LISTEN: Tatiana Height on the importance of cultural perspectives in environmental education

"It's about empowering school and community culture. Making sure students feel empowered to make change in their communities."

Tatiana (Tots) Height, joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss intersection of urban planning and environmental health, and how's she pushing for equity in environmental access and education.


Height, an EdD candidate in the Agricultural and Extension Education program at NC State University, talks about her meticulous approach to figuring out where she wanted to live, fostering a positive sense of self and community, and how environmental education needs to take cultural perspectives into account to be effective.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Height, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Brian Bienkowski

Today's guest, hanging out with me is Tatiana "Tots" Height, a Doctor of Education candidate in the Agricultural and Extension Education program at NC State University, and current Agents of Change fellow. Height talks about the importance of urban planning when thinking of environmental health, her meticulous approach to figuring out where she wanted to live, and how she's pushing for equity and environmental access in education. Enjoy.

All right, now I am joined by Tatiana "Tots" Height. Tots, how are you doing today?

Tatiana Height

I'm well, how are you?

Brian Bienkowski

I'm doing excellent, and where are you today, where are you talking to us from?

Tatiana Height

I'm in my home office in Graham, North Carolina.

Brian Bienkowski

Graham, North Carolina, give me some geography there. Where, if I was familiar with Raleigh or Durham or, where's it at?

Tatiana Height

Graham is halfway between Durham and Greensboro.

Brian Bienkowski

Awesome. Excellent. Is it hot?

Tatiana Height

Yeah, a little bit. I haven't been outside too much other than to let my dogs out.

Brian Bienkowski

So Tatiana, Tots, you come from Chicago, and then, Gary, Indiana. So I was wondering how did you become interested in science and natural resources coming from very, you know, very urban environments.

Tatiana Height

Yes. So, I, when I was a sophomore in high school, I was taking AP Chemistry, not because I wanted to but because I had no choice. And during the class, our teacher told us about this program that if you go through it you typically get a summer job so I just wanted a summer job. The program was called "Competitive Edge," it was a summer science program. And while I was in the summer science program, it did indeed lead to a job after, called the Green Team, where we would do raised bed gardens, we would go around and pick up litter, we did some invasive species removal at the National Park. And it ended up leading to me helping with an after school program about brownfields and all of this stuff. So by the time that I got to be a senior in high school I was looking at political science, pre-law but then I was like "man, it'd be really cool if I could study the environment, like if there was something like environmental studies," and I found out that that actually existed. So I was like "okay I'm going to do that instead." So then I started applying to schools with that major instead of my initial plan of doing pre-law.

Brian Bienkowski

That, that's so great that so early on you had a program that influenced your career like that. I mean sophomore in high school I feel like I still thought I was going to be a baseball player at that point.

Tatiana Height

I mean, I didn't know what I was going to do with it. And I actually feel like my, in terms of engaging with the environment, I feel like it happened very late. But, I mean, I always cared about the earth and things like that, but in terms of actually thinking about it as a career path and actually getting to engage in outdoor activities and stuff. I know so many people were like, "oh I was five years old and I grew up on a farm and all this stuff and I used to go fishing with my grandpa" and whatever. And I didn't have those experiences so I felt like it was very late. But, but I didn't know what I was going to do in terms of environmental studies. I was like "oh I'll do consulting" because I heard people say consulting, but I didn't actually know what that meant. And so I was then not, and then I ended up not, I pursued all these extra degrees because I started to hone in on what I actually wanted to do later.

Brian Bienkowski

Was there one aspect. So you mentioned raised beds, kind of litter cleanup and, was there one aspect of it that that you remember really touching you that feeling very meaningful? Or was kind of the whole program that?

Tatiana Height

I, so, I, something that stands out to me was, so later on when I continued, there were actually two of us who were invited to continue working with the organization for longer. And we were invited to attend a youth summit in New Orleans, Louisiana, with all of the other Green Teams from other places throughout the United States who are doing this stuff. And during that time, you know, we were, it was after Hurricane Katrina, and so we were, I saw a lot of abandonments and things like that. But then I also saw some of the redevelopment that they were doing, they were doing all this green building and things like that, that I thought was so cool. I experienced my first campfire on that trip and we did all these fun things. We went canoeing and all this stuff, and so that trip to me was really really impactful on my memory. And actually seeing those green buildings and things is what later on when I was like, "you know, I want to do work like that." That's, that's what then led me to the city planning aspect of environment. So, just because I saw this cool green development that they were doing in New Orleans, because of my participation in that program.

