Blazers. Under One Sky runs after-school programs in New York City that teach students about environmental issues and economical and sustainable practices.

“Some of these kids don’t have recycling in their schools, and they therefore aren’t given the more tacit lessons in environmentalism, because the structures aren’t there for them to learn about that,” Gleckman said. 

“It has been a very interesting process because I’ve seen how the environmental justice movement can be racially and economically specific or exclusive, and I don’t understand the purpose of that because it seems if a movement like that is exclusive, it would be counterproductive,” she added.

“Miriam was the perfect person for that because she was motivated to take on the kids especially in the context of the program, and she really got what what we were trying to accomplish in the Under One Sky program,” Riel Peerbooms, Executive Director of Trailblazers, said.

Part of Gleckman’s passion for environmental issues stems from her love of nature and the outdoors. Since coming to Barnard, Gleckman has competed in seven half-marathons and two 18-mile races. She said she runs through Central Park daily, year-round.

“I go to Central Park every day, and I go to Westchester once a month. I sit in parks even when it’s ridiculously cold outside to read for my homework,” she said. “I basically run to keep me sane.”

Over the past four years, Gleckman has also been a residential assistant; interned at the Legal Resource Centre, a constitutional law clinic in Cape Town, South Africa; and interned with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. She said her experiences have shown her a disconnect between environmental necessity and reality.

“It also built my sensibilities about environmental justice—who has access to environmental justice, and when and why and what the government can do to remedy that,” Gleckman said. 

At the Legal Resource Centre, Gleckman worked in the environmental justice and gender departments and tackled issues such as land rights, violence against women, and racism. She said that her desire to work in South Africa also stemmed from her family’s history there.

“My family is from South Africa ... so I’d always had this interest, but my mom never spoke to me about it,” Gleckman said.

After graduating, Gleckman will head to Geneva to work at the World Health Organization. One of the projects she will be working on includes conducting research to help define maternal health targets in sustainable development goals.

Then, in 2015, Gleckman will start working on a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Michigan.

“I’m certainly going towards academics, and that sort of academic activism I’m going into,” she said. “It’s necessarily a balance between theory and practice, so it’s informed every element of my academic study of activism or advocacy.”

elizabeth.sedran@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ezactron

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

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