Senator Sarah Elfreth speaks at Shannon Zellars-Strohl's "Writing about the Environment" Class

February 4, 2020

Sarah Elfreth, Maryland's youngest ever female senator, visited Shannon Zellars-Strohl's environmental writing class, speaking to students about how to write environmental policy proposals for an audience of law makers. Students in the class were then writing just such proposals for their final projects.

Shannon Zellars-Strohl writes about the experience:

"I teach 3 sections of Writing about the Environment. Students in the course have written about environmental topics across a variety of genres throughout the semester, but have been building towards their major project--a policy proposal. They can propose a policy for any large organization, but most students work on a governmental policy in Maryland at either the state or county level.

"I knew it would be inspiring for them to hear from a young (the youngest woman ever elected in MD!) politician, passionate about environmental topics. Senator Elfreth is serving her first term as a senator and has already worked on several environmental initiatives in Maryland. Before serving as a senator, she was an environmental lobbyist in Baltimore.

"Knowing that the course focused on writing, rather than politics, Senator Elfreth really targeted the communications aspects essential to implementing environmental policy. She discussed the importance of balancing emotional and factual appeals to convince law-makers, for example. She also emphasized concision and targeting your audience. The Senator even brought some examples of her own writing! She, of course, also talked about actually working on the environment at the political level, which really excited students. Many of the students in the course want to know what they can do to make a difference and are deciding what path to pursue after graduation. The senator gave them insight into some different options.

"Overall I really could not have been more pleased at the time, but was even more excited today when students referenced how the talk was influencing their final projects without me prompting them to do so. For example, a few students said that based on the Senator advocating for local change leading to state-wide change, they were adjusting their audiences on the final project, thinking about addressing an issue like plastic bag bans at the county level to ease the way for state-wide support. I'm really proud of them."