Brian Bienkowski

So this leads me nicely into my next question and maybe you answered it a little bit, but it sounds like, originally the acute interest was in the environment, the natural world. But you've transitioned into focusing more on the intersection of people and the environment, which you know, truthfully my career was the same way. I wrote about the Great Lakes, and then realized that a lot of these stories were environmental justice stories, these were about the communities around the Great Lakes. So can you tell me a little bit about how and why this people-centered approach appealed to you and when the environmental justice aspect came into your work.

Tatiana Height

Yeah, there's so many things that, it's so hard to talk about how, how I got to this point because there's all these overlapping experiences. So it's actually a totally different thing that led me to the justice aspect. It was a class that I was taking my junior year of undergrad. Um, oh I can't remember what the name of the class was. I think it was Intercultural Perspectives on the Environment or something like that. And so we had done a one week module on environmental justice in that class, we had watched a documentary where they were talking about fracking that was happening in Colorado and Wyoming. And there are people who were getting sick and they were getting cancer, people were actually able to set their water on fire, they showed in the movie they weren't able to drink their water, and I was just like, "this is crazy." You know, this was my first time hearing about this, and I was just incensed I was like, "this is ridiculous." And mind you, I was there trying to figure out what I was going to do with environment, because I was, at that time I was still over here "oh consulting" without knowing what consulting meant. Um, and so we had to write a reflection every time we did a different module in that class and I wrote a reflection paper about, you know, my thoughts about what we learned in terms of environmental justice that week, and the TA in the class wrote on the top of the paper "It looks like you found your passion," and I've been doing environmental justice ever since.

Brian Bienkowski

That's, that's excellent. And again, this question, maybe you just answered it or maybe there's another, another answer—if you have a defining moment that shaped your identity, a defining moment or event?

Tatiana Height

My identity, my general identity, not as an environmental…?

Brian Bienkowski

Professional, personal whatever you're comfortable sharing.

Tatiana Height

Yeah, I, identity is a is an interesting question, because for me I feel like my identity is deeply rooted in my Blackness, and that has not always been the case. You mentioned earlier, oh you know Chicago and Gary, Indiana. So I felt like growing up in, in particular in Gary. So we moved there after my mom was ill and we could no longer afford to live in Chicago. I ended up moving back to Chicago lived with my grandparents, but when we moved there. I actually experienced a lot of depression. It was such a struggling community. It was so, and it's still, being there actually, especially as a city planner now, going through that community is very depressing for me. But I saw a lot of negative examples of Blackness, and it made me feel like that, that to be Black, had all these negative connotations and it made me want to get away from that. So, I did not apply to any HBCUs for that reason, I ended up going to a PWI. But it was actually while I was at my PWI that I became closer connected with my identity because I realized how uncomfortable I was. I had grown up in my school, I could count the number of non-Black students on my two hands. And a lot of people say you know "I didn't have a Black teacher until college," most of my teachers growing up were Black. And so then all of a sudden I was experiencing microaggressions, people who couldn't connect to me, people who didn't understand my experience in life, and I was so uncomfortable that I was like "wow," this…And also, on the flip side of that to, the Black friends I did have, I was now in a different environment, it wasn't a struggling community, so there were positive examples of Blackness that made me grow closer to that part of my identity. So now I'm like, now when I work with youth and things, I'm always trying to make sure they have a positive perception of self because it took me into my adulthood to get to that point. And now I'm like no, I love my community, I want to be closer to my community, I want to help my community, it is not some sort of curse, it's just that that was a struggling community and that's not all we are.

Brian Bienkowski

What, I'm unfamiliar with the term "PWI."

Tatiana Height

Sorry! Predominantly white institution.

Brian Bienkowski

Okay, I should probably know that, I went to one of those too.

Tatiana Height

Yeah, so you got your MSIs, minority serving institutions, or HBCUs historically Black colleges and universities, and your PWIs are predominately white institutions, yeah, sorry.

