Gabe Schwartzman

2014 to 2015
United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development
Placement Location:
Memphis, Tennessee
Bobby Goode USDA State Director Tennessee, and USDA Undersecretary Doug O’Brien
Service Interest:
Poverty in rural Appalachian communities
Garrett Park, MD

Berkeley Experience: Coming to Berkeley from an internship on environmental justice in the coalfields of West Virginia, the Geography Department and its approach to pairing environmental and social sciences was the perfect place for Gabe to grow and learn. Continuing his involvement in the Appalachian region’s social and environmental issues, he became a researcher at the Blair Heritage Alliance, staffing a museum and conducting an oral history in Blair, WV—a coal town with poisoned water, and a place that is fast disappearing in the face of massive coal surface mining surrounding the town. In 2012 and 2013 he broadened his work in the region as a social media intern for the Center for Rural Strategies, while publishing an article in In These Times, “We’re Proud to be Scabs,” on the emerging political climate of the coal fields. Supported by various grants and institutions at Berkeley, including the Center for Right Wing Studies, the UC Human Rights Fellowship, and the Charles H. Percy Undergraduate Grant for Public Affairs Research, his research developed into an honors thesis. Now published as a working paper for the Center for Right Wing Studies, the thesis, “Where Appalachia Went Right,” was presented at several undergraduate symposiums and conferences. He continued his work on Appalachian oral history at the Appalachia South Folklife Center after he graduated in December of 2013, researching and archiving the work of the Appalachian social justice hub that is now turning 50 years old.

Other Service Experience: While at Cal, Gabe worked on voter registration in 2010. With a background in Portuguese he interned in the Brazilian Amazon in 2011, working with a group to translate media about the social and environmental problems of the Belo Monte Dam—then still unconstructed—into English. He also worked on expanding financial support for local farmers and ranchers within the Berkeley Student Cooperatives, for which he received a Pioneer Award. Within the Appalachian region he volunteers as a tutor for adult literacy programs, and drug court tutoring, as well as taking part in community history and heritage events.

Fellowship Goal: Gabe intends to work with rural communities across the US, including Appalachia, suffering from issues of poverty, environmental degradation, and social exclusion to develop media that will connect them with each other and voice coherent demands for change.

Postfellowship Plans: After the fellowship Gabe intends to continue his schooling at a graduate level, pursuing participatory research with environmentally and socially impacted rural communities.

Commitment to Service: “The way I see it, service can never be about giving to someone else—it has to be about collaborating, sharing, seeing, and learning. Most of all, service has to be about working for social change and justice, about changing the dynamics of power.”