Announcing the 2021 Planet Forward-Comcast NBCUniversal Sustainable Storytelling Fellows

Headshots of the 2021-22 Planet Forward Comcast NBCUnivesal Storytelling Fellows

Meet our Fellows (clockwise, from top left): McKenzie Allen-Charmley, Jelina Liu, Erich Eberhard, and Jennifer Cuyuch.

Record heat, extreme weather, withering drought, devastating wildfires, accelerating climate change. The news is exhausting. And heartbreaking. It shows us the urgency of the moment and the stakes involved. But it also calls for action, leadership, and breakthrough.  

That’s what we focus on at Planet Forward — the ideas, inventions, and outrageously ambitious innovations needed to address our planetary challenges. We’re based at a university and we work with a consortium of schools — students and faculty alike — to research and tell stories that inform, inspire, and drive action.

Today, I have the pleasure of announcing an important journey of collaboration: the Planet Forward-Comcast NBCUniversal Sustainable Storytelling Fellowship. With support from our friends at Comcast NBCUniversal, we have selected four talented student storytellers who will report from the frontlines of sustainability. Along with my colleagues, I will mentor and guide them. Their mini-documentaries will be screened to an audience of academics, professionals, and in the fields of science and communication at the 2022 Planet Forward Summit.

Our Storytelling Fellows bring an exciting commitment, curiosity, and passion for storytelling to this remarkable opportunity. Their stories will reflect their diversity and their depth and will focus on communities where sustainability is an urgent challenge. We are so grateful for Comcast for making this journey of discovery possible.

I’m delighted to share with you the Planet Forward-Comcast NBCUniversal Sustainable Storytelling Fellows for the 2021-22 academic year:

• McKenzie Allen-Charmley, who is a rising senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Business. She is an Alaska Native and Black journalist from Anchorage, Alaska pursuing a career in broadcast journalism to inspire young Native girls and to help create the foundation of a journalistic evolution that values representation, authenticity and accuracy above all else. Her love of the environment began as a child, growing up living a subsistence lifestyle with her family members from her tribal village of Eklutna. 

• Jennifer Cuyuch, who is a rising senior majoring in Political Communication at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and minoring in Photography and Spanish. Her passion for environmental studies started when she joined Take Back the Tap, an organization aiming to raise awareness about water privatization, during her freshman year. She is also passionate about multimedia and Latin American migration studies, as her parents migrated from Peru and Guatemala, and she aims to bring attention to the interconnections between climate change, migration and displacement through her work. 

• Erich Eberhard, who is a Ph.D. student at Columbia University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. He is interested in using emerging technologies to better understand the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss across tropical landscapes, with the goal of informing land-use strategies that advance conservation and human wellbeing. To complement his research, he develops digital media projects, from short films to video games, that explore environmental narratives and enable community participation in research and management. 

• Jelina Liu, who is also a Political Communication student at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. Liu is a Chinese-American filmmaker from the Bay Area. She has experience in both fictional and nonfiction storytelling, but now specializes in documentary filmmaking. She is also passionate about socioeconomic and environmental justice and has experience in grassroots organizing. This passion informs her work, as she aims to tell stories that will inspire people to take action. 

I look forward to working with the Fellows as their stories unfold, and to sharing these stories with you, our community, in April.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.