Brian Bienkowski

Got you, no that's okay, well thank you so much for sharing that. You know, I was gonna ask if, if some of your, some of your education and experiences since you left have have had you looking differently on your time in Gary, or Chicago. Because I lived in Chicago, I lived in the Ukrainian village for a while, and coming from Michigan, you know, you drive right through that northwest corner of Indiana, and it is very industrial. It looks like one giant brownfield in a lot of places. So I, you know, and you talked about this a little bit, but have your some of your education and experience, do you look back differently on your time in Gary in Chicago?

Tatiana Height

I mean, I love Chicago. Like, Chicago is home for me. The only reason, really, that I don't live in Chicago now is because I really really do not like being cold. Winters in Chicago are super brutal. I, you know my last winter in Chicago it was like 24 inches of snow and I had to wear hand and foot warmers, it was consistently in the negatives. And, you know, that, that was just the norm, so I don't, I don't even, and here in North Carolina, I don't even own a real winter coat. To me these winters are not real winter so. But Chicago I love. Gary was still very depressing. I actually went back and looked at some of my journals living in that time and I was like "man I was a very unhappy person in that community." Um, I would like to, I don't know that I look back on my time there any differently. I mean I don't regret anything because I think everything that I've experienced has led me to who I am today, and I'm very proud of who I am today, and I love myself and have a lot of self esteem and self worth. I don't regret anything really. But, and that, you know, and this is getting into an aside, but when I was in, when I was a senior, I wrote a, an essay, "what are you going to do for Gary when you graduate," like help the community better. And I had all of these ideas, all these grand ideas that I still stand by even though I was 18. And so I actually, when I was a senior in undergrad I did my senior thesis on like a redevelopment plan for Gary. Because I was thinking back, I'm sure, many people enter those essay contests and don't, you know, do anything with it. But I was like, you know, they gave me this money I won like $500. And I was like, I wrote out these ideas and I want to actually take my ideas and so I had done my thesis, I went to the city council meeting and shared my ideas and I was so nervous. I'm, I'm ranting now at this point, but like, I don't necessarily look back on the time differently but I do wish that I could do more for that community.

Brian Bienkowski

Sure, and you know, there, I think there's something about, as you inch toward adulthood, at least for me, there was a lot of push and pull between living in a community that was kind of that needed help, that there was maybe opportunity to be part of this groundswell of, of activists and thinkers. And like you said, make a positive change. Or moving to a community that kind of already had it figured out where things were comfortable. Because I lived in both, and I think, I think both have their, their merits, but skipping ahead a little bit. So after some education you worked at the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. And you, you ultimately moved to North Carolina and I'm wondering, what was it about North Carolina that prompted the move and tell me a little bit about the PhD work that you're pursuing there.

Tatiana Height

Yeah, so I, again, this is the planner me, but I, I moved around a lot in my adult life. And I was just trying to find out where I wanted to settle. So when you're talking about this whole thought process of, go to a community that you want to help, or go to a community that's already great, like definitely things that I've thought about before. But when I was in Nebraska. I love Nebraska for the record, I love it. But there were some things that didn't jive with where I found myself, long term, and so because I have moved around so much, I was like, I really want to find somewhere that I can go and stay for a while, so I want to be intentional about my next move. So I had done this whole spreadsheet where I did an analysis, I called it my relocation analysis. And I looked at one city from every state in the country and DC, and I looked at primary indicators in those areas of things that I would want to see in somewhere that I wanted to live. And so, Charlotte, North Carolina was actually number six on my list. I was gonna go and visit all of my top 10 places and see how I liked it so I had gone out to the area to see a concert and just explore for the weekend and I was like, I just love it here. And so that's why I've been applying for jobs in North Carolina. Charlotte is, is you know, it's the biggest city we have in the state, it's beautiful, and it was just a hard market to penetrate. So I ended up expanding my search to just all of North Carolina and not just Charlotte and so I landed in Kingston, when I first got here. So that is kind of what brought me here and I, I had been thinking about doctoral studies, I had applied for some other doctoral programs before I came to North Carolina, that I ultimately was actually not admitted into. But everything happens for a reason, so I had come to North Carolina and then I was like, well I want to, now that I'm here and this is my home, let me look at if there are some programs around here that might be of interest to me. And so I applied and I was admitted, and I have full funding for my first two years, and so that's kind of. So people oftentimes think because I'm enrolled in school that I came here to be a student but that's not the case. I came here because I wanted to be here and I applied to go to school later. So now I, I do multicultural environmental education which is deeply rooted in environmental justice, so to me, I still consider myself…A lot of times people, I do all this education stuff and people kind of think I'm more in the "EE," environmental education world, but I really still see myself as an environmental justice practitioner, because the type of education that I gravitate towards is deeply rooted in environmental justice. When I first came into the program I was really interested in looking at community engagement strategies, because my program is agricultural and extension education, and so extension is very much about you know, community based education and that's really what I was, what I was thinking about focusing on. But then I took some classes about diverse practices with teaching or theory to practice and teaching populations. Wait… there… so "Theory to Practice and Teaching Diverse Populations" was the title of the first course that I took. And it led me to take so many more classes on how do you actually work with students from marginalized backgrounds or underrepresented or whatever terminology you want to use, how do you work with those students most effectively. And I started learning about all these practices that would help me with my work. And then I was, you know, trying to figure out how I can merge that with the kind of work that I already do, because a lot of what I was reading and learning about was really centered towards classroom educators and that's really not where I am. I'm a community educator an informal educator. But then I came across multicultural environmental education and I was like, yes, yes, this is what people need to be doing. I've been doing environmental education, sort of since 2009 but really seriously since 2013 and I've never heard of this. People ... are not doing this, I've done it in several states, I've read a lot about it, I've gone to a lot of workshops, and I'm not hearing people talk about this. And so that's how I sort of started to get into that space in terms of my research.

