Published: March 15, 2022 By
Kyle Powys Whyte, Patricia Sheffels, and Maxwell Boykoff

Migwetch,” the Potawatomi word for thank you, was uttered confidently and humbly by Professor Kyle Powys Whyte as he closed the inaugural Patricia Sheffels Visiting Scholar Keynote Speaker talk ‘Against Crisis Science: Research Futures for Climate and Energy Justice.’  This word not only queued the crowd of over 100 people to applaud, but is a distillation of the insightful themes considered. Professor Whyte, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, discussed the crisis of climate change from his perspective as an indigenous person, “for me, the climate change crisis is better understood as a kinship crisis.” Professor Whyte reframed the climate crisis as a crisis of relationships, urging the audience to reconsider the roots of climate change.

A new addition to the Department of Environmental Studies (ENVS), the Patricia Sheffels Visiting Scholar Keynote Speaker series was made possible through the generosity of Patricia Sheffels and her family. A graduate of the Geography Department at University of Colorado Boulder (class of ’58), Patricia started the speaker series motivated by love of her family and the environment. The Patricia Sheffels Speaker series will bring top interdisciplinary environmental scholars to ENVS to discuss the world’s most pressing environmental challenges and how we may solve them. Professor Whyte’s expertise and personal perspective made him the perfect scholar to give the inaugural speech.

Mrs. Sheffels, who attended the lecture with her family, explained, “We all know that there is not one answer to solving climate change. I hoped for a visiting scholar who would not only show us some of the problems and solutions, but also to inspire the CU community to search for the answers. Kyle Whyte was available to students, the lecture attendees, and the community and he did an admirable job.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with the inaugural event and the speaker.”

The daughter of a former dean in the California university system, who became a teacher as her first career, Pat has a lifelong relationship with education. Her love of the environment also started at a young age, hiking and skiing as much as possible throughout her time at CU Boulder. After graduating from CU, Pat moved to Montana with her husband where they ranched and raised a family.

Pat moved to Seattle once her children were grown and put her CU Geography degree to work as a Bellevue City Planner. Now retired, she has made donating her time, expertise, and resources an integral part of her life, working with many organizations and causes near to her heart, including the working with the hearing impaired, her church and helping disadvantaged people in developing countries. The Department of Environmental Studies is grateful for her support, and is excited for the next Visiting Scholar Keynote in 2023!

If you want to learn more about how you can support students and programs in ENVS now and in the future, contact the Department of Environmental Studies Chair, Max Boykoff, or donate now.

(Pictured from left to right: Professor Kyle Powys Whyte, Patricia Sheffels, and Chair Max Boykoff)