Former UCOR Intern’s Passion for Environmental Justice Now Her Full-Time Focus
Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 39; Contributor: Mike Butler | October 5, 2021
Fresh from a unique internship at Oak Ridge this past summer, Sierra Generette began a new full-time position this week serving as EM cleanup contractor UCOR’s lead on environmental justice matters.
Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of everyone, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, when it comes to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.
Generette initially joined UCOR through a Mentorship for Environmental Scholars (MES) Program internship after completing her bachelor’s degree in May. The MES Program provides opportunities to students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like her alma mater North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.
With a degree in environmental science and certifications in waste management, Generette first took on an internship assignment as part of an engineering team focused on stabilizing a former research reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. However, discussions with leadership revealed her strong interest in environmental justice.
“Sierra’s passion for environmental justice came through loud and clear during her two-month internship,” Ken Rueter, UCOR president and CEO, said. “Her knowledge and enthusiasm for the topic attracted management’s attention and convinced us that she was right for the job of helping to ensure our alignment with the Administration and DOE’s goals related to environmental justice.”
Oak Ridge leadership asked Generette to review the current approach on several ongoing projects and provide her perspective. She returned after quickly reading hundreds of pages of technical data and provided a concise, insightful summary of potential approaches and improvements.
Generette’s work on the review led to greater responsibilities, including a presentation about those topics to leadership from EM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Our goal is to ensure that people within the minority or low-income population are safe and protected and not burdened by environmental insults,” Generette said. “When there are environmental concerns, the public should be made aware and have a voice. I see my job as being a bridge between UCOR and the public, particularly the minority community.”
With cleanup advancing across Oak Ridge, EM wants to ensure the entire community benefits from its work. Generette’s addition to the team ensures that always remains in focus.
“Including more minorities in our workforce encourages innovation and fresh thinking in our approach to environmental cleanup,” Generette said.