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Sustainability Cultural Organizers

Cultural organizing is the strategic use of art and culture to organize for liberation.

The Sustainability Cultural Organizing program leverages the power of the arts to envision a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. Our diverse and multidisciplinary team of student Cultural Organizers (COs) bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences to this emerging SLS program. As they connect members of the arts and sustainability communities at U-M, the COs hold space to imagine and work toward building just alternatives to our racial capitalist systems. Through the development of collaborative multimedia events and art, music, and storytelling projects, COs help to create moments of joy and self-reflection, as well as opportunities for people to build community on and off campus. The driving force behind the work of the COs is to nurture visionary leadership committed to sustainability and social justice at U-M and beyond. Now and into the future.

Cultural Organizing is nothing new. For as long as humans have had culture, there has been cultural organizing. But its purpose as a tool for social and cultural change has been formalized in the past 100 or so years. The Sustainability Cultural Organizer program works within the lineage of Favianna Rodriguez and the Center for Cultural Power (CCP). CCP emphasizes that climate change, race, gender, and cultural equity are intricately interwoven and must be addressed holistically to create institutional change

Who We Are

Cat Diggs (she/her) is a second-year dual master’s degree pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and in Urban & Regional Planning at Taubman College. Cat is passionate about waste justice issues, notably as they relate to the global plastics crisis and its impact on environmental justice (EJ) communities worldwide. She has experience in grassroots sustainability, EJ, education, and community-based storytelling/event planning work. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on centering positionality and relationality through storytelling, as well as on elevating community voices through the collaborative planning of events where EJ and cultural self-expression intersect. She hopes to continue supporting different student-led programs at SLS in their event-making and storytelling initiatives. She aspires to establish a culture creator speaker series in the near future, which would allow off-campus artists to connect with UM’s creative community.

Nicolette Harvey (she/her) is a junior double majoring in materials engineering and art & design. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in making sustainable practices more accessible and joyful. Nicolette currently runs the Excellence in Sustainability Honors Cord Program, as well as the official Cultural Organizer Instagram, @umsustiescult. She is also spearheading a campus-wide screen printing initiative, with the goal of decreasing garment waste and overconsumption.

Jasmine Paulk (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in Architecture and minoring in Food & the Environment. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in food justice, working alongside UMSFP in their Cooking in Community community of practice. Jasmine is developing a social justice cooking show and hopes to foster community partnerships on and off of the UM campus.

Maria Ramirez (she/her) is a second-year master’s student at SEAS specializing in Environmental Justice with a focus on water accessibility and community health. Her work as a Cultural Organizer focuses on her interest in storytelling and collective empowerment. She believes that narrating our own personal narratives and reconnecting/ grounding ourselves to our roots and identity is a stepping stone to liberating ourselves from an extractive-centric society.

Neeka Salmasi (she/her) is a SEAS student specializing in environmental justice and ecosystem science and management. She is interested in anti-colonial approaches to environmental sciences, and the ways that these studies can bolster Indigenous rights and land defense globally. She has worked as a land defender, educator, and organizer with several frontline communities fighting extractive industries and other environmental injustices. Neeka is also a writer and is currently working on historical fiction, VATAN, based on her family's immigration story. She also is a musician working on an album in partnership with the U-M Duderstadt Center.