environmental justice

LISTEN: Kristi Pullen Fedinick on how a commitment to service guides her work

“I’m guided by contributing in whatever small way I can to making the world better than how I found it.”

Dr. Kristi Pullen Fedinick joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss how a commitment to service has guided her career as a scientist in advocacy, academia and now the federal government.


Fedinick is an associate research professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and the assistant director for Environmental Justice Science and Technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She also talks about why environmental communication is central to her work as a scientist and why the younger generations give her hope and optimism about the future of environmental justice.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Fedinick, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or Spotify.

Transcript 

Brian Bienkowski

Hello and welcome back to the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast ,a partnership between Environmental Health News, and Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. I'm your host, Brian Bienkowski, editor of Agents of Change and senior editor at Environmental Health News. Welcome back to our regular listeners and welcome to anyone new. We are here every two weeks talking to up-and-coming and established leaders in environmental justice. Please find us wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe. Today's guest is one of those established environmental justice leaders, Dr. Kristi Pullen Fedinick, an associate research professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and the assistant director for environmental justice, science and technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We talk about her winding career path and science and advocacy, why she's made environmental communication central to her work, and where she sees hope and optimism in environmental health and justice. Enjoy. All right, I am super excited to be joined by. Kristi Pullen Fedinick. Krsiti, how you doing today?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

I'm good. Thank you, Brian, how are you?

Brian Bienkowski

I'm wonderful. And where are you today?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

I am in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, actually. So yeah, happy to be here.

Brian Bienkowski

Awesome. Research Triangle seems very fitting for what we're about to talk about tonight.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

And it's lovely. It's just a really lovely place. And we're really happy to be able to live in such a magical place.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. So you are not from there. Of course, you've done some moving around. So you grew up in the Washington DC area. Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing? And where along the way science and environment came into your life?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Absolutely. Yeah, I think growing up in the DC area is a really unique place –or be maybe everyone says that about where they grew up, right. But I think that it was a place where government and this really interesting way felt accessible even as a child. So I remember having a project in elementary school and we needed information about the Vice President –and I won't say which vice president not to date myself– but it was pre-internet, so I can say that. But, you know, we needed to do some research on on the Vice President and I didn't know where to find it. So I just called the White House to ask them this question that I had. And I think even as a fourth grader, it felt really accessible. And it was there for the people, right, it was there to be able to provide us with support, which with I think is really unique. And, you know, I would say that as a kid. You know, I also really loved puzzles. I mean, my mom would say, you know, from a very early age to see this in my son too, I just love doing puzzles, I love solving things. And, you know, I would say that science was a way of, you know, also solving puzzles, both big and small. And so I, you know, I realized that, you know, someone could tell me something, which is wonderful, but I could do experiments to try to figure out and understand why it is that the thing existed in that way. And, you know, from an environmental perspective, you know, I think that when I was younger, well, the environment wasn't as big of a topic of conversation. But you know, as I grew older, and folks would talk about the environment, I always thought about it initially as polar bears, and you know, boreal forests. But, you know, really, the environment to me was, you know, a suburban neighborhood where I would ride my bike, and I would, you know, go swimming in the summer, and, you know, just explore and play with my friends. And so, you know, really seeing the environment as what's around us, right, it doesn't have to be some far removed, pristine, magical place, the magic can be really close to us, as well. And so, you know, just really being able to embrace where I was, and seeing that, as you know, the environment that touches us every day.

Brian Bienkowski

where along the way, as you become familiar with environmental injustice issues kind of intersecting with nature?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

That's a really great question. You know, I mean, again, growing up in the DC area, I grew up in a county that was majority-Black, which is also very unique. So as a Black person, you know, I grew up in the majority. And, you know, I didn't really think about injustice in ways that I think what the broader society had been grappling with. You know, I would see, you know, there were rich people, there were poor people, there were doctors, there were janitors there were, you know, everywhere in between that, that there's a spectrum of janitors and opposed to a doctor or a lawyer because they're all you know, valid and, and wonderful professions. But you could see that there, there were, you know, differences that existed within people, but everyone was kind of the same. So, you know, it didn't there wasn't a sense of grave injustice that existed. And it funnily enough wasn't until I went to graduate school that I started to see, one, that as as a Black woman and a scientist, I was a really rare commodity right so I didn't understand that I went to graduate school in California and I was one of the, you know, 0.9% of the graduate population that was, you know, African American. And, you know, but as I was in, you know, I studied infectious diseases, I was in a lab, you know, as a biochemist really thinking about the the molecular pathways by which, you know, pathogens could cause disruption in the human body, and was laser focused on that. But it wasn't until I was starting to, you know, finish up grad school thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, you know, I went straight from undergrad to graduate school. And just thought at the time, "well, I don't really know what I want to do. So I could go work for a biotech company, or I could go to grad school and get a PhD. So I figured, why don't I just go get a PhD while I think about what I want to do." And as I was wrapping up, I worked on, you know, tuberculosis, as one of the was the focus area of my dissertation. And I worked on one little protein, but was a master protein of the cell, we wanted to think about drugs that we could develop that would, you know, help us to target the bacteria, even more specifically, in order to eradicate in people's bodies. But in starting to research it more, you know, there was work, I mean, even in the 1600s, and certainly in the early 1900s, that talked about the ways in which you predict if somebody's going to die from tuberculosis is whether or not they're poor. It's not the presence of the bacteria, it's not the biological thing. It's, you know, the fact that they, you know, exist in social circumstances that will reduce their ability to access health care, you know, have the things that we need in order to, to, you know, have a healthy life. And so, you know, I started going down this path of understanding that, that life was more than biological, it was also social. And so, you know, for my postdoc, I did some work in that space, and it ended up, you know, a number of positions opened up that brought me into the Environmental Health spaces really unexpectedly. But it was during that transition, and that I started to see that there was injustice that occurred, and that injustice occurred, not only in again, you know, the, like the social sense of poverty, but also in the environment, again, around us. So the things that are influencing people's health isn't just that bacterium, it isn't just what's happening in the lung, it isn't just what's happening in the body, but what's going on around it. And so it was really this slow, but natural progression into the space. And we're gonna get into a lot of trends that have come from this, this master protein and, and the very beginnings, but before we get into that, what is a moment or event that has helped shaped your identity? And I know this is broad, so it could be professional, personal? Yeah, that's such a hard question. I mean, my goodness, you know, I would say that I know, in my heart, you know, that I'm, you know, directed towards peace and service to others. But I actually don't know, one, that there's a moment in which that occurred. And I also don't know that it's unique, I would say the vast, vast majority of humanity wants peace and comfort and, you know, wants to support those that are around them. And so, you know, I think it's a human trait, that that, you know, we all share very, very few of us want war, right? And so, you know, I think that there's not a moment, but that I'm guided toward making the world or contributing in whatever small way I can to making the world better than how I found it.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Excellent. So to get into this winding career path. Finishing your PhD, you were a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health, which I think a lot of our listeners are familiar with. And even though your PhD was in biochemistry and structural biology, your postdoc experience was in population health and social epidemiology. That must have been a big change. Can you talk about what motivated you to make this change?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yes, yes. I mean, I talked about this a little bit already, right, really being able to see that there was more to the world and biology was something that, at the time, to me felt really transformative, you know, like unique, no one else had thought of this ever! since I was, you know, looking at postdoc opportunities at, you know, I knew I didn't quite want to, you know, stay within the structural biology space. I mean, I love lots of things about structural biology, the visual aspects of it, really being able to see something for the first time I worked again, on this one protein, that when I saw it, I was the first person in the world that had ever seen it, right. And you're looking at the atomic resolution of this protein, which is really wonderful. But you know, I wanted something that was more applied, I wanted to be of service and even though again, I was working on tuberculosis, which again, 2 billion people in the world have tuberculosis, right and very few people die from it. It's not that they're not drugs. I mean, there are drugs for tuberculosis that can be really long and that inhibits people's ability to be able to utilize a drug, but that requires a long course of action. But, you know, it was more than that. And so I found this, this was seemed really, again a very unique opportunity to, to apply for the Health and Society Scholars Program, which brought together scholars from multiple disciplines into one space and had them, you know, learn with each other and grow with each other in their work. And so, you know, it was really this this wonderful experience where the cohort I came in with one person studied family structures and what that meant for health and well being another person studied, you know, suicide, and you know what that meant for the world. And so when we all said the word structure, we meant something very different, right. And so, you know, being able to think about, you know, the language that we use as scholars, the ways in which we can do experiments to try to understand what's happening to people using different disciplines, was, you know, something that really called for me again, that curiosity, I love a new tool, I love to be able to explore, I love a new puzzle. And so, you know, being able to, you know, jump into something that was totally different than what everyone else in my field did or knew, was something that I just I felt called toward, and, you know, just took that leap.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. So speaking of new tools, once you completed your postdoc, you went toward environmental advocacy for a little bit. So I saw that during this time, you really took your science skills and started combining them with –close to my heart here– with communication and data visualization. And these are skills that you've taken with you later when you worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council and beyond. So can you talk about the skill set different ways you've used it in your career? And why you're drawn to not only kind of doing the science doing the research, but making sure that people understand it?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yes, absolutely. You know, I would say that the the leap into, you know, environmental health and into environmental policy was, again, one that feels really random. So I was coming out of my postdoc, and what this was in 2009, right so the economy wasn't doing its best at that time. And I was literally not literally, but I was like, throwing spaghetti at the wall, you know, applying to everything I possibly could, you know, got this position and this small environmental nonprofit, and I was the only scientist they brought in, right, that they had on staff, and so they had been looking for an ecologist, right. But in my cover letter, I said, I know you think you didn't, ecologist, but what you actually need is me, right? And I started to explain why it is that they needed to hire somebody that was a structural biologist that hadn't worked in environmental stuff at all. And so, you know, I was fortunate enough to get that job, I think it's because I would take it and work cheaply. So I wasn't my great pros. But I mean, I like to think it was the pros, you know, but you know, going into that work as a biochemist, you know, really trying to understand what it is that people needed, and how we could think about the communication of the science in ways that would sway policy. And so, you know, policy is swayed, you know, sometimes right? By effective language, right. But I also think that you, you have to pull on people's hearts in a different kind of way, it isn't just the mind that needs to be activated. It's that sense of self, it's a sense of community that I think, you know, it's really important to be able to draw people into. And so you know, during that time, I, you know, taught myself GIS again, coming from a visual, you know, again, I think of structural biology, certainly its physical, but you know, like the biophysical space, but it's also extremely visual. And so being able to find visual tools that could help tell a story about what was happening in environment. And so just like that visualization of a protein can help you understand how that protein works. Very similarly, mapping helps you to tell a story about what's happening, and what's leading to the outcomes that you're seeing, and how to advance the types of things that you would like to advance and why. And so I just found, you know, that that throughline in a way, even though you might not see it in the biochemistry space, to really be strong, especially in environmental advocacy, and environmental policy shaping. And so, you know, I just think that again, when I tell people, I'm a scientist, right, or I've been on flights before people ask me what I do, you know, I can say, oh, you know, I, you know, I do the statistical analysis to determine, you know, whether or not there are health disparities, or, you know, I could say in ways it's, I just really try to understand what makes people sick, and why it is and how we could solve that problem. So I think that the visual aspects, being able to talk to, like my six year old should be able to tell people what Mommy does for a living. And if he can't, then I'm not doing my job. And so, you know, this is I feel as though I've benefited so much from, you know, the public, the community, I've been a part of, how do I use the tools I have available to me to give them information in ways that they can receive it?

