Bethany Gordon


My name is Bethany Gordon. I'm from Richmond, Virginia. I go to the University of Virginia where I am a Ph.D. Civil Engineering candidate.

What sustainability, energy, and community issues are important to you?

Environmental justice needs to be in every conversation about sustainability, energy, and community issues. In my experience, a modern sustainable lifestyle is a privilege associated with status and wealth. This is not inherently a bad thing; those with more resources tend to have larger carbon footprints and need avenues to improve their net effect on the environment. However, those with fewer financial and social resources are disproportionately affected by climate change (i.e. severity of damage and recovery time after an extreme event) and are not offered the same ease of access to sustainable lifestyle choices that could, directly and indirectly, benefit them.

What exciting projects/research are you working on now?

My work examines risk perceptions of civil engineering infrastructure associated with sea level rise. I’m particularly interested in the perceived risks of green vs. grey infrastructure and how environmental justice challenges connected to sustainable infrastructure affect public risk perception. I spent the past two months living and working in Norfolk, Virginia, a municipality that is actively dealing with and planning for the realities of rising sea levels, so that I can observe and translate the most salient components of the real-world into my research. 

What are your plans for the next five years?

In the next five years, I hope to conduct research that not only contributes to academic knowledge, but is also useful those developing and implementing sustainable solutions. Concurrently, I hope to participate in programs like SISE that broaden my perspective and elevate conversations surrounding sustainable systems. 

What made you want to apply to SISE?

This year’s theme, (re)new, is intriguing. My research deals with civil engineering and behavioral science, so the interaction between community and place is particularly interesting to me. I also appreciate SISE’s approach for and commitment to a sustained community partnership with North Lawndale.  

What are you most looking forward to doing in Chicago?

I’m looking forward to exploring Chicago with other SISE participants. I’m curious to learn from their perceptions of the city.

Do you like Cats? If not, are you willing to learn to like cats?

I prefer dogs, but cats have their own charm. I’m particularly fond of kittens!