Maya Whalen-Kipp '16 studied biology and visual arts before earning an M.S. in environmental policy from Bard College. Immediately following Union, she was a master’s international fellow serving in the U.S. Peace Corps as a community health educator in Fiji. After returning to the U.S., Maya earned her master’s and started working in a number of sustainability centered start-ups in New York City. Today, she is the director of impact teams at Common Energy, where she manages a youth-centered network of advocates across six states working collectivity to educate communities about clean energy and gain support for new local solar farm development. When she’s not working. Maya is involved with a community-based ceramic studio (pre-COVID).
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
One of the most challenging things in my career thus far has been learning how to balance between work and selfcare. However, the most rewarding part is being able to see tangibly the positive impact I can have as a mentor and collaborator to so many amazing people around me.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My career idol is Ayanna Elizbeth Johnson, leading climate scientist, author and marine biologist. Beyond being a leader in her academic, policy and research field, she is founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank focused on coastal cities. She is also founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Apply to as many things (scholarships, fellowships, research grants, graduate schools) as you think you possibly can. You have your whole life not to be a student, take advantage of those opportunities that you only have when you are in college.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
Developing my senior thesis with Professor Fernando Orellana and having the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand, Cambodia and Panama were my most formative experiences at Union. From an academic perspective, my work as a summer research student with Professor Lorraine Cox in the art history department – helping her create a new interdisciplinary course – shaped my creativity and interdisciplinary thinking. Being part of Ozone House, AOP and hanging out at the Kenney Center all the time was where I found my community.