Junior UNC-Chapel Hill student Erin Danford has been named to the UNC Institute for the Environment Board of Visitors—the first student board member in its history. Danford joined the Board at the October meeting and offered input from the student perspective.
“We are excited and honored to have Erin Danford as the student representative on the UNC Institute for the Environment Board of Visitors,” said Board Chair Reggie Holley. “Ms. Danford is involved in many environmental causes at UNC. Erin’s passion for preserving our wonderful world for future generations inspires all of us to work even harder and do even more to make a difference.”
Since joining the Board, Danford has been appointed to the Board’s campaign committee, which will assist with IE’s efforts as part of UNC’s recently launched comprehensive fundraising campaign—the Campaign for Carolina.
“I am honored to be part of the Board,” she said. “Students have an insight that the faculty and alumni don’t and I think I can contribute that voice. There are a lot of students that are very connected to this department and that are interested in seeing it grow and really have an impact on the environmental sector.”
The highlight for Danford has been getting a behind-the-scenes view of IE and how it makes decisions. For her, watching alumni and friends from high-profile environmental causes come together to advise IE and to have the opportunity to meet them and become their peer has been awe-inspiring.
“I am really excited for the next meeting,” she said.
Danford is an environmental science major in the new quantitative energy systems track. She also is a student data analyst at UNC’s Environmental Finance Center and co-president and board member of Kay Blada Recycling, a Haitian start-up that is working on alleviating poverty and plastic pollution in Haiti. She is the Student Congress Representative for the Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee, which is a student committee that allocates money for renewable energy projects on campus. In her free time, she makes short films with the Carolina Film Association and dances with the Blank Canvas Dance Company.
Danford always knew she would pursue a career in conservation and science. As a kid, she witnessed the lake and the land around her family’s home in Canada become so polluted that it was no longer safe to eat fish from it and the physical destruction from over-logging the forests.
“My great-grandfather built the house in the 1960s with his bare hands,” she recalled. “It was the first house on the lake. The water was crystal clear and beautiful with huge trees. I think that had a great influence on me, just seeing how a place that is so beautiful that it could be a national park has just been destroyed because of a lack of environmental protection.”
Danford has taken every opportunity she can to immerse herself in environmental studies and experiences to help her focus her interests for her future career. Over the summer, she traveled through Europe with the Summer Burch Program on smart cities and renewable energies, led by IE’s Greg Gangi, associate director for education and teaching associate professor. This summer she will intern at Birdseye Renewable Energy in Charlotte.
“As for my career, there are a couple of avenues I’m looking at. I am interested in renewable energy and solar, but I am also really interested in advocacy work and nonprofits. I am still figuring it out,” she quipped.