The McKinney Midwest Climate Project is a student fellowship program at IU pairing undergraduate and graduate students with various cities, businesses and nonprofits.
Founded in 2017 with a grant from the McKinney Family Foundation, the MMCP gives students the skills necessary to work with cities and organizations by identifying and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fall 2021, the program received a larger grant from the foundation, which has enabled them to expand their efforts.
The MMCP received a total of 1.25 million last year to fund the Resilience Cohort and the McKinney Climate Fellows, two separate MMCP projects, MMCP Implementation Manager Danni Schaust said.
This year, due to expanded funding, the program will host 40 fellows. Although previously restricted to students at IU Bloomington, students from any IU campus can now apply. Even though the application portal is closed for this year, interested students can apply next year.
Schaust said the MMCP plans to expand to universities and cities across the Midwest by 2023.
“We’re really excited and very grateful to the McKinney Family Foundation,” Schaust said. “I think we’ve got a really great summer ahead of us.”
One of the project's 2022 partners is the Pace Community Action Agency. The organization is a not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to provide support services to improve the community and promote self-reliance, according to its website.
One of these services is the organization’s weatherization program, which works to modify low-income housing to increase energy efficiency and lower costs.
Pace Chief Operating Officer Tai Blythe said the organization decided to partner with the MMCP because of their shared goals.
“Reducing the energy consumption of vulnerable populations who would not otherwise be able to afford these changes helps the individual, the dwelling and ultimately the entire community,” Blythe said.
Some specific ways Pace plans to work with fellows is by having the student find homes that could benefit from weatherization, identify contractors and create marketing materials.
Hannah Staley, a former fellow who now works for the organization as Project and Outreach Coordinator, expressed her gratitude for the program.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Staley said. “It didn’t feel like your average internship. I felt as if I was a staff member.”
Staley’s interest in the environment began in her high school’s AP Environmental Science classroom. After her experience in the program — where she helped create greenhouse gas emission source reports for the City of Huntington in Indiana — she jumped at the opportunity to join as a staff member. Now she hopes to work in environmental policy.
“Even the smallest difference is still a difference,” Staley said. “(Huntington) is not just a symbol or leader for other small towns in climate action planning, but they’re also still working towards reducing their greenhouse gas emission.”
Speaking to students passionate about stopping climate change, Staley offers wisdom she gained from the program.
“Remember why you’re doing it and what your passions are,” Staley said. “And be open to learning.”
Another former fellow, Sophie Hall, worked with Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light last summer and has continued her sustainability efforts in the IU organization Students for a New Green World.
“They taught me a lot about the kind of work it takes to make change, and reminded me why this is the work I want to do,” Hall said.