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Hendrix Summer Project Helps Students LEAP into Environmental Science

Dr. Courtney Hatch ’00 and Dr. Brett Hill collaborate with students on Odyssey-funded research

The 2023-24 Hendrix LEAP Leadership Team. From left, Anna Burford ’25, Isabel Ritter ’24, Maeve Smith ’24, Eleanor Burks ’24, and Madison Achan ’26.­  

CONWAY, Ark. (May 31, 2024) — The end of the 2023-24 academic year at Hendrix College brings a changing of the guard for Leadership in Environmental Analysis for the People (LEAP), an environmental justice research program co-developed by Professor of Chemistry Dr. Courtney Hatch and Professor of Anthropology Dr. Brett Hill.

For the last year, environmental studies majors Madison Achan ’26, Eleanor Burks ’24, Mera Feltenstein ’24, and Maeve Smith ’24, chemistry major Isabel Ritter ’24, and chemical physics major Anna Burford ’25 served as the inaugural LEAP Leadership Team. They have experienced everything from monitoring water and air quality and the urban heat island effect in Little Rock to creating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tutorials and recruiting the next group of environmental leaders who will begin their LEAP Odyssey this summer.

“Our inaugural LEAP Leadership Team worked hard this year to serve the local community and develop tools and programming to support the one-week LEAP summer program in which 15 Hendrix students have been selected to participate,” said Hatch. The Leadership Team’s work was done in collaboration with community partners, including the Little Rock Zoo and the Little Rock Sustainability Office.

“Through collection of environmental data that will inform sustainable community development and the creation of training tools to expand the technical skillset of students interested in environmental justice work, they have ensured that their work will continue to impact their peers and their community for years to come,” Hatch said.

Burford is ready to continue her research on environmental justice issues in the Little Rock area. “After working on this project all year and learning about the environmental inequities affecting the citizens of Little Rock, I am excited to see the results of our hard work and to share this knowledge with new LEAP students while working as a learning assistant during the summer LEAP program,” she said.

“This summer, we will travel to Little Rock to conduct environmental field measurements, install low-cost air quality monitors with new community partners, meet with scientists and environmental leaders, and have readings, reflections, and discussions about environmental justice,” Hill said. “We are excited to welcome a passionate new group of environmental leaders who have expressed their desire to improve conditions among marginalized populations and for the planet in general.”

Participants in the July 2024 LEAP program will learn methods of air and water quality analysis and use free data and software to learn about disparities in the exposure to environmental harms among citizens of Little Rock. Participants will enjoy Hendrix campus housing and dining together to foster a sense of community. The following students have been accepted to participate in this year’s weeklong LEAP program:

  • West Boudreaux ’26, Computer Science major
  • Evelyn Calhoun ’26, Indigenous Studies major
  • Tyler Dearing ’26, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major (Pictured)
  • Erin DeWald ’25, Chemistry major (Pictured)
  • Nathan Hirsh ’26, Anthropology major
  • Isabel Jara ’26, Chemistry/Physics double major
  • Kanak Joshi ’26, Study of the Mind major (Pictured)
  • Michelle Leyva ’26, Politics major (Pictured)
  • Amelia Lindsey ’25, Physics major
  • Sophia McGraw ’27, Environmental Studies major (Pictured)
  • Katie Nierstheimer ’25, Environmental Studies major
  • Malcolm Rose ’25, History major
  • Kyriana Slater ’25, Theatre Arts major (Pictured)
  • Qudusiyyah Smith-Gaffoor ’27, Study of the Mind major
  • Ella Williams ’27, Environmental Studies major (Pictured)

The LEAP program is sponsored by the Nancy and Craig Wood Odyssey Professorship, held jointly by Hatch and Hill.

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose