Tatjana Washington is a flurry of positive vitality and enthusiasm, especially in regards to her passion to make the world a kinder, more just and healthier place.

A senior biology major and environmental and sustainability studies minor, Washington is all about personal productivity and taking steps every day to advance the issues and initiatives that are important to her – sustainability, social justice, healthy eating and animal rights, to name a few. She wants to become a veterinarian.

This past fall semester, she was busy launching a student chapter of the Stone Soup Collective, a local nonprofit focused on food insecurity and providing access to healthy plant-based food, a diet that she fervently espouses.

Last spring, she served as site leader for a social justice–themed trip to Annapolis, Md., as part of the Center for Civic Engagement’s Alternative Break Program. Her job was to plan all aspects of the trip – from creating the travel itinerary and lining up guest speakers and activities to adjusting for weather-related delays (it snowed and iced over while they were in Annapolis). She also had to keep constant track of the 12 students who took part in the trip, held in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which works to address pollution issues in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

“We learned about water contaminants, what’s happening to the water, what’s happening to the marine life in the water, the decline of oyster and crab populations and how human influence is affecting the decline of marine life,” she says. “We also learned how we can take it back and make a change in our community and carry some strategies back to Charleston and teach other people.”

Chris Ciarcia, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement, worked closely with Washington as an adviser on the Chesapeake Bay trip.

“She is the definition of an active citizen, an individual who places the community as a priority in his or her values and life choices,” says Ciarcia. “The thing that made Tatjana such a strong site leader was her passion and her ability to lead by example. A lot of the students who went on Tatjana’s Alternative Break last year are now applying to be site leaders this year.”

It’s hard to see how Washington finds the time, but she is actively involved in several other groups and activities across campus. She is president of the Vegan Club, a lead sustainable nutrition intern for the Office of Sustainability, a Sustainability Literacy Institute ambassador and a student employee for the Stern Student Center and Office of Campus Recreation.

“I just need to be busy,” she says. “I don’t like to sit still.”

Featured image: Tatjana Washington. (Photo by Gately Williams)