Brian Bienkowski

I want to hear more about that, but I have two very quick little questions. One, what was the Michigan City that you looked at, and two, what was the concert you went to when you visited North Carolina.

Tatiana Height

Oh, so Michigan. So I think, if I'm correct, the city that I looked at in Michigan was Detroit. And I actually lived in Cassopolis, Michigan for a while. Nowhere, it's not near Detroit. But I looked at, I think, if I'm correct there may have been, or it may have been, you know what, I don't know. I was looking at, I think the largest city in each state I was looking at. I wanted to have a population of at least 100,000 for me to even think about it, and, I'm like I'm pulling up my, my spreadsheet. Yeah it was Detroit. Yeah, that was my handy dandy spreadsheet. And the concert that I went to when I visited here, actually I visited Detroit too, but the concert that I went to here was Anthony Hamilton. Tamar Braxton was opening for him, The Hamiltones were performing with him, there was a comedian there. It was like one of the best concert I've ever been to in my entire life, and I actually became a Hamiltones' fan. I just saw them this past weekend at the you know, River Fest. The Hamiltones, I had pictures taken with them, and I only know about them because I saw them performing with Anthony Hamilton.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent, that is, that is awesome. What a great introduction to a new state. So I want to hear more about this. So when you, when you talk about, I want to hear about the multicultural aspect of this. So, what does that look like when you're, when you're practicing. Because you know, I think we kind of understand environmental education, but on that side of things and this, the fact that you're saying you're not seeing this elsewhere, what does that look like?

Tatiana Height

Oh man, so this is so many things, but so, multicultural environmental education has three different areas: environmental justice, critical pedagogy, and then multicultural education. So, the multicultural education is actually something that I learned about too in that first class that I took, has then five dimensions. So it's, and don't ask me, I'm gonna try to remember them, but it's like: content integration, so we're looking at how are we weaving in content in our courses. For example, how are you, are you referencing literature of people from the communities with that the students identify with or whatever identities that they identify with, are you bringing a lot of different voices and identities into the classroom. It's empowering school and community culture so making sure that students feel empowered to make change in their communities. It's incorporating the communities into the work that you do, it's incorporating the parents into the classroom, bringing them in. Oh, and then there's also, there's just so many things, too. Because I get so rooted, there's all of these different practices that I'm sort of weaving together, and so for me, I'm also rooted in Gloria Ladson-Billings' work of culturally relevant teaching and so for her, it's also this idea of believing that all students can succeed and so you're not having this sort of deficit ideology that some students are just inherently not capable, which in environmental education is a big deal because so many times if you're working with urban students, or students who, like me, didn't grow up spending a lot of time in traditionally what we think about when we think about outdoor spaces like, oh wilderness and stuff like that. They're like, "Oh, those students don't know as much or not coming with that foundation and I think those students are not interested, students from those communities don't want to do this stuff," that's a deficit ideology and, and in terms of my practice and what I do, that's really antithetical to what, you know, I would support and want to do. Um, so yeah, it's, it's a lot of it's a lot of different, it's a lot of different things. But I'm definitely incorporating environmental education, you're looking at being really fluent in helping students to be fluent in, in their own culture, but also at least one other culture. You're, you're trying to make yourself knowledgeable about their culture and background, so that you can foster and encourage it and, and make a comfortable environment for those students, which I recently just got schooled and because I just did a program where I had predominantly Indian students, I'm talking Southeast Asian. It was not intentional, that's just sort of how the program happened. I had like 80% Southeast Asian students, and I had never worked with that population before. I did a simulation activity that's supposed to like, it's supposed to lead students to this certain thing and what they did in the simulation activity went in a totally different direction than when I did that same activity with white and Black folks. And she was like, and she was like, "well we're Asian, like this is what happens in our households." So when I asked them to do the simulation, it didn't work very well. We still were able to have, we still had a conversation, but they didn't go where I thought they were gonna go, because they were coming from a different cultural perspective that I wasn't familiar with, and I acknowledged out loud, I was like this, you guys went somewhere totally different because I wasn't, I didn't think about this, and that's something that I need to be better at. If I'm trying to work with populations, I need to make myself more familiar and think about your perspectives as I'm planning programs.

Brian Bienkowski

That sounds, I even think of my own experience, if environment classes growing up wouldn't have been focused on things that seemed so not tangible to me. If they would have focused, if I grew up in the Detroit area, and if it would have focused on the Great Lakes and things I was seeing, the Detroit River, you know, of course you do these field trips, but the idea of making it geographically and culturally relevant just seems like such a no-brainer but I think it probably makes a lot more work for people on your end instead of a one size fits all approach. Right?

Tatiana Height

Um, I don't want to call it more work but I do want to call it more intentionality. You have to be more intentional with your with your practice. And I will say, the only time that I think it will be much more difficult is for folks, a lot of folks are doing educational programs where they're only meeting with those students once, like let's say it's a field trip, and they're coming through. So they don't, they might not know who's coming. They might not have opportunity to build rapport with those students, build relationships in order to, they may not have time to get a lot of that background, education, unless you're repeatedly working with students who might be from the same, from similar populations but not necessarily the same students. So for those instances, it might be a little less attainable. Or maybe for those educators that might be a little less attainable to do that. But I just think you just have to be more, more intentional in terms of learning from the students, giving them space to educate you, trying to break down the dynamic of who's in charge, who has the knowledge, who's right, and understand those students have some sets of knowledge in their own experiences that they can help you. But I don't think that by, by me trying to do those things it's been even more difficult. It's just been me having to be more thoughtful.

Brian Bienkowski

Right. And you don't just have this environmental background, but as you mentioned you have an urban planning and development, you know, skills and training. And how do you think those skills help someone, you know, working on environmental justice issues at the community level?

Tatiana Height

Yeah, at the community level, it's definitely good. I mean, I feel like people, sometimes lay people don't understand planning processes. And so when these things are happening, when environmental injustices are happening in their communities and they're trying to figure out how these things happen, they might not always be knowledgeable about the processes that are happening from a government perspective. And so for me I do. For instance, I've been in environmental meetings where people are talking about, or environmental justice meetings, I should say, when people are talking about their land being taken through imminent domain, and imminent domain is a planning process. And so, for those who don't know, that's a process by which folks can acquire your land, they can take it, it's a taking, but they have to provide just compensation, so they can't just take without compensating you, they do have to compensate you, based on you know whatever evaluation they have of the land. But imminent domain is supposed to be, you know, if something is happening for the greater health, safety, and welfare of the community, like it's going to, it's going to be, it's going to better the community. Your land is where this thing really needs to be, because of whatever reason, it kind of needs to go through your area—let's say it's electrical lines or something like that, they can't go around your house, they need to go through your property. And so they might exercise imminent domain to take a portion of your property to put, you know, whatever they're doing. So things like that. Understanding zoning, another planning process, how is it that things are allowed to be developed in certain areas. For me in my community regional planning studies, I sort of made my own environmental justice focus, but also the community engagement aspect, so that was really, I tried to learn a lot about community engagement and meeting facilitation. Going through consensus building process with communities. And I use all of that stuff, you know, if I'm organizing meetings, or to try to talk to or learn from people in the community. Because I made sure to weave that into my understanding, and it's definitely something that is key in planning, not that everybody focuses on that, but it's something that is a big area of planning, is how do you engage with the community. How do you get feedback from the residents and the community about things. So it just becomes, the skills are still useful, but it just becomes who am I representing when I'm using those skills?

