The United Nations calls climate change “the defining issue of our time,” with impacts that are “global in scope and unprecedented in scale.” But how do you explain such a complex issue to people around the world so they take action?
For Chaimaa Medhat ’19, an environmental science major at Clark University, the answer is through photography.
“After graduation I plan to find a job that mixes my love for photography and art with my passion for educating people on what it means to be environmentally cautious,” Medhat says. “I want to try to bring understanding and awareness of the impacts of climate change to the everyday person, because we all are affected by climate change.”
A native of Casablanca, Morocco, and graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Medhat discovered her passion for conservation and photography at Clark.
“Clark has given me the space to explore all of my many interests. I’m the kind of person who enjoys doing so many things, from art to science,” she says.
Two key mentors have guided Medhat along the way: Professor John Baker, adviser for her major and concentration, environmental and conservation biology; and Professor Stephen DiRado, adviser for her minor in studio art.
“Professor Baker has been great in helping me find classes that fit my interests. I have found incredible classes with wonderful professors because of him,” Medhat says.
“Stephen DiRado has helped me refine my photographs, exposing me to new artists and opportunities, and also has been a person I turn to,” she says. “He has made being at Clark such a warm and impactful experience.”
DiRado connected Medhat to a job as a photography teaching assistant at Clark. She manages the digital photography lab, prepares and maintains chemicals in the darkroom, and assists students.
Medhat has gotten plenty of exposure as a photographer at Clark. Her work has twice been selected for the Annual College Show at ArtsWorcester’s Aurora Gallery, and like many modern artists, she also displays much of her work on her Instagram account. And last fall, she teamed up with her friend Linda Mindaye ’19, a poet, to launch an art show at the Traina Center for the Arts. The show highlighted black identity, Medhat says, and examined “the vast complexities of people of color in a space where vulnerability, pain, love, and laughter are welcome.”
Outside of her photography, Medhat served as a yearbook editor for two years and was a member of the Caribbean African Student Association, which she calls her “home away from home.”
“I love being able to create events about who we are, having conversations about real issues that impact our homes and us as citizens of the world,” she explains. “Sharing our culture with the Clark community is wonderful.”
In summer 2018, Medhat interned at Breakthrough Greater Boston, teaching a class on American agriculture. Part of a national collaborative, the Cambridge affiliate offers summer and after-school programs to prepare low-income students for college and to train urban teachers.
Recently, Medhat was a research assistant in Clark’s Education Department, working with Professor Sarah Michaels and her team on a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop, pilot, and refine the high school biology curriculum in Worcester and other schools across the United States, as part of the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards. Medhat translated biology readings for English language learners, interviewed students, completed classroom observations, and transcribed videos.
Now, she’s ready to graduate, and she’s confident she’ll find a job. “Clark has taught me self-advocacy — that being yourself, being your best self, will help you in the long run,” Medhat says. “Sharing your passion, sharing what drives you to do what you do, will help guide you to your perfect job.”