October 28, 2022

The Fall 2022 Cohort is excited to connect their passion and purpose to actionable change through their FUSE fellowships. We asked them, “What inspired you about the FUSE fellowship and what do you hope to achieve through your project?”

Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow DeWayne Bright, Sr.
DeWayne Bright, Sr.Kansas City, Kansas
FUSE Project: Economic Sustainability Through Affordable Housing

I was most impressed with the wide array of concerns that are addressed through the FUSE fellowships and hope to learn some of the best practices from across the country regarding affordable housing.

Faith is an important part of DeWayne’s family.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Colin Rhodes
Colin RhodesKing County, WA
FUSE Project: Climate Resilient Healthcare Systems

The Fellowship seemed like a dream opportunity to apply research, analysis, content development, complex project management, stakeholder engagement skills gained from climate change/health work in King County, passion for addressing climate change and health impacts, and working with communities at disproportionate risk.

Colin’s interest in climate justice was piqued after discovering his love for the outdoors.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Avni Desai
Avni DesaiSan José, CA
FUSE Project: Addressing Residential Displacement Through Tenant Engagement

The support from the Fellowship and being able to affect change locally inspired me. I hope to be able to move the needle on allowing people to stay safely and effectively housed in their communities in San Jose.

Along with her love for her family, Avni is passionate about advocacy. Her work with City College of SF was to make sure it “was free for all SF residents and that we had funding to provide additional assistance for travel/textbooks. It’s codified now and so many more people, including people who are formerly homeless or under-housed currently, can access higher education,” Avni exclaims, “This was Proposition W in 2016 in SF!”
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Beth M. Graham
Beth M. GrahamAtlanta, GA
FUSE Project: Energy, Equity, & Climate Agenda

As an Atlanta native, I am grateful to turn my energies to public service advancing the city’s sustainability and resilience plan through an equity lens, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals, for the city that I love.

“My advocacy work on Capitol Hill has certainly led to my commitment to public service and my work in my local community to end hunger, diet-related diseases, climate action, equity, supporting farmers with Humanaty Farm to Table and now with FUSE as an Executive Fellow,” Beth says.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Kerri Andersen
Kerri AndersenLos Angeles County, CA
FUSE Project: Building a Collaborative Approach to Resentencing

I am inspired by the opportunity to be a catalyst for change in my beloved city of Los Angeles and return over-incarcerated individuals back to their families and communities through resentencing and compassionate justice. I am honored to work towards a more just country with such phenomenal team members and to continue my own growth and development as a leader.

As an L.A. County children’s attorney, Kerri developed a “meaningful relationship” with one of her foster clients as her mentor. Connecting with animals and her fitness community are also other valuable parts of Kerri’s life.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Chris Velasco
Chris VelascoOakland, CA
FUSE Project: Urgent Responses To Climate Impacts

I am inspired by the opportunity to assist in moving climate policy forward.

Chris recently completed “an ADU on my grandfather’s property (passed down to me). It is built with Hemp-Lime insulation and sequestered in its walls is about 15,000 lbs of CO2.”
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Kristin Stroup
Kristin StroupNashville, TN
FUSE Project: Building Resilience Across City Operations
Kristin’s “most proud accomplishment” of her life was during her time working for three different organizations in renewable energy for 10 years in Liberia.

The challenges facing the City of Nashville and Davidson County, TN are both specific to the Metro area itself, and shared by communities across the country and planet. I have spent most of my career working in the so-called “developing” world, where the priority of meeting basic needs can feel overwhelming under status quo circumstances. When climate change and other man-made (or unforeseen) shocks disrupt the status quo, the impacts on the most vulnerable communities can be catastrophic. This is not a phenomenon distinct to other hemispheres. It is happening in communities across the U.S. as well.

Vulnerability to external shocks, regardless of origin, is most acute for those living at the margins of their means, and those are the communities that typically have the least amount of say in the forces and decisions that shape their daily lives. I feel very strongly that building resilience to environmental, social, and economic vulnerabilities is the challenge of our time, as the planet warms, resources are strained, and inequities deepen. While I am certain that there are concrete policy steps and investments that can and should be made to slow the process of climate change, the emergency is already extant and we are late to start.

