HU Environmental Studies Program Celebrates Third Graduating Class in Spring 2021

James Ousman Cheek, Environmental Studies graduate smiles into the camera.

James Ousman Cheek

James “Ousman” Cheek is a December 2020 graduate of the Environmental Studies program who is excited to be celebrating his achievements along with Spring 2021 graduates. For Cheek, three moments in his undergraduate experience captured the benefits of Howard’s Environmental Studies program. One of these greatest moments was the opportunity for him to attend the HBCU Climate Change Conference in his first year with the program. He traveled down to Louisiana with a cohort of friends, spoke on stage and presented his research, met peers in the field, enjoyed my first experience within the vibrant culture of New Orleans, and even conversed with residents about the spiritual/mental residual impact of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, he traveled to Utah for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and conducted an independent study of the cultural implications of representation with respect to race, culture, and nature/natural elements. 

There Cheek researched to see how media reinforces “cultural consciousnesses” with respect to who/how people interact with nature, looking especially at Sundance selections made by directors of color and from multiple countries (incl. the US). Lastly, he interned at the DC chapter of the Sierra Club for their Labor and Economic Justice program. Through this experience, he learned of approaches around community organizing and Just Transition. He also got involved in an initiative at Sierra Club called “Art and the Green New Deal” which encouraged multimedia artists to submit pieces that embodied the ideals of a sustainable future-- the project went on to receive some of Sierra Club’s highest online engagement.

After graduation, he plans to get involved in sustainable development by way of community organizing, cultural organizing, and environmental education. He will continue looking for opportunities to build his skill set in policy analysis, community organizing, environmental education, and media production. He would eventually like to become a creative sustainability consultant, initiating his a benefit corporation, helping to develop products, technologies, and platforms that reduce environmental/social stressors. Presently, he has been working on a transmedia project called “SoulCirque'' -- its content has been heavily informed by my studies in the ES program. Follow his work on Instagram to see his journey!


Environmental studies graduate, Audre'ana Ellis poses for gradation photo.

Audre’ana Ellis

Audre’ana Ellis is a Bachelor of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies graduate from Hampton, Virginia. During her time at Howard, she has had the opportunity to engage with outstanding peers and professors, join organizations, and help start others too. Those organizations include The Study Abroad Ambassador team, Howard University Student Sustainability Committee (HUSSC), Howard University Student Association (HUSA), and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Alpha Chapter. One of her favorite buildings on campus is the Ralph Bunche Center because of the fruitful experiences and amazing people she met while working in the office. Without the Bunche Center Audre’ana never would have had the opportunity to study abroad - a semester of memories she will never forget. During her program, she learned about sustainable development and social change in the context of India. She is eager to begin traveling again soon! This past year, Audre’ana and a group of HBCU students started the nonprofit Generation Green. After graduation, she will continue her work at the nonprofit along with gaining further experience in the field of education. Audre’ana is thankful to graduate this year and is looking forward to her next chapter!

Mya Wells looks into the camera and smiles.

Mya Wells

This May, Mya Wells graduates with a bachelor's in science in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies.“I am thankful for the Environmental Studies program’s strong focus on Environmental Justice, where diverse perspectives and commonly untold histories are integrated into the curriculum of each Environmental course, which cannot be said for most universities”, says Wells. 

Although being part of the program has many highlights for her, one of the most impactful was learning the history of the stereotype “Black people can’t swim” in her Environmental Inequality course and its roots in environmental racism. That is because Black people have been historically kept out of spaces in the natural and built environment like beaches and swimming pools. She has since followed the work of Black environmentalists like MaVynee Oshun Betsch combatted this by dedicating her life to protecting historically African American beaches like American Beach founded by her great-grandfather. MaVynee Oshun Betsch’s commitment to preserving historically Black spaces in the environment is admirable and serves as inspiration for me in the fight against environmental racism today.

As she embarks on her future, she remains steadfast in pursuit of a career as a lifelong learner and physician-scientist, advocating for pollution-free communities as a human right, and empowering communities plagued by environmental hazards and disasters. She plans to take a gap year to study for the MCAT and apply to MD/MPh programs. She also hopes to renovate a cargo van and solo travel to national parks across the country during her gap year. 


Environmental studies graduate in her gown smiles into the camera with trees in the background, holding her graduation cap.

Courtney Cooper 

Courtney Cooper is a Rhode Island native and has graduated with a bachelor's in Environmental Studies. During her time at Howard, she has been a member of the climate change club and a study abroad ambassador. She studied abroad in New Zealand at the University of Canterbury.
“I’ll always be grateful to Howard’s Environmental Studies program for providing me with an excellent interdisciplinary education and giving me an understanding of the many complex intersections between policy, history, and environmental science”, she says. Cooper has been accepted into the Greening Youth International Fellowship program and will be working with Embers International in London, England after graduation.


Danurius Williams is dressed in a suit and tie. He looks into the camera and smiles.

Danurius Williams

This Spring, Danurius Williams Jr. has graduated with a bachelor's in Environmental Studies. Danuruirus completes his matriculation with a distinction as a Fulbright Scholar, the Associate Director of HUSA Sustainability, and the Vice President of the Howard chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. His journey has taken him from his hometown of Madison, Mississippi to Washington, D.C., and now he prepares for his next chapter at the University of Washington’s School of Law. He hopes to pursue a career in environmental justice law and policy with an international focus.  


Each year, our Environmental Studies graduating class grows and Howard University has the privilege of producing more environmental professionals, activists, and scholars of color, with a focus on equity and justice, out into the world. We are especially proud of our third class of graduates from the program. In the words of Dr. Rubin Patterson, co-founder of the Environmental Studies program and Dean College of Arts and Sciences, “You are the last generation that can take action on [climate].” We are wishing you all the best in your future endeavors, congratulations!



Environmental Studies