Published November 04, 2020 by Brianna Cunliffe

Summer as a Fellow with the National Campaign with Elected Officials to Protect America

This summer, with the support of a Faculty Scholar award, Brianna Cunliffe served as a National Campaign Fellow with Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), a nonprofit dedicated to peer-to-peer organizing empowering elected officials to take bold action on our climate crisis.

Summer 2020 EOPA Fellows

As the only network of state and local office-holders led by veterans, young elected officials and representatives of frontline communities, EOPA uses messaging about national security and public health to build bipartisan coalitions. In New York, EOPA helped lead the successful charge to ban fracking.

Currently, our California branch is fighting for 2500-foot setbacks from oil drilling in LA County, like the ones recently passed in Ventura, which EOPA helped to pass.

In this full-time position, I completed hundreds of calls to state legislators to build support for a national climate emergency plan, conducted targeted research for our database of state elected officials, and led a strategic initiative to connect the work of Resource Conservation Districts to signatories on EOPA’s California letter to Governor Newsom.

Summer 2020 Project California

As my work on the Communications team continuously produced results, including several regional outlets picking up my press releases on fracking and environmental injustice, I was named the Chief Investigative Reporter for EOPA’s press extension, Protecting Earth News, and entrusted with pursuing several major stories.

The small size and fast-paced nature of EOPA allowed me to cultivate relationships with senior staff, including President and co-founder Alex Cornell du Houx ’08, a fellow Polar Bear!  I also brought my personal interests and expertise to the role, pitching a water security investigative series grounded in my coursework at Bowdoin on development, and crafting EOPA’s statement on a cause dear to my heart: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its eventual cancellation.

Always encouraged to dive in headfirst and take the lead on projects, I’ve learned invaluable lessons about both the practical day-to-day of working with government and bigger picture messaging. In a summer of crisis, both personally and politically, I’ve explored how to convert upheaval into opportunity. With EOPA, I get to take concrete action to bring the more just futures we dream of in Bowdoin classrooms into being. I’ve been invited to stay on as a Senior Fellow this fall (2020), and I am so grateful that I get to continue to engage in this meaningful work during such a unique semester. The devastating impacts of climate change are all around us, but so are the people fighting hard for change.

Diego Velasquez ’20, pictured with other fellows above, also served as a National Champaign Fellow summer 2020.