October 9, 2012

STUDENTS’ STORIES | After Spending a Year in Sweden, Castle ’14 Becomes Student Activist at Cornell

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This article is part of students’ stories, a series profiling students across campus.

After spending a year abroad in Sweden, Anna-Lisa Castle ’14 took the University by storm her sophomore year, becoming a student leader and campus activist in groups such as KyotoNOW! and the Women’s Resource Center.

After winning a scholarship from The Swedish Institute, a government agency that aims to spread interest in Sweden’s culture, Castle, who had just finished her freshman year at Cornell, seized the opportunity to move to Sweden. During her year abroad, she taught Swedish to immigrants and English to Swedish adults.

Though she initially planned to stay in the country for only one semester, Castle was offered an extension of her scholarship and chose to remain at the Institute to continue teaching and to study Swedish literature.

“It was a really great experience,” Castle said. “I made some great friends.”

When Castle returned from Sweden in the summer of 2011, she began working in Chicago, Ill., with the Public Interest Network, an organization that supports groups that hope to generate social change.

“I loved it,” she said. “I love the people I was with. It was this great community of active and politically engaged people.”

It was in part because of the Public Interest Network that Castle discovered her passion for activism, she said.

When she returned to campus for her sophomore year, Castle searched for an outlet for activism — and found KyotoNOW!, an organization that fights for “climate justice.”

In her work with KyotoNOW!, Castle, who is the organization’s co-president, has helped organize demonstrations against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”  — a method by which petroleum and natural gases are removed from the Earth.

Her work with KyotoNOW! has taken her beyond Cornell’s campus, too. Castle said she helped organize buses for students to travel from Ithaca to Washington, D.C., to participate in a protest against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline –– a proposed extension of a pipeline that carries oil from Canada to the United States. The pipeline’s extension has been hotly debated because some people believe it will negatively impact the environment and the economy.

Castle has also demonstrated her passion for the environment on a policy level. She is in the process of starting a campaign to encourage the University to limit its use of fossil fuels as energy sources in campus buildings.

“Essentially, we’re going after the endowment and working to making sure that Cornell is investing responsibly … but if we really want to change the way we impact things that are bigger than just campus, we need to look at the way we invest our … endowment,” Castle said.

When Castle is not fighting for environmental causes, she also volunteers for the Women’s Resource Center, a campus organization devoted to education and activism around women’s rights.

As part of her work at the center, Castle –– along with members of the International Women’s Day committee –– organized a tribute to Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist who died in September 2011.

Castle said that one of the most memorable moments she has experienced as a campus activist was helping to lead a demonstration of approximately 150 people protesting what she called the administration’s inadequate response to a racial attack near the Sigma Pi fraternity in May.

“My favorite moment was seeing the turnout and the string of continuous action,” Castle said.

She stressed the importance of getting involved on campus and standing up for one’s personal beliefs.

“Get involved sooner rather than later … Find the things that you really love and do that,” she said.

Original Author: Ashley Chacon