Students cover environment from A to Z

15 CSB and SJU students wrote submissions for environmental encyclopedia edited by Professor Matt Lindstrom

November 18, 2011

By Mike Killeen

The contributor section to the "Encyclopedia of the U.S. Government and the Environment: History, Policy, and Politics" lists 128 names over four pages.

It's a lengthy list, befitting a reference book of almost 900 pages spread over two volumes. But if you take a closer look at the list, you see a collection of names alongside all the experts that might surprise a few people.

Fifteen undergraduate students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University contributed essays to the encyclopedia, published in 2011 by ABC-CLIO, the largest publisher of reference materials. The encyclopedia was edited by Matt Lindstrom, Edward P. Henry Professor of Political Science at CSB and SJU and director of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at SJU. Four members of the CSB/SJU faculty also contributed to the encyclopedia.

 "We have fantastic students who are very good writers," Lindstrom said. "Since there was an opportunity to edit and improve their writing and work with the students, I thought it would be a good experience for students to take a crack at this."

"As a research junkie, I jumped at the chance (to contribute an essay)," said Brittany Werner, a CSB senior political science major from Hastings, Minn. "I thought that the idea of having a sort of 'one-stop shop' for information about environmental policy could be extremely valuable."

"I decided to write this because I wanted to take advantage of the rare opportunity to have my work published," said Dan Wolgamott, an SJU senior political science major from Elkhorn, Neb.

The reference book explores the interaction between the federal government and environmental politics and policy throughout the nation's history. It's intended to serve both students and scholars as a comprehensive source of nonbiased information about environmental policy issues.

"The students did mostly 250-500 word entries, and since it was an encyclopedia, it's all about the facts," Lindstrom said. "It's descriptive writing. They (the students) were able to gather the facts and write them up. I thought it would be an accessible project for the students."

Lindstrom tried to match students with areas they were interested in. Werner, for instance, wrote about the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive. Students were paid for their essays.

"My main area of interest is environmental policy and how it is enforced by the bureaucracy, so looking at the office that heads up these types of projects definitely fell within my interests," Werner said.

Students saw how the publishing process works from researching the topic to writing the essay and then going through the editing process.

"I learned the importance of using solid, legitimate and verifiable sources," Wolgamott said.

Lindstrom said the feedback he received on the student's work was "very positive."

"It's a fantastic recognition of the quality of the students we have," Lindstrom said. "I also think this opportunity speaks to the fact that the students have access to their professors, in a way that at a larger university, they just wouldn't have."

Students also received a nice addition to their résumés.

"I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to submit items to a published work," Wolgamott said. "Doing so has given me confidence in my writing abilities and legitimizes me as a strong and able writer. Whenever I'm in an interview and I get asked about my writing skills, being able to play the 'I'm a published author' card packs a powerful punch."

Werner was told her publications section of her résumé was impressive for someone her age.

"It's definitely a unique (experience) for an undergraduate student, and something I would like to highlight to future employers and graduate school, if that is a possibility," Werner said.