The capstone I drew together, a thesis titled Environment as Plural Public Realities, is a culmination of my learnings over the last six years—four in coursework at Lewis & Clark College, plus two years out of school which, as I can explain, have been just as formative.
Graduating high school, my first decision was to take a Global Citizen Year (GCY). Similar but not identical to a study abroad program, this NGO-hosted program for high school graduates involves a 9-month immersion into a host community, housed within a 12-month cross-cultural leadership curriculum and fellowship. Much like Peace Corps volunteers (used to be), placement is determined by GCY…I was placed in Ecuador, and ended up living my time with multiple host-families in the Andean and Amazonian regions of Ecuador, and traveling as much as I could to other corners of the country during my few allotted travel days.
Living in host family with an initial language barrier required a lot of patience and courage, and apprenticing at rural water development organization had me witness that what I had previously thought was the most important aspect—the technicalities of a functioning potable water system—were so wrapped up in social and political relations and communication. I see that time as formative in giving me burning questions that ultimately motivated me taking a path to the ENVS capstone for finding theory to make sense of the elaborate environmental relations I’d seen.
That time we were out GPS’ing springs for installing piped potable water…
…and I had to convince my coworker I didn’t want to bring home the endangered species to eat for merienda (dinner).
That experience was also formative in personal ways: I gained grit, empathy, cross-cultural communication, and asking rich questions. It put listening at the center of what I continually try to practice, and core to who I want to be. The core courses in ENVS I would end up taking—particularly the inaugural Environmental Engagement (ENVS 295) and Environmental Theory (350) were crucial to forming my thesis outcome.
In Ecuador, the trajectory of my undergraduate career changed, too. Whereas I had been dreaming of the natural sciences and engineering, within the add-drop period (first two weeks) of my freshman first semester on campus, I was enrolled in Introduction to Physics…but something didn’t stick. By chance, a day before add-drop ended, I found myself knocking on the door to Professor Maryann Bylander’s door asking about sociology. Fast forward five years and we’ve worked together and my ENVS thesis has been influenced by how I’ve learned to practice looking at social forces in the world.
As a double major, I had little room for enrollment in electives outside of meeting Environmental Studies and Sociology/Anthropology requirements. Unfortunately, a few of those (which is a large proportion) I don’t look back on as being that interesting or helpful to my trajectory—at best, they helped show me what I was *not* so interested in!
5/8 semesters done, I decided to take another year away from classes to live and learn at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center as a garden intern and community member. This brought me back to life in a lot of personal ways, and motivated me to leap back into my remaining 3/8 semesters at LC. By the way, the featured photo (behind title) of this blog post is four delicious varieties of pea that my garden-mates and I grew and harvested in late summer, 2018.
These last 3 semesters have packed a powerhouse of influential breadth courses shaping my capstone. The most crucial of which was Public Discourse, a rhetoric and media studies (RHMS) course with Professor Kundai Chirindo. Theory on the public sphere that was introduced in that course became the cornerstone to the theoretical framework of my ENVS thesis, which has amounted to a somewhat novel contribution into the field of environmental theory.