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, and a lot of this is designed to make sure that community members and people, people get this information that can use it to advocate for their health or live healthier lives. So in your work with advocate organizations, can you talk about some memorable or important community interactions and how you approach the community integration aspect of your work while still doing the science? ,

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Again, going back to that experience in Chicago, something that really was striking to me is we were meeting up in a library on the south side of Chicago to, you know, help people understand how to use some air monitors that we have. So we were going to, you know, we had designed an experiment to help folks monitor the pollution around a rail facility that was in the area, and we were sitting They're waiting for the library to open. Right. So I guess we didn't check the times when the library opened. And there were two younger folks, high school students that were sitting there also waiting for the library to open. And the conversation that they were talking, you know, that they were having, you know, were was about, you know, whether or not they would live in order to be able to, you know, see the next year, right, and a lot of that was talking about the violence that they had experienced, friends that had been, you know, murdered, you know, in the street, or, and so I just think that even though we were there to talk about air quality monitoring, right, there were so many things happening in that neighborhood, that if we weren't having conversations with the communities, we might come in thinking, we're going to help them right to say, "Oh, I've got these science tools, let's, let's look at this air quality, it's going to be wonderful, you know, you're going to know what the air is at your breathing" But if you don't know whether or not you're going to die, right, if you have that fear, even though I hope and pray that those children have made it into adulthood, right, but that the fact that they talked about it not in, you know, like, a grave ways, but as a matter of life, as a matter of fact, that this is something that their mother may have to bury them, you know, felt really just one heart-wrenching, but also grounding to say, if communities are not involved from the very beginning of your work, you aren't necessarily looking at the problems that they need to have solved and the ways in which we can think about integrated tools to try to, you know, address multiple issues that are occurring in communities. And so, you know, from that point on, it was really trying to, you know, work with folks and say, what is that you need from me? How can I use the skills and tools that I have to support you, you know, in ways that you know, will help you achieve the goals that you have, it's not about my goals, but really about the community's goals.

