Be a go-getter! Most of the communities I’m a part of and the opportunities that I had were because I went after something even if I was feeling uncertain about whether I should try.
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
When I first visited campus, it felt like a place I could belong and build a close community. The small class sizes and relationship with professors was important to me, and the extracurriculars and opportunities for students appealed to my interest in doing good for the world while having fun! Over my four years, I have appreciated my new friends, finding new spaces that allowed me to grow myself and foster new interests and skills, and being able to utilize the many opportunities Lewis & Clark provides, as I pursued my interests in sustainability and responsibility of businesses.
In what ways did you change as a result of your ENVS major?
Throughout my time in the environmental studies major, I have gained a more holistic understanding of the environment and the ways in which people interact with their environments. I’ve always been an institutional thinker, believing that problems should be addressed from a high level, and ENVS helped me weave together individual and institutional-level approaches. Additionally, ENVS helped me dig deeper into the meaning of the standard phrases—such as environment, sustainability, responsibility, and ethical business—that are commonly used in communication of environmental studies. As a fourth-year, there isn’t a sustainability or environmental certification, program, and branding campaign that I encounter that doesn’t make me want to question the context embedded within the terms being used.
What were the biggest challenges to you in ENVS that ultimately were worth the effort you put into them?
Similar to how the program changed me, something that I continue to struggle with is the use of specific and intentional words. Being specific when communicating what sustainability means, or what environment entails, is difficult. Sometimes I feel like the more commonly used a word is, the harder it is to define! So, getting clear and intentional in the complexities that exist within my interests has been important for me to pay attention to.
How did you weave your experiences outside ENVS (e.g., an overseas program, an internship, a course in another department) into your ENVS major?
Being a double major with international affairs really helped me focus on the international aspect of the environmental studies discipline, while my political economy minor helped me consider the role of economic policy that shapes the world we live in (as a first year, I don’t think I recognized the importance of economics). The ENVS approach is already interdisciplinary, but my second major and minor helped to frame my own understanding of ENVS within domestic and international paradigms. Additionally, I have collaborated with Amy Dvorak in the Sustainability office to complete the school’s sustainability audit—this helped expand my technical skills and further develop my interest in implementing ENVS into a career.
What is one thing you’re proud of in your ENVS capstone you just completed, and where do you think it may take you in future?
My ENVS honors capstone project, titled B-ing a Better Business: Examining the Effect of B Corp Certification on Responsible Business Practices in Portland, Oregon, studied the landscape of recertified B-Corps in Portland. I was interested in answering the question about how effective the B-Corp movement is in incentivizing continued effort of businesses to act responsibly. Not only did this original research provide new information about aggregate trends in Certified B-Corps, but it helped me understand my own relationship to such voluntary efforts. As I seek jobs related to corporate responsibility, this capstone project will help me find the benefits and failures of such movements. My hope is that I can continue this work trying to improve the standards by which our environment and workers are treated by large corporations.
Bringing this all together: how does the phrase Environment Across Boundaries apply to your own experiences in ENVS, and what will you carry forward from these experiences as you take next steps in your life?
For me, Environment Across Boundaries was exemplified in my coursework within ENVS core classes, my independent and grant-funded Dinah Dodds project examining the impact of sustainability certification on coffee farm workers in Arusha, Tanzania, and my use of WordPress and digital scholarship within the Environmental Studies Program to communicate my projects and the process I followed.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Be a go-getter! Most of the communities I’m a part of and the opportunities that I had were because I went after something even if I was feeling uncertain about whether I should try. Not everything works out—I certainly hit my fair share of dead ends. But I also found communities that supported my interests and passions. Also, to prospective students that don’t have a “passion,” I would tell you not to worry. I enjoyed taking classes in different disciplines—I had no idea I was interested in political economy (or knew what it was!) before attending L&C, and it’s become an integral part of the way I see the world today.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?
I love all the greenery and how bikeable the city is. There’s a lot of great bakeries and coffee shops. It’s been really fun living in Sellwood, across the river from campus. There’s a bunch of other LC folks here too, and we have created a really great community off campus.
How did you decide on a major?
I knew I was interested in environmental studies, which was one of the main reasons why I came to L&C. I wanted to protect the environment and the uneven impact that environmental issues have on different communities. However, after I took an IA class sophomore year, Human Rights and International Politics, I realized how important the international aspect was to this lense of environmental and social injustices. Between IA and ENVS I was able to create an academic experience that wove most of my interests together, and provided the most opportunities to develop new interests and lenses to view the world with.
What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?
I have a lot of great memories! I think memories from your first year always have a tint of rosiness and awe to them, and I certainly had a blast on my New Student Trip with College Outdoors, where I met one of my best friends (and housemates today!). Also, presenting my independent research at Festival of Scholars junior year was rewarding—to take a pause from the daily grind and share my work with my friends and family and the school at large was really special. Though finishing my senior year with online classes during COVID-19 and completing both of my theses at home was pretty unexpected, it has been meaningful to create new forms of community (thank you Zoom and porch visits!) that instill some of the Lewis & Clark spirit.