Class Year: 2019
Hometown: Alameda, California
Major: Environmental Studies
Extracurriculars: College Outdoors Trip Leader, Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) Tutor and Representative, Writing Center Tutor, Student Leadership and Service Project Coordinator, Geospatial Project Analyst for Watzek Library
Overseas study: New Zealand Spring 2018
What three words would you use to describe L&C?
Creative, interdisciplinary, critical
What has been your favorite class so far? How has it expanded your knowledge?
I really enjoyed Spatial Problems in Earth System Science with Assistant Professor Jessica Kleiss. It is the class where I really learned how to put Geographical Information System (GIS), a mapping program, into practice and it really challenged my spatial reasoning ability and my perseverance as it is largely a trial and error process. I love maps and the power of spatial data to tell a story, and the different ways this spatial data can be displayed to highlight inequities. I am really glad I persevered through the learning curve so that I can build off of this knowledge in the rest of my academic career and into the real world. However, I also love the interdisciplinary requirements of environmental studies because I can connect this quantitative reasoning to other classes like The Political Economy of Food, Culture and Power of the Middle East, Global Environmental History, or Climate Science. What I have loved most about my studies is finding and nurturing the connections between seemingly disparate subjects.
“What I have loved most about my studies is finding and nurturing the connections between seemingly disparate subjects.”
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
I really liked the idea of small class sizes and a liberal arts education in which I could engage critically in a wide variety of questions with my peers. I was also really excited to be in Portland and be surrounded by so much beautiful nature.
Describe your experience as a SAAB tutor, and what you most like about the role.
It has been really interesting and rewarding being a SAAB tutor this year for the Digital Scholarship site and also the core environmental studies courses. I always like being behind the scenes and as a tutor, I get to work directly with both the environmental studies faculty to shape the direction that our program takes and also help peers through classes and projects that I have struggled through in the past. I like this aspect of paying it forward, but more than that I learn so much from working through problems with my peers and learning about what other students are working on and are interested in. I see it as more than a form of academic support—since environmental studies is often tied so closely to our passions—I also see it as emotional support, doing my part to create a community where we learn from and with each other.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?
I love how many hikes and outdoor spaces are at our fingertips!
Where do you find community on campus?
I find it in people with common interests, like social justice and service at Student Leadership and Service, or outdoor education at College Outdoors. I also find it in my housemates and friends, and in the library when everyone is stressed, but at least together!
Do you have a job on campus? If so, how do you fit work into your schedule?
I have several jobs on campus but I really like to keep busy. I would say if you want a job, try to find one that you are passionate about or where you at least like your coworkers. Finding jobs on campus is great because they very much prioritize your responsibilities of being a student and understand the stress of doing that.
In what ways did you change as a result of your ENVS major?
As cliché as it sounds, ENVS has definitely made me question all of the passions and ideals I took for granted coming in to college as a self-described environmentalist. In ENVS 160, my uncomplicated thoughts on “inherent” goods, such as outdoor recreation or ethical consumerism, were very quickly complicated. I was asked to think critically and find the gray areas in ideas that are often presented as black and white. While this was overwhelming at first, over time I gained tools from classes across many disciplines, to grapple with these questions and ultimately to be comfortable in gray areas. ENVS excels at creating questions and then asking students to explore those questions from different perspectives and approaches and then to come up with ideas informed by these complex experiences. Because of this education I am confident in my ability to figure things out even if they begin as unfamiliar, and to dig deeper and ask good questions.
What were the biggest challenges to you in ENVS that ultimately were worth the effort you put into them?
One unique aspect of ENVS is our digital scholarship component. Every student is asked to create a website as a digital portfolio of our work and our learning process. Digital scholarship at times seemed inconsequential or frustrating, to be putting a lot of effort just to speak into the void of the World Wide Web. However, as I look ahead to post-graduation life, I am extremely grateful for this portfolio of all of my work and thoughts throughout my classes to have something to show the world for my four years. I am grateful that the ENVS program is thoughtful about what skills students need as they enter into the world beyond LC, and how to bridge the divide between academia and the world beyond.
How did you weave your experiences outside ENVS (e.g., an overseas program, an internship, a course in another department) into your ENVS major?
One of the classes I took, Spatial Problems in Earth System Sciences, turned out to have nothing to do with my thesis or concentration at all. However, I have used the tangible skills I learned there—spatial reasoning and GIS mapping—in many internship experiences that followed. Because of the GIS skills I learned, as well as the confidence in “figuring it out” that was instilled in this class, I have worked to create a geospatial resource database for Watzek Library, an interactive map of renewable energy stories for Environment Massachusetts, data analysis for humanitarian response and agricultural programs at the international NGO Mercy Corps, and projects on strategic environmental planning for the organization 1000 Friends of Oregon. My tangible GIS skills, as well as my ability to approach problems from multiple perspectives, and to combine technical skills, with writing, analysis, and critical thinking have proven invaluable in these experiences.
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?
I am proud that I completed it, for one. I am proud that I was able to combine my passion for environmental justice and indigenous rights, with my interests in land management, and my experience in New Zealand. I have always struggled with having too broad and too many interests; the whole world is so fascinating! And so, I am proud that I was able to do interdisciplinary research that ties in so many interests, and still say something concrete and meaningful at a local level.
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?
Environment Across Boundaries could also be the tagline for my life. I want my passion for environmental studies to be able to cross boundaries of disciplines, activism and academia, and real-world interconnected issues. One particular way that I am carrying this forward is through my position next year with the criminal justice reform organization Promises of Justice Initiative in New Orleans. In this organization I will be working in a direct service role to provide resources to incarcerated folks and their families. I am passionate about the ways that criminal injustice and environmental injustice intertwine, such as prisons as sites of environmental pollution and toxic exposure. I hope to be able to pursue this interest and advocate for change by creating maps highlighting this connection and interviewing incarcerated individuals on their experiences with these environmental harms.