Since high school, Indiana University student Maisie Westerfield has known she wants to pursue a career focused on sustainability and urban planning.
Now in her senior year at IU Bloomington, Westerfield is playing a leading role in guiding Terre Haute, Ind. through an assessment of the community’s vulnerabilities to climate change and helping residents make plans to reduce risk.
As a McKinney Climate Fellow, the northwest Indiana native began working with Terre Haute’s local government in Fall 2023. Earlier in the year, the city joined a year-long climate resilience planning effort led by IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute.
With Westerfield on board, Terre Haute’s planning efforts kicked into high gear. In coordination with Terre Haute’s city planner and sustainability coordinator Maitri Desai, Westerfield helped the city’s sustainability commission host its first climate vulnerability workshop in October. In support of the workshop, Westerfield gathered relevant data, conducted community surveys, recruited workshop attendees, and presented on local climate trends.
The meeting brought together more than 40 community members and local leaders, including the mayor. The attendees—which included residents with expertise in education, business, healthcare, workforce development, social services, and other sectors—brainstormed known vulnerabilities to climate change and the risks they posed.
Together, community members identified more than 20 areas of concern, including local agriculture, nature and green spaces, healthcare, extreme heat, and water shortages.
“It was really encouraging to see how many people were willing to just show up and do the work,” Westerfield said. “We came through that feeling really positive about the future.”