Brian Bienkowski

Right. And so you're obviously here now as an Agents of Change fellow which is designed to bring this kind of work that you're talking about and your ideas to a wider audience, you know, kind of lay folks, so to speak. And less in the scientific realm or on the local level. And I'm just curious, first of all, before we talk a little bit about, you know, your, your ideas and kind of science communication and getting your work out, when it comes to media coverage of environmental justice, environmental access, what are your thoughts? What are your thoughts, what have you seen, you know, where could the industry improve when they cover the issues and communities that you're, you know that you're currently working in and engaged with?

Tatiana Height

You know, I think what I have seen is that, when I usually see coverage about things like that like environmental justice issues, there might be blogs or articles that are coming from environmental justice organizations, not from the mainstream media. So they're reaching their audiences and not necessarily a broader audience. Typically when things do make their way into the mainstream media, it's because there's a big coup happening. Like for instance, a lawsuit, somebody is suing some sort of organization for whatever damage they're doing to their community. And so I think that I would like to see more coverage of these things just in general, not just when there's, you know, a big coup happening. But also those things only tend to get covered for a couple of weeks, and a lot of these battles go on for several years, if not decades. So people just kind of talk about it while it's hot. And then they don't realize, people from the public then don't realize that, that is still happening because they're not talking about it anymore. So that's I would say something that I think is a problem.

Brian Bienkowski

You know, the first thing that comes to mind is, we, so we've covered, like many have covered, the hog farming industry in North Carolina, and they're in the southeastern part of the state, which is cited in communities of color. Most often Duplin County and other places, and it just creates all kinds of environmental and nuisance problems. And I've talked to, when I was a reporter I talked to editors, now that I'm an editor I talk to reporters, and I've always said, you know, part of the story is that it's still happening, right. And the you know, if you say like "oh that's already been covered," well, that's part of the story. Why is it still going on, it's been 20 years since, or whatever, since it first happened, so I think you're totally right. And just an aside, I think, personally, I think one of the biggest issues with media coverage of not just environmental issues but communities in general is the erosion of local media, and the ability to have people embedded on a beat. You know so much of our media now, including EHN to be perfectly honest, is national, we're scattered. So we go to North Carolina and then we go here, but to have that local reporter who can dig into an issue and keep on it, I think, is invaluable. So I totally agree with you there. So again you're in this program so you have at least some passing interest in writing and communicating your work. Tell me about any experience you've had with that, if any, and how you see science communication fitting in your broader work moving forward, and what role social media plays, and kind of just where all this is fit into your work and where you see it going.

