Drawdown Scholar speaks to United Nations on International Day of Peace


By Ashley WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Based on work completed during this summer’s Penn State Drawdown Scholars program, a college senior was chosen to speak at the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. Gabbie Batzko, who majors in sustainable technology and sustainable development at Appalachian State University and who developed curriculum on reversing climate change, was one of several students selected from around the world to participate in the Student Observances session on Sept. 20.

As a Drawdown Scholar, Batzko worked to develop a first-year curriculum based on Project Drawdown’s solutions to reverse climate change. Project Drawdown is an international research collective that identifies solutions to climate change. The project is named for the point at which greenhouse gases concentrations will begin to go down each year, reducing global warming. Program participants study the solutions for feasibility, scalability and to develop curriculum to help teach others.

“My experience as a Drawdown Scholar was unforgettable,” Batzko said. “The connections I made with other scholars and faculty at Penn State helped me grow and inspired me to continue working toward a healthier climate. The experience made me even more passionate about climate mitigation and disaster relief.”

In her Drawdown project, Batzko also incorporated the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, with a specific focus on creating modules based on rooftop solar, electric bikes and bike infrastructure, farmland irrigation, and the sustainable development goals. Batzko presented her work at the Drawdown conference, hosted by Penn State from Sept. 16-18.

“Gabbie worked on a multitude of project ideas because she has so much curiosity and such wide-ranging interests,” said Andrew Lau, associate professor in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs. Lau mentored Batzko during the summer research experience for undergraduate students, Drawdown Scholars.

Lau also directs the First-Year Engagement program, focusing on providing first-year engineering students with opportunities that will help them succeed as students and into their careers.

“It was refreshing to have curriculum for undergraduate students included in Drawdown,” Lau said. “I dream about all of our undergraduates learning about sustainability and the challenges we face as a society and in our careers.”

Calling Batzko “internally driven and intellectually curious,” Lau also noted her ability to passionately investigate multiple projects while remaining focused on the goal of educating others about climate change and possible solutions.

Batzko pitched her curriculum development as a Peace Project in her application to participate in the UN International Peace Day, the theme of which was, “Climate Action for Peace.” Such projects are promoted to illustrate how action to address climate change can help improve the world and foster peace, according to the UN.

“When it was selected, it was a little hard to believe at first,” Batzko said. “Of course, having my work being used in the classroom feels amazing, but being able to address teachers and students who could advocate for similar curricula at their institutions was a different level of fulfillment.”

The event commenced with António Guterres, secretary general of the UN, ringing the Peace Bell. The hall was filled with middle and high school students, all carrying flags from different countries.

“The students were so inspiring, and they asked such profound questions,” Batzko said. “I can’t wait to continue being a part of this movement to advocate for clean energy and curriculum that feeds the interests of these students.”

Batzko tentatively plans to go to graduate school to study a climate-related field but is mainly focused on making a difference.

“I want to work for the Environmental Protection Agency or the United Nations, and I’ve always joked about running for the House of Representatives,” Batzko said. “I’ll just have to see where the wind takes me and where I can make the biggest impact.”

Lau has bigger plans for Batzko.

“If she ever runs for president, I hope I live long enough to vote for her,” he said.


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Megan Lakatos




The School of Engineering Design and Innovation delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. The school offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

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