Resilience begins at the community level, but it requires leadership and resources from local and national governance. I am inspired by the opportunity to assist Nashville in addressing its particular challenges in a way that can be applied by other governments and communities facing similar urgencies.

Fall 2022 FUSE Executie Fellow Andrew Ngui
Andrew NguiKansas City, MO
FUSE Project: Green Transportation For The World Cup & Beyond

It’s always exciting to find new ways to use my skills to make a difference in the world. When I learned about the opportunity to help make transportation more sustainable for the World Cup in Kansas City in 2026, it was a perfect fit. Not only will this have a positive impact on the world stage, but it will also improve access to mobility for people in the city. It is an amazing opportunity to use my talents and experiences to create real lasting change.

Building a community and a team has been central to Andrew’s successful career as an innovation catalyst.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Ted Chung
Ted Chung Austin, TX
FUSE Project: Disaster Recovery Centers For Resilient Communities in Austin

I wanted to be able to contribute to a public good. I missed the service aspect of a job, that it goes towards something more than a bottom line.

Ted with his jiu-jitsu instructor (right) and Clark Gracie (left), a member of the Gracie family, founders of Gracie Jiu-jitsu.
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Kemberle Taylor
Kemberle Taylor Los Angeles, CA
FUSE Project: Replacing Fossil Fuels In Buildings With Electric Alternatives

It was inspiring to see that the City of Los Angeles had taken on such an ambitious plan to mitigate climate change and collaborate with FUSE to be sure that the implementation of the plan would be fair and equitable. I hope that I can help make the implementation of the plan fair and equitable.

Kemberle credits her close family ties as the reason why “I always wanted to make our Black and brown communities a better place to live.”
Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Erica Xavier-Beauvoir
Erica Xavier-Beauvoir Durham, NC
FUSE project: Sustainable Land Use In Cemeteries
Erica's presentation slide as her time as a police officer.
Before pivoting her career, Erica spent the majority of it as a police officer where she “was one of the folks that helped pass the Sandra Bland act in Texas, which gave police officers mandatory training that they needed to go through every year in order to keep their license.”

My late grandmother inspired me. I remember conversations about her burial ceremonies and how natural burials were never brought up. Changes were needed in the narrative around funerals, but I couldn’t advocate during my own grieving process with my grandmother transitioning. I decided to honor my grandmother and my love for Earth by introducing conversations as a Death Doula and natural burial advocate providing education/access to Black, Indigenous, and POC communities. The FUSE fellowship felt like the ultimate ‘ode’ to my grandmother as she currently lays to rest in North Carolina. My hope is to elevate conversations and build interest for natural burial options keeping Mother Earth healthy and sustainable for future generations to come.

Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Veronika Cole
Veronika Cole Oakland, CA
FUSE project: Disaster Recovery Centers For Resilient Communities in Oakland
What Veronika Cole Cares About
With over 25 years of experience in community development and social services, Veronika is a strong advocate for preserving diverse communities and the ability for all to enjoy a good and healthy life and adapt successfully to a changing world.

After managing a department that supported Oakland residents in affordable housing during the pandemic, I thought a lot about the need to keep our vulnerable communities safe during adverse circumstances.  I am inspired to join FUSE to continue to give back to the City of Oakland and to look at ways to strengthen frontline Oakland communities most impacted by climate change. Through this work, I will assist Oakland with the development of neighborhood Resiliency Hubs supporting residents in frontline communities year-round and during climate-related emergencies. I am excited about connecting with local communities to inform the development of the Resiliency Hubs, and seeing the hubs become a reality in Oakland neighborhoods.

Fall 2022 FUSE Executive Fellow Kristen Simmons
Kristen Simmons Boston, MA
FUSE project: Carbon Neutrality Through Retrofitting Housing

Addressing energy efficiency in existing buildings is critical for Boston residents and our climate future. I’m excited to focus on neighborhoods where this investment is most needed.