Kyle Kline — an Honors student graduating with a 4.0 GPA in Environmental Studies and Political Science with a minor in Theater Arts — is the recipient of the Spring 2022 SBS Outstanding Senior Award. The award is presented to a graduate with a degree in Records outstanding achievement, a history of active citizenship on campus and/or in the community, and demonstrated leadership.
“Kyle is passionate, articulate, committed and a generous leader when it comes to environmental issues,” said Diana Liverman, Regents Professor at the School of Geography, Development & Environment. “They draw on their theater training for leadership and public speaking, and are particularly keen to include everyone, especially diverse groups, in the activities they coordinate.”
“It’s a wonderful honor and something I didn’t expect,” Kyle said of receiving the Outstanding Senior Award. “I’m grateful to be able to represent the college as an openly queer person and as a student representative on campus.”
Kyle — a national undergraduate Udall Scholar, an Arizona Flinn Scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa — chose her majors to learn about environmental justice and the human impacts of climate change, as well as law and politics. They added theater arts as a minor because they were “a big theater kid since high school.”
For her thesis “Changing Narratives of Cli-fi; Creativity as Climate Communication” Kyle explored climate literature and how theater and film can communicate climate issues to different groups.
“Something I’ve cemented with my thesis is that people aren’t going to listen to climate change statistics and big scary predictions. It doesn’t inspire action and just scares people,” Kyle said. “But if you can get people to engage with an issue through song, dance and drama, people can relate to it emotionally.”
As part of Earth Day at the Arts District, Kyle performed a drag show called “Hot on Your Heels” inspired by her thesis.
“I was able to do a 20-minute environmental drag show for 200 people, which was a dream come true,” Kyle said.
Kyle was inspired to step up her environmental activism after they returned from studying abroad in China, where they observed urban injustice. When they returned to Arizona, the global climate strikes were happening and they decided to get involved locally.
Kyle co-founded the Tucson division of the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition, where they advanced the City of Tucson’s declaration of a climate change emergency through city strikes, interviewing local NPR stations, and working with city officials.
Kyle also served as administrative vice president for ASUA (Associated Students of the University of Arizona), chaired the Waste Reduction Committee for UArizona’s Students for Sustainability, and co-founded UAZDivest, UArizona’s fossil fuel divestment campaign.
In Spring 2020, Kyle completed an internship with the Arizona Senate, where they worked with policymakers and their staffs, authoring policy briefings and talking points, particularly on natural resources, energy and water.
Kyle is also an SBS ambassador. “I think my favorite part about SBS is the interdisciplinary nature of the college. You cannot study your subject in a vacuum; You have to consider the different factors and variables that are going on.”
next up? Kyle was accepted into Oxford University and will be doing his MSc in Environmental Change and Management.
“I really wanted to go to Great Britain. There are more robust civilian systems to look at environmental management, and I really wanted to get a more global perspective,” Kyle said. “But British drag is so cool too! The UK has a really rich history of drag as a political force.”
Longer term, Kyle would like to work for a federal agency or non-governmental organization in the policy field, focusing on city and state climate action plans. They’re also interested in running for public office, including the Arizona Corporation’s commission to “make some renewable energy rules that desperately need help.”
“I was really fortunate in my experiences as a college student to find where my passions and talents fit into the environmental field,” said Kyle. “I hope that as we move forward, people can do the same to hopefully build a more sustainable world because, gosh, we need them.”