Aissa Dearing (she/they), a senior honors history and environmental science major at Howard University, is the recipient of a 2022 Marshall Scholarship, making her the fourth Marshall Scholar in the university’s history. Dearing will be continuing her education at the University of Oxford studying environmental change and management.
The Marshall Scholarship is a prestigious program designed for American scholars of advanced academic achievement to study for a postgraduate degree in any subject matter at any institution in the United Kingdom. Each year, up to 50 students are selected for either the one or two year scholarship award.
In order to be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a degree from an accredited four-year university and a minimum GPA of 3.7. The scholarship covers university fees as well as living expenses. It also includes an annual book grant, thesis grant, research grant and travel grant, along with and fares to and from the United States.
In her hometown of Durham, North Carolina, Dearing co-founded the Durham Youth Climate Justice Initiative in 2019. It is an organization of high school and college students who are interested in environmental justice and surrounding issues. They have bi-montly climate conversations, workshops and they regularly host forums and demonstrations all to spread awareness of environmental justice issues.
In 2021, she was appointed to be on the Durham City-County Environmental Affairs Board (EAB), making her the youngest voting member of any advisory board in Durham at 18 years old. The EAB consists of appointed Durham residents who provide advice on local environmental issues and communicate with government leaders.
“While I’ve always had a love for the environment and I recognized that justice issues were present in my community, I didn’t connect that these were environmental justice issues,” Dearing said. “It wasn’t until I began organizing in racial equity, around educational disparities that my school faced, that I saw these issues as interconnected. It was then that my love for the natural world fused with my passion to advance social justice.”
Dearing’s achievements do not stop there; she served as a Patricia Roberts Harris Public Affairs Fellow and a White House Council on Environmental Quality Intern for the Biden administration. She has also published research on a climate mitigation strategy. Most recently, she has become Volt Energy’s, a minority-owned solar energy firm, first Environmental Justice Fellow.
“I am helping to develop an environmental justice foundation that will allocate funds to nonprofits across the southeastern United States,” Dearing said.
Dearing’s matriculation through high school and college was greatly supported by her professors, friends and family. Although many people encouraged her and strongly believed in her capabilities, her mother was her biggest cheerleader.
“My mom has been key! She’s been my support system, my rock, all this time,” Dearing said. “She was very unsurprised that I got the Marshall Scholarship. She knew I could do it the whole time.”
“Every second that I have known my daughter has been filled with joy, awe and laughter,” said Briana Dearing, Dearing’s mother. I was overjoyed that Aissa was chosen, although I had no doubts about her abilities and think it was the best possible selection that the Marshall Scholarship Program could have made.”
Dearing is active in a group of students who study together, share resources with one another and plan fun nights out. She’s very appreciative of them, as well as her professors. Dearing specifically mentioned Dr. Petronella Kigochi, associate professor of geography, and Dr. Janelle Burke, associate professor and director of interdisciplinary environmental studies, as valued supporters of her ambitions.
After continuing her education at the University of Oxford, Dearing has aspirations of pursuing a doctoral degree from Duke University, starting a farm and helping in international restoration efforts. She hopes that the Marshall Scholarship will provide her with the aid she will need to grow as an inspiring and influential change agent in environmental justice.
Copy edited by: N’dia Webb