Brian Bienkowski

And that's, I mean, that's a, somewhat of a change for a lot of the scientists, especially the academicscientific community, which has largely been focused on you need to publish, to get tenure, you know, you've come in with a set of goals. So it is it is a shift in thinking and one that we try to highlight on this podcast as much as possible. So speaking, the shifts and getting out of comfort zones? Well, I shouldn't speak for you, maybe this is within your comfort zone. But you've, you've made another transition in your career recently. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yes, I have. So you know, I recently stepped away from advocacy, and have moved into a full time position as an associate research professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University. So it's really, you know, it's very different than advocacy to be in academic spaces. But I feel fortunate that the School of Public Health here has really driven toward social change and embraces the the kinds of work that I do that is community-centered. And, you know, soon after starting my new role, though, another opportunity arose really unexpectedly to help support the administration's work on science and technology. And so, you know, GWU has graciously loaned me to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where I serve as the Assistant Director of Environmental Justice, science and technology. And so my work there focuses on building our research strategy for environmental justice that's outlined and executive order 14 096. And so I feel really honored to be able to serve the American people in this way and to, to, you know, be the, you know, there to ensure that that we're, you know, moving forward with our science and our technology in ways that support justice.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, as an American person, it's nice that there are people like you that are making it into the upper reaches of the government. So as you've mentioned, now, you've worked in the nonprofit, the academic and now the federal, the federal government space. So I'm wondering if you can outline some of the challenges and benefits for each of these for the, you know, young researchers that could be listening to this who are trying to find their own path?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yes. Right. I mean, I think that the they all certainly have different strengths and benefits, the first thing that I'm going to say so in case that folks are going to stop listening right now to help they don't, but to make sure that I don't bury the lede is, you know, when you're thinking about your career path, the thing that, you know, I've found, and I know, people are gonna say this right to you, and it's hard to believe, but don't stress about it, right? Like, if you keep your mind and your heart directed towards service, follow that path, right. So there's no way in the world 20 years ago, I would predict that would have predicted even a year ago, that I would have predicted that this is the place that I would be sitting. And so, you know, my career has really been guided by wanting to be of service to others, and finding the opportunities to be able to be of service and so, you know, people may think that, you know, what, in the world a biochemist doing, you know, going, you know, you're gonna go become an anthropologist, you know, well, what's wrong with that, first of all, but, you know, I think it's okay to follow a path that doesn't necessarily seem linear at the time, but can be linear, as you look back at it over your career, you know, but in terms of the strengths and or the, the challenges and opportunities. I mean, I think that you know, They all have different constraints that exist within them, right? So, you know, academics have quite a lot of freedom in terms of what they study and why they study it. But you also have to find the funding, that's going to give you the the monetary support that you need in order to do that work. And there certainly are shifts and changes that are occurring within funding landscapes, if you're interested in justice-oriented spaces, there is more money that's been available than, you know, has been certainly historically. So I think that that's something that's, that's wonderful. But you know, you're limited by what the landscape is, even if your creativity wants to take you to other places. I think that for the advocacy side of things, again, you're you're doing research in action, you know, it really is about, you know, trying to, you know, look at what the science is telling us and directing policy in that way. But you're also, you know, working with a larger, broader group of folks and policy, and politics can shift very quickly. And, you know, I think that it can be frustrating to see that the science isn't, you know, always the only thing that are that that folks are considering and decision making. And so, you know, really being able to balance those things out and understand, you know, the role that science plays. And then I think in the federal government space is certainly there's a lot that you no one can do in this work. And I think that all of the scientists within the government really are, you know, you know, amazing public servants, right, they're doing a lot to be able to, you know, increase the uses of technology, and identify ways in which we can get folks access to health care, all of these things. You know, but they're also limited by the priorities of the administration, the slowness by which, you know, government moves, which is a good thing you don't want to make that changes too rapidly. And so, you know, but I think all of these places, no matter where you end up, it doesn't matter what field, you know, it doesn't matter which you know, house or home, it is that you're, you know, living in, you have the ability to affect change in all of those spaces. And I think that's the thing that I've seen, you know, you have papers that you're utilizing in the federal government to help shape policy and you have advocacy groups coming in, to give you additional support and thinking about the ways in which to think about problems. So it's really an ecosystem, right? So the fungus is just as important as the apex predator, right? And so how how to see your placement, no matter where you are in advancing justice is the most important thing.

