Students in PWR Lecturer Emily Polk's Advanced PWR class recently had their work featured on Climate Central, a leading global media outlet for climate news and science.
In her spring 2016 course, “Communicating Climate Change: Navigating stories from the frontlines,” Polk collaborated with scientists, journalists and editors at Climate Central throughout the quarter. Through workshops and conversations, Climate Central offered advice and support to students as they developed, researched, interviewed, and wrote about the human impacts of climate change. Many students chose to write about communities they came from or understood intimately.
In an e-mail, Emily Polk wrote about how much seeing her students' work published publicly meant to her: "The experience of witnessing, guiding and listening to [my students] as they felt the power of their words grow into a piece of writing they were proud of, (and proud to publish) has been one of the biggest honors of my teaching life."
One of Polk's students, Emma Hutchinson, shared her own reflections on taking the Communicating Climate Change course:
"This past spring quarter, I took Emily Polk’s “Communicating Climate Change: Stories from the Frontlines”, an advanced PWR course. It brought together a small, intimate group of writers focused on communicating the human stories behind climate change in engaging and innovative ways. In the class, we discussed various climate impacts and how they are communicated to the public, as well as how to treat the topic ethically and respectfully. Our task was to write a feature-length article, suited for submission to a popular publication, about a climate change story. Over the course of the quarter, we honed our topics, conducted interviews, gave feedback on each other’s work, organized and outlined furiously, and changed our phrasing over and over again. I have never worked so hard on or been so proud of a piece of writing. This class gave me an opportunity to take a break from traditional academic essays and write in the way a journalist would, using clever metaphors and vivid descriptions and really telling a story.
Another element of our class was a relationship with Climate Central, a science and news organization dedicated to reporting the facts and impacts of climate change. We had two Skype sessions with Climate Central during the class, in which we received advice from the organization’s top editors and journalists on framing stories and writing on this topic. It was so amazing to get direct access to real journalists who write about this important issue every day. At the end of the quarter, we all synthesized our longer feature articles down to 500 words – a special version of our story for submission to Climate Central – and the staff chose a few of our stories for publication on the website. My story, which exposes some of the climate change threats to the Maasai people of the Serengeti, was one of those chosen.
I have always dreamed of my writing having an influence in the real world, beyond the Stanford community. Emily Polk’s PWR class gave me the tremendous opportunity to do so, and I will always treasure the moment when I first saw my article on Climate Central’s website. But in the end, the most important thing that I gained from Emily’s class was the community. I have never before had the privilege of working in such a talented group of writers, and every student brought their own background, passions, and particular academic lens to the in-class discussions and their final story. With their support and Emily’s mentorship, I felt tremendous growth in my abilities as a writer and climate change communicator. I can definitively say that Emily’s course has been one of my favorite academic experiences at Stanford."
You can check out Emma's and the other students' posts directly on Climate Central's website.