I didn’t plan on majoring in Environmental Studies, nor did I really understand what this major was. But after my first class with Dr. Rich Wallace, I was hooked. I began to see myself, my family, and the food that I eat everyday as part of a larger system that was shaped by my politics, environments, and cultures. As a double major in Environmental Studies and Sociology, my professors pushed me to see the connections between social justice and the world around me. This was fostered through readings in the classroom and community partnerships at Longview Farms and Gardens or with the Perkiomen Watershed Commission. I began to see how the theory I learned in the classroom could be transformed into the everyday lived experiences and projects implemented in our broader communities.
Completing an internship with the US EPA, which then evolved into an honors thesis really cemented my path to graduate school. I am now finishing my PhD in Anthropology with concentrations in Ecological Sciences and Engineering and Applied Anthropology at Purdue University. In my own research as an applied anthropologist, I work across disciplines to better address the challenges of global food security. I first learned the importance of being able to speak across disciplinary homes from my education at Ursinus. The Liberal Arts education, specifically fostered through the Environmental Studies Department, pushed me out of my comfort zone to be better prepared to address grand challenges with multiple people at the table. I gained the skills in being able to disciplinarily ground myself while understanding other people’s perspectives and how better to work together or find common ground.
I still carry my notes from Dr. Wallace’s Critical Thinking Capstone and Dr. Hurley’s Political Ecology course with me, and frequently reflect on these experiences at Ursinus. Without the rigor of these courses, research experience, and relationships with my professors I never would have gotten into this graduate program. Since arriving at Purdue University, I have been involved in four multi-disciplinary research projects that have brought me all over the world, most recently to Vietnam. I realize now that these courses were instrumental in building the skills to think critically on a research team, in the classroom, and in the field.