Brian Bienkowski

I don't know if you've experienced this, but I know in my career when I first started, you know, I wrote, I wrote stories about the Great Lakes. So you know, that's what I did. And now I'm talking to scientists about their work and advice. So your career really does evolve and change. And I think kind of accepting that and flowing, accepting that evolution is a key part of kind of career growth and professional development.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

100%. Yeah.

Brian Bienkowski

So you mentioned earlier, and you're not the first person to mention going to a program and being one of the only sees, and it's still shocking, perhaps I shouldn't be shocked. But it's still, you know, odd to hear that. So, you know, especially when we think about nonprofits, the environmental field continues to struggle with diversity amongst staff, especially in positions of leadership. So how do you think being a Black woman has shaped your experience in the field of public health? And have you seen progress on the diversity front as your career has progressed?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

yeah, that's such a great question. You know, I would say that the biggest progress that I see happening right now is that the field both within environmental advocacy, but I think within academia, also within the federal government, is that there's more of a valuing of lived experience, right? That expertise can come in many forms, it isn't always through, you know, specific academic pathways. And so, you know, in terms of the progress, I think that we are seeing that there are more seats that are being put at the table for folks to be able to join them, but those seats are still too few. You know, I would say that, I, my hope is that, you know, folks, especially young people, again, that, you know, that are coming up through the you know, their lives, whatever their experiences are, that are bringing them through these spaces, you know, see that there are opportunities to be able to lead, right that even if you don't see someone that looks like you, it doesn't mean that there isn't an opportunity there. And so, you know, I served as the the first chief scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council that it had had, and it's 50 year history. And, you know, I would have folks that would, you know, reach out to me and, you know, want to talk with me and, you know, want to be able to see how my path had evolved over time. And, you know, again, seeing them, you know, I just still feel like I haven't quite reached my grown up stage yet. And I need to, you know, admit that finally, I'm here, you know, I've arrived, right? So, if I'm not growing yet, I don't know when I will be but, you know, to be able to, you know, one know, sometimes it's okay to be the first at something, right? Because it does produce an opportunity for others to see themselves in that space. It's also I remember again, as a kid, I always wanted to be the second female president of the United States. And people would say to me, "well, Kristi, why do you want to be the second?" It's like, because that means that by that time, we've already had one, right, by the time I'm 35, like that, so okay. You know, I think that, you know, there's certainly a lot of work to do. And, but I think that, you know, ultimately being able to, you know, be there, you know, and to, you know, lift as you climb, right to ensure that you're, you know, bringing other folks around you that you don't have to feel as though or seem as though you're the, you know, the one of only because you can build a team around you that, you know, reflects the diversity of the country as well, too. I just think that there are lots of opportunities, that still exists for us to be able to ensure that, that multiple viewpoints are brought to the table. And, you know, I feel hope bending over for the future in that space.

Brian Bienkowski

I also think if you're doing this work, right, it's natural, right? I mean, we talked about kind of a community-centered approach. I'll just use our newsroom as an example. You know, we added a Houston reporter to cover Spanish-speaking audiences. So of course, you know, that's just gonna add diversity to our staff. But it's just because we're trying to reach the community where they're at. And I would argue that if you're doing this community-centered work, then kind of diversity of lived experience in people's is kind of a natural outgrowth of that.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

And it's expertise, right? I mean, we have to see that, yeah, so that's great.

