Kyle Kline – an Honors student who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA in Environmental Studies and Political Science, with a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Arizona – is the recipient of the SBS Outstanding Senior Award for spring 2022. The award is given to a graduating senior from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a record of outstanding achievement, a history of active citizenship on campus and/or in the community, and a demonstrated capacity for leadership.
“Kyle is passionate, articulate, dedicated and a generous leader when it comes to environmental issues,” said Diana Liverman, Regents Professor in the School of Geography, Development & Environment. “They draw on their theater training in their leadership and public speaking, and are especially concerned to include everyone, especially diverse groups, in the activities they coordinate.”
“It’s a wonderful honor and something I didn’t expect,” Kyle said about receiving the Outstanding Senior Award. “I'm grateful that I can represent the college as an openly queer individual and as a student government representative on campus.”
Kyle – a national undergraduate Udall Scholar, an Arizona Flinn Scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa – chose their majors to learn about environmental justice and the human impacts of climate change, as well as law and policy. They added Theatre Arts as a minor because they’ve been a “huge theatre kid since high school.”
For their Honors thesis “Changing Narratives of Cli-fi; Creativity as Climate Communication,” Kyle researched climate fiction and how theatre and film can communicate climate issues to different groups.
“Something that I cemented with my thesis is that people are not going to listen to statistics about climate change and big scary predictions. It doesn't inspire action, and it just makes people afraid,” Kyle said. “But if you can get people to engage with a subject through song, dance, and acting – people emotionally can relate to that.”
As part of Earth Day in the Arts District events, Kyle performed a drag show inspired by their thesis, titled “Hot on Your Heels.”
“I was able to do a 20-minute drag show all about the environment for 200 people, which was a dream come true,” Kyle said.
Kyle was inspired to increase their environmental activism after returning from study abroad in China where they observed urban inequities. 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 propelled the City of Tucson's Climate Change Emergency Declaration through city strikes, interviews with local NPR stations, and collaboration with city officials.
Kyle also served as the Administrative Vice President for ASUA (Associated Students of the University of Arizona), led the Waste Reduction Committee for UArizona’s Students for Sustainability, and co-founded UAZDivest, UArizona's fossil fuel divestment campaign.
In spring 2020, Kyle interned with the Arizona Senate where they worked with politicians and their staff, writing policy briefings and talking points, especially 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 can't study your field in a vacuum; you have to consider the different factors and variables that are going on.”
Next up? Kyle has been accepted to Oxford University and will be pursuing their MSc in Environmental Change and Management.
“I really wanted to go to the UK. There's more robust civil systems for how to look at environmental management, and I really wanted to get a more global perspective,” Kyle said. “But also, British drag is so cool! The UK has a really rich history of drag as a political force.”
Long term, Kyle would like to work for a federal agency or a non-governmental organization on policy, focusing on climate action plans for cities and states. They’re also interested in running for public office, including the Arizona Corporation Commission to “fix some renewable energy rules that desperately need help.”
“I've been really lucky in my experiences as an undergrad to find where my passions and talents can fit into the environmental space,” Kyle said. “I hope that people can do the same as we go forward to hopefully build a more sustainable world because, dear goodness, we need it.”