University of Connecticut students reflect on COP26

A selfie of a group of young people

University of Connecticut's COP26 cohort pauses for a photo on the streets of Glasgow. (Scott Wallace/University of Connecticut)

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Colleges & Education

In November, I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26 with four professors and 15 students from the University of Connecticut, representing 13 different majors. All the students said it was a powerful learning and networking experience. They expressed a mix of hope and frustration that the pleas of young people are falling on deaf ears, that those in power are not acting quickly enough. They wondered what more they might do in their everyday lives back home, in their activism and in their future careers to advance the causes of social justice and the environment. It was a privilege to join them—and to learn from them. 


Name: Brandon Hermoza-Ricci

Field(s) of Study: Civil Engineering with a minor in Urban & Community Studies

Hometown: Port Chester, New York 

Why COP?: “My attendance at COP is based in my fondness to be a part of a new generation of engineers designing sustainable cities. Historically cities in the US have used a car-centric model created by a social construct meant to divide marginalized communities from white affluence through highways, economic structures, and gerrymandering. I am keen to listen to the voices of these advocates from marginalized community who have for so long been excluded from conversations that directly affect their ways of life. When this conference ends, I hope to take with me the words of these advocates as I consider how to positively rethink what a city is, which will house 80% of global population density by 2050, so that it is welcoming to all and continues to drive the ingenuity that urban centers have produced throughout human history.”


Name: Amisha Paul

Field(s) of Study: Physiology & Neurobiology and Economics with minors in Global Studies and Anthropology of Global Health 

Hometown: Southington, Connecticut

Why COP?: “Climate change has an incredibly large impact on the health of our communities, and its disproportionate impact exacerbates health inequity. I went to COP26 hoping to learn more about the impact of climate change on health, experiencing what international conversations in this space look like, and better preparing myself to advocate for climate action for human health to my local and national leaders.”


Name: Chase Mack

Field(s) of Study: Environmental Science and Political Science

Hometown: Haddam, Connecticut

Why COP?: “COP offers some of the most up-to-date information regarding the climate crisis. That information is of immeasurable value to developing both my future career plans and providing the proper tools to have productive dialogue with my family, peers, and neighbors. Moreover, the atmosphere that COP attracts, especially outside of the convention, elevates voices that typically are not heard, and their proximity enables our cohort to convey them back home.”


Name: Neha Sistu

Field(s) of Study: Molecular and Cellular Biology and Global Health 

Hometown: Acton, Massachusetts

Why COP?: “As a global health major, understanding the relationship between climate change and health equity is incredibly important. At COP I was able to see so many amazing health organizations including the WHO present on climate action and health action!”


Name: Duygu Ozcan

Field(s) of Study: Business Management

Hometown: Mansfield, Connecticut, originally from Turkey

Why COP?: “I wanted to join UConn’s COP26 Program to represent the community of business students who want to bring climate action to the corporate world. To achieve results, we all need to collaborate regardless of our professions or backgrounds.”

A young woman stands in front of an earth-themed installation that spells out "#COP26"
Student Amanda Pasture (Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Alfano)

Name: Amanda Pastore

Field(s) of Study: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Hometown: Prospect, Connecticut

Why COP?: “I understand climate science, but I do not understand climate policy or how it is created. I went to COP to learn what the world is doing as well as the perspectives of various peoples on that action/ lack of action.”


Name: Sena Wazer

Field(s) of Study: Environmental Studies

Hometown: Storrs, Connecticut

Why COP?: “As a 17-year-old climate activist from Connecticut, I am passionate about seeing action at the scale of the crisis we face, and action that centers those most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Although COP26 has many issues with accessibility and equity, I attended because it was an incredible opportunity to observe the global negations, which are in many ways deciding both our present and future, as well as make our voices heard in speaking up for what is right.”


Name: Neha Sistu

Field(s) of Study: Molecular and Cellular Biology and Global Health 

Hometown: Acton, Massachusetts

Why COP?: “As a global health major, understanding the relationship between climate change and health equity is incredibly important. At COP I was able to see so many amazing health organizations including the WHO present on climate action and health action! “


Name: Musa Hussain

Field(s) of Study: Political Science and Sociology

Hometown: New Haven, Connecticut

Takeaway from COP: “I have learned a lot at COP, but one thing in particular has been my realization that there are multiple perspectives in the climate movement. It is imperative that elected officials, climate scientists, and other figures who largely come from the Global North, follow the lead of Indigenous groups and voices from the Global South who have been at the forefront of the climate justice movement since it began.”


Name: Lindsay Alfano

Field(s) of Study: Law (J.D. Candidate 2022)

Hometown: Greenwich, Connecticut

Why COP?: “I attended COP26 to gain exposure to diverse cultures, innovative research, and promising policies about climate change in order to be a successful future advocate for those most impacted. The conference will provide me the tools to strengthen my voice within the field and start me on the path to help make serious change in the climate movement.”

Name: Nidhi Nair

Field(s) of Study: Economics & Mathematics-Statistics

Hometown: Farmington, Connecticut

Why COP?:“Growing up in a fishing town in India exposed me to the terrible effects of climate change at a young age and that experience influenced my decision to study economics to learn more about the interconnection between climate justice and economic inclusion. COP has given me the amazing opportunity to learn about global climate change and the immense strides being made to resolve the crisis.”


Name: Khadija Shaikh

Field(s) of Study: Environmental Studies with a minor in Social Justice Organizing

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Why COP?: “I attended COP26 to connect with other climate activists, especially those who have marginalized identities just as I do. Being an intersectional environmentalist with identities that make me an ‘other’ has been extremely isolating, so I want to meet others who have similar backgrounds as mine (an Indian Muslim woman who chooses to wear Hijab) to form a community that empowers and supports each other during our necessary and tiring work.”


Name: Michio Agresta 

Field(s) of Study: Natural Resources and Environment with minors in Spanish & Human Rights 

Hometown: Burlington, Connecticut

Takeaway from COP: “A major takeaway that I have gained from my experience at COP26 is that there is a lot of negative sentiment towards the conference from grassroots and Indigenous organizations that believe these negotiations will not end in real and meaningful change. I have been attending many side events hosted in various locations throughout Glasgow called the ‘People’s Summit for Climate Justice’ with panels, workshops, and artistic events. These gatherings showcase the sentiment of grassroots organizers, leaders of nonprofits, and many others who believe the real change has to come from the people and frontline defenders and not the system that has continuously failed the global society.”


Name: Maizey MabrySmith

Field(s) of Study: Environmental Studies

Hometown: Columbia, Connecticut

Why COP?: “I (was) at COP to attain a global perspective on pressing climate issues to better understand the structures that underlie the decision-making process.” 


Name: Lily Forand

Field(s) of Study: Political Science 

Hometown: West Hartford, Connecticut

Why COP?: “COP26 has really opened my eyes to the idea of community centered solutions to climate change. Of course, we need regulations and protections to come from the federal government in order to combat this crisis. However, I was reminded this week that what is implemented in a community should not only be specific to their needs, but should actually be led up and generated by the community. As one panelist put it, ‘We need empowerment, not solutions.'”

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