Brian Bienkowski

So you've been at this for some time in a lot of different places, as we've talked about when it comes to public health research. So what keeps you up at night? And conversely, conversely, what gives you optimism? When it comes to health and justice?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Well, let's start with optimism so that we can be in a happy place first. You know, I would say, you know, I read a paper recently, that was talking about the integration of social justice into biochemistry and organic chemistry curriculum. Right. And, you know, and I was just doing some research to find out well, are people even outside of, again, what might consider you know, the the sciences that are going to be looking at these spaces, even thinking about the integration, and seeing this paper was really amazing in a number of ways. So one was that, you know, people were, like, when you look at the responses of the students in the class, they really, you know, were, their eyes were opened to the injustice that existed within the space. So one of their first assignments was to look up a Black biochemist, right. And to see, you know, one, like those that do exist, right, again, those examples, even if it's few, to be able to see them, but then to see the relative proportion of Black biochemist is relatively low to help them see the striking disparities that exist. But you know, when when they integrated social justice teaching into their biochemistry class, the students did better in the class. And I think that, you know, more people are starting to think about and integrate, even in ways that we might not expect them, you know, especially in the sciences, integrate justice into the ways in which they're talking about the world. And I think that the reason for that is because young people demand it. Right. I think that as you know, scholars and teachers, you know, our goal is to ensure that we're meeting people where they are, and I feel really optimistic that the, you know, current generations that are coming through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, are really, really demanding justice. Again, my six year old talks about how we need to, you know, get rid of all of the fossil fuels, you know, in our home, like, how can we get an electric vehicle? How do we, you know, think about what we're contributing to the Earth and really cares deeply about it. That gives me optimism. You know, I think that the things that keep me up at night, are that in many areas, environmental injustice is getting worse, right? If we think about that, not only in our country, but in our world where, you know, we're growing our extractive processes, you know, not shrinking them in the ways that we need to in order to have a sustainable future for ourselves and for future generations. And, you know, I think that if our if our trajectory is linear, right, then that means that we are headed in the wrong direction. Absolutely. But I think that, again, even to the turn that that thing that keeps me up at night, that if we're going in the wrong direction, you know, what can one do about it? I really think that young people that are that, you know, really are moving in ways that are demanding justice, gives me hope that our path forward isn't linear, but curved, right, and so that the arc of history actually does bend towards justice. And so hopefully, soon we'll meet meet that, that turning point, to be able to move us in the direction that we need to be able to move in. And so it's both up I feel optimism, but also, you know, fear and trepidation, with the trajectory that we find ourselves on.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, Christy, this has been so much fun, and even just in researching you in anticipation of this interview, it's been really great to learn about your work and what you're doing out there. So I really appreciate you spending time and telling us about your work and before we leave I have what I hope is fun, maybe it's not fun. I have three rapid-fire questions where you can just give me a one word or one phrase. And the final question. So are you a morning person or a night owl?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

I don't think morning people are real. It's a fiction.

Brian Bienkowski

I won't tell you because I am a morning person.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

No, no, not sure.

Brian Bienkowski

Maybe I'm AI. If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Jesus.

Brian Bienkowski

If I had a whole day free, I am most likely to

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Craft, craft craft! I love crafts. Forget about it.

Brian Bienkowski

Can I ask you what type of craft?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Oh gosh, I mean, I love a lot of everything. Recently, we're into watercolor pencils, like really just trying to think about how to, again, because I have a young child to see the world through his eyes, the things that he's able to create. I just love it. But we do paper crafts, yarn crafts, you know, fabric crafts, painting, sculpting, anything I can get my hands on, I have bins and bins and bins of craft supplies. And so, you know, much to my husband's dismay, I can't help myself at a craft store.

Brian Bienkowski

So my wife and I have started. She does. She's a tribal member here and does some beading. She does beadwork. And then we've started I've started doing some watercolors and I'm not good, but it doesn't matter. It's just a very relaxing thing to do.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

It really is. Yeah, oh, beading. I haven't done that. Okay, so now I'm gonna go. Yes, it's there.

Brian Bienkowski

So the last question, I've been asking everybody, and you don't have to confine yourself to one word or a phrase here. I'd love to hear about it. The last book that you read for fun?

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yeah, gosh, reading for fun is always a treat when one has it? You know, I would say. So the last book I read was probably "Our lady of Kibeho". It's a book about, you know, the recounting of Marian apparitions that occurred to you know, three young women in Rwanda before the Rwandan genocide. And it, you know, tells about, you know, the students and their culture and, you know, the ways in which, you know, the church has played a role in the shaping of that, that area, it was just really a fascinating read. I recommend it to folks. So yeah, that's good. Excellent.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, Kristi, thank you so much again, for your time, and I hope to talk to you again sometimes

Kristi Pullen Fedinick

Yeah, thank you. Likewise, Brian, have a great day.

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