Tatiana Height

Oh, um, in terms of a writing, that is something that I, so for me, my primary interest has been, how do I write for the broader population. Because in an academic program they're very much encouraging you to publish in peer-reviewed journals. People have this perception that if your work is somewhere that's not in those places that it is not as valuable, it's not as useful. And I just don't like that. That's just plain and simple. I don't like it. Do I want to be published in a peer reviewed journal, yes. But do I want my, my value to begin in there? No. Also I just really don't have experience with doing that in general, you know. I never published any, unless you count my thesis, or like research projects that are published in a digital commons at The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, of which there are three. I had never really published anything prior to my doctoral studies, and I don't feel like I've been extremely supported in that aspect in terms of writing, either. Also, when I came into the program, you know, and as I was talking about doing community change and things like that, you know, I was talking about, you know, how do we communicate with people in such a way that it resonates with them and helps them to produce change. A lot of times, and especially education programs have a communication sort of focus, and I was told you know we don't have that focus here. So there's really no avenue for you to do that. So I took, you know, a climate change communication class but, um, and I had asked to take a lot more communication classes and they were kind of like, we don't think you should be taking all these communication classes. But then I ended up, I went in a different direction and doing more of the culturally relevant teaching and multicultural education anyway, instead of the communication focus. And they pushed back on me on that too, but I was like I'm not listening anymore, I'm gonna do what I want to do. So, for me, my interest in this has been mostly that, getting that support in that area that I don't feel like I've gotten really, and I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing. But, um, but yeah, social media, I'm very finicky about social media. I do give a lot of talks and people are always asking for my social media, and I never give it to them, because my social medias, are personal social media, they're not professional social medias, and I just don't want people looking at my personal life. I'm kind of like, you can look at me on LinkedIn, I really don't want you to look at my, even with my dissertation. You know, there's a faculty member who was like, can we have your Twitter? No, she said, "Are you on Twitter, because I want to tag you when I tweet about your dissertation." I said, "Yes, I am on Twitter but I'm not giving you my handle." I don't want faculty at the university looking at my Twitter. I said when I graduate, then you can have my Twitter. So, um, I've been on Twitter since 2009, I don't want people going back and looking—I'm not necessarily embarrassed about what I have up there now, but I don't want people going back through the archives and trying to find what I posted in 2009 that may have been unsavory. Like, I don't, it's a personal Twitter it's not a professional Twitter. So, um, I will say that I met with somebody about my brand and things like that as I was looking into doing business ventures and consulting and public speaking all these things. And she was like, "you have to stop hiding on social media." She was like, "you can't do that, you can't be over here with your private Instagram, like, you have to stop doing that." So, at some point I'm gonna have to get over it, but at this point I've not really been, I don't really intertwine social media with my work.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, you know, everybody has their own comfort level and I think there are, there's something really healthy about having clearly defined boundaries, whatever your boundaries are. And it sounds like yours are very defined right now, and maybe they'll, maybe the goalposts will move later. I don't, I don't have social media. I have a LinkedIn. And when I was an early reporter 10 years ago or so, it was like, "you gotta, you got to have Twitter," you know. It was all about marketing yourself and branding and, you know, they're very useful tools, and you know, hopefully during this program, you know, we can, we can have some training and learn a little bit more about it. But I think those kind of clearly defined boundaries are healthy, nowadays.

Tatiana Height

Thank you.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, well, I'm saying that for myself too. So, it's for both of us.

Tatiana Height

It's an unpopular opinion.

Brian Bienkowski

That's right. So, Tots, this has been fantastic. I've really enjoyed talking to you. I have one final question, and that is what is the last book that you read for fun.

Tatiana Height

Okay, so the last book that I finished, and I'm a super avid reader, so I'm always reading something. The last book that I finished was "Parable of the Talents" by Octavia Butler. Because for a book club we had done "Parable of the Sower" and then I just had to do the sequel. But right now I am reading "The Mothers" by Britt Bennett and I'm usually more into, I do probably, I do probably 75% nonfiction and like 25% fiction, but sometimes I just get on these fiction kicks, so.

Brian Bienkowski

The last one you finished, tell me, tell me just a little bit about it without, you know, spoiling it for us if we read it.

Tatiana Height

So, the, this is really good for people who have an interest in environmental justice, I feel. Because they're basically, she wrote these books in the 90s, but she's talking about, people in the 2020s and 2030s. The first book was mostly in the 2020s, this book is now in the 2020s and the 2030s. And she's talking about all this devastation and how America has like fallen to ruin. And I just feel like it's so timely, she's so, she's following this one character, going through her life and this broken disastrous, like, Armageddon, having happened. I mean, it hasn't really been Armageddon, but I'm, that's hyperbole, but this disaster-stricken America and what her experience is. And she talks about, you know, we might have to go to another planet because we kind of messed up what we had. So it's not only about the environmental pieces, it's also a lot of social issues, but I feel like it's so timely, especially with all the discussions that we've been having over the last year and a half. Actually one of the guys in the book, again, is in the 90s and he's like a questionable president, his campaign slogan was "Make America Great Again."

Brian Bienkowski

Oh, geez Louise. Well, we have to we have to end on a positive note somehow. We need to think of a different question. You know, we can end there. Tots, again, this has been, this has been really fascinating to hear about your work and I'm really thrilled to work with you. So, thank you so much for being here today.

Tatiana Height

Yeah, thank you.

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