May 16, 2019

Keeping the ENVS Spirit Alive

ENVS alumna, Charlotte Copp ’18, explores the field of GIS.  She is currently a GIS intern for the City of Lake Oswego.

It’s now been a year since I graduated from LC, and I am regularly working to hold close the values that I learned in the ENVS major in all of my professional opportunities. Currently, I am working as the GIS intern (Geospatial Information Services),  a temporary position at The City of Lake Oswego. I first applied in the fall of 2017 as a senior at Lewis & Clark, knowing that I would not be able to work the job if I got it. But coming back in 2018 and applying for the internship again caught their eye: they noticed the improvements in my resume and the additional GIS work that I got to do in my thesis (cough-cough to any current ENVS majors).

I didn’t really know how GIS professionals work in real life, but I’d like to think that I have adjusted to it well. At Lake Oswego I have worked on countless projects: I have made several utility atlases and an address atlas, I have made an ESRI story map to update the Parks and Recreation website, I created a layer with every traffic-signal asset in the city, and I am currently working on a canopy cover analysis of the city in preparation for a LiDAR flyover this summer. While it hasn’t been super exciting every day, this internship has challenged me in a great way to learn about something I didn’t have a lot of interest in (city utilities) using a tool/methodology that I AM really interested in (GIS). What I am missing most in this job is the feeling like I am making an impact on the greater good; instead, I am making an impact on how the gears are turning inside the city. Will any of the work I do directly affect policies that are being put into place related to climate change (my main academic interest)? Maybe—but that path of influence may take a few years.

While not entirely ENVS-related, I am also a rowing coach at Pacific University in Forest Grove. I rowed at Lewis & Clark, and during college I worked with the coach on team logistics and competed at a pretty competitive level while being able to completely submerge myself in everything ENVS. Now, being able to coach at Pacific has fulfilled my need to work on a well-knit team. While my main source of income may change over the next few years, I can confidently say that coaching will be consistent and remain a high priority in my life.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on my college journey, which was longer than just my four years at LC. From my high school guidance counselors saying that LC would be out of my reach, to having family friends saying it wouldn’t be worth the money, I was worried about my match with Lewis & Clark. But after graduating on the Dean’s List, being able to study abroad, writing a thesis that I am immensely proud of, working closely with professors and peers in the ENVS Program, and winning a bronze medal at the biggest regatta on the West Coast, I can say with confidence that I couldn’t have imagined myself at a different college. I have, because of Lewis & Clark, become a part of something bigger than myself—and that is something that I will value for the rest of my life.