This piece for The Quest’s Meet the Alumni series features DD Klionsky, an M’19 from the United States, who is currently in Chicago, Illinois. Hear about her experience with Minerva as a student and her life as a graduate!
Eisha: Where are you now and what have you been doing since graduating?
DD Klionsky: Right after graduation, I worked on a political campaign in the summer and as an environmental educator in the fall. Now I am working full time for Sunrise Movement which is a youth-led climate action organisation. They started in 2017, and they have been a really public face of climate organising for the last year and a half. There’s a lot of momentum right now around Sunrise Movement’s organising. They’re a national organisation, and I’m working for their Chicago hub.
E: What is your function at Sunrise?
DK: I am a fellow. I am working on figuring out how to recruit and retain more people.
E: How did you get interested in this work?
DK: You can’t be in this generation and not care.
You can’t be in this generation and not care.
E: What are your longer-term career goals?
DK: It is hard to think past the next few months and few years, not just because I do not like planning things, but because they are really critical in finding out what our planet or my home will look like. It feels challenging to look beyond that. The next couple of years will all depend on how much we all need to be working to organise around climate action.
E: What was one of the greatest learnings (highlights/challenges) you had in the past year and how did it shape you?
DK: This summer I was working on a presidential campaign [Elizabeth Warren campaign] and all of that work feels binary (even though it actually isn’t) because you know very quickly whether you win or not. Immediately afterwards I lived in the woods and taught fifth and sixth graders about the environment. That work feels like you are planting seeds but you don’t know the immediate impact. With what I am doing now, I am trying to understand how to exist within both of those frameworks.
E: How do you feel about your time at Minerva?
DK: I feel really grateful for the friends that I have and what I learned about how to exist in an institution that doesn’t cooperate and doesn’t know how to do what it’s trying to do and doesn’t care about its students. It was really hard and I learned a ton about how in some ways, intentionally or not, higher structures are against the interests of those that they intend to serve. I don’t think I did a good job of navigating that and I wish that I had known a lot more about how to mobilise myself. I hope it feels different for you for the next couple of years.
E: What makes you say Minerva is not cooperative?
DK: Everything for four years. The way they’ve interacted with issues around work-study, visas, and the non-response to four years of sustained effort from our side to figure out feedback systems. A lot of people feel this to some degree and I know a lot of people don’t.
E: What is a favorite memory from your time at Minerva?
DK: In my Seoul semester (my third year) I was done with classes by 9:30 am and a good friend didn’t have class until 7 pm and we would go on adventures every Monday. It was such a motivator for me in getting my work done early and it helped me learn other things. When I think about that semester, I think of that golden feeling.
I had a ton of fun during my last semester because I loved Capstone. My capstone was a political philosophy paper on balancing “principled” & “strategic” approaches to building just institutions. I didn’t necessarily love that other people did not feel supported around it. I, in particular, had a good experience. I loved what I was learning about and my friends and I would watch Survivor together and we played a lot of games. I hung out with people a lot. Even though we were all working hard we all uniquely knew what it meant to be here in this place in this time and there’s something so incredibly special about that.
E: Do you have any book or movie recommendations?
DK: Book: Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
I read it last summer but I am still thinking about it. It helped me understand my own feelings around the intersection of hope, privilege and justice.
E: How can I use the current resources to gather relevant information at Minerva?
DK: Find a way to be in communication with people in older classes. I think people have done a good job of that and this seems to be already happening.
E: Do you have any advice for Freshmen?
DK: Don’t doubt yourself. If something feels wrong to you, pursue it. Ask other people how they are feeling. Do what you can do to change it and believe that you can change. If something feels right to you, great, go with that. Sometimes we think that this structure doesn’t seem great and Minerva would say “That’s how we do it” or “That’s intentional” and so I think, whether in a Minerva context or generally, be inquisitive. Find out why you’re feeling what you’re feeling and trust what you are feeling. Trust that it is coming from somewhere and then try to find out where.