Graduate Profiles

What are you doing now?
I am currently working with the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota as a Farm Field Manager. In collaboration with my boss, a few interns, and some new WWOOF volunteers, I help to grow a portion of the food served in the kitchen on the campus. While the farm is currently only able to produce about 30% of the total vegetables needed, the long term goal of the site is to produce all of the food eaten by campers and staff on the organic farm.
How did you get there?

I started my relationship with Wolf Ridge in 2019, when I served as the Farm Intern. I had never experienced any farm work before, and was very lucky to have worked with people who were not only experienced and enthusiastic, but were able to help teach and encourage me. I completed my undergraduate thesis research on some of the challenges that the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm is facing, and offered up potential solutions. I applied to come back to the farm as the Field Manager, and began my position there in June after graduating.

Can you share any exciting experience or opportunities you have had, and how they have benefited you?

The farm has had to adapt drastically during the pandemic. Instead of serving campers, we began a CSA share program that was open to staff and employees. Additionally, we began serving wood-fired pizzas on Friday. Orders were open to any member in the surrounding communities, and most of the ingredients were grown on the farm, or made with farm produce. Additionally, my coworkers and I were able to sell frozen pizzas, pesto, sauce, and dehydrated veggies at the local market. Though my experiences between my internship and my full-time employment differed, I learned that small-scale organic farms are extremely adaptable. It is so exciting to know that farming expands far beyond the daily tasks of planting, pruning, and harvesting!

Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?

While I find the natural sciences incredibly intriguing and important, they are not the subjects that I naturally excel in. I am much more inclined to understand the world around me in terms of how I interact with it. Environmental Studies gave me the opportunity to explore the complexities of man’s relationship with the environment. I got to tailor my academic experience to incorporate humanities courses as well as those in the natural sciences. In short, I got to explore and excel in the subjects that I was most passionate about while simultaneously being challenged to learn outside of my comfort zone and become a more well-rounded and informed lifelong student.

What activities, courses, and groups that you were involved in at CSB+SJU did you find most valuable when applying for jobs/school after graduating? Why? 

There was no singular activity that I found to be the most valuable, either to my individual growth or post-graduate “success”. Rather, it was a culmination of the many (sometimes too many) opportunities I took advantage of over the course of my four years at CSB/SJU. I sought out any opportunity to travel and/or meet people that challenged my own experiences and beliefs. More than anything else, that attitude, and the places and people I experienced as a result of it, made me the applicant and the person I am now.

What was your internship experience while at CSB+SJU? What skills did you have from courses and the department that qualified you for the position, and what skills did you learn?

I interned at the Steger Wilderness Center during the summer after my sophomore year of college. By that time, I had only begun to understand the history and complexities of my relationship with the world around me, let alone that of my peers and the people who have come before me. That being said, I had been taught and encouraged to be passionate and curious. Throughout that summer, I learned a variety of trade skills like stone masonry, woodworking, and gardening. I was further challenged to learn from and teach individuals with jarringly different life experiences and assumptions about the world around them. I left the Steger Wilderness Center with a more structured idea of what I wanted from a future career as well as a renewed patience and understanding of how my studies applied to life outside a classroom.

What did you do after graduation?

Immediately after graduation, I moved to New York State to work as a trip leader, and now an environmental education program instructor, for Frost Valley YMCA. I gained experience working with children from a variety of backgrounds instilling curiosity and excitement for the natural world. I learned powerful lessons about myself in the process. In just more than a month, however, I will be moving to the tea plantations of Sri Lanka through the Fulbright organization to teach English in a community with little accessibility to traditional education. Stay tuned! I can only imagine the challenges and lessons I will encounter there.

What advice, if any, do you have for current students on being successful on campus and in life after college?

Be curious!! Learn from a variety of people and be patient with yourself (and others). Take the time to listen and ask thoughtful questions. Say three words: “Tell me more.” Seek out opportunities and experiences that will challenge you. I can’t prescribe a tried or true method of graduating college or finding a job because I hardly know how I did that myself, but those are skills that seem to have helped. They are also skills that I firmly believe have made me an overall happier person.

Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?

I became an Environmental Studies major after taking my First Year Seminar class on sustainability. It opened my eyes and the semester after I changed my major.

What about your Environmental Studies degree did you find to be most valuable when preparing for post-graduation life?

How interdisciplinary the courses were. One class would be focused on reading and discussion while another would focus on research and analysis. The balance was a huge proponent for me. They’re an amazing outlet and are very patient.

Briefly describe your internship experience while at CSB+SJU. Who did you intern for? What did you do while at this internship? What courses set you up to be successful in this position and what did you learn?

I interned at Minnesota Street Market Co-op in St. Joseph! I basically learned what a food and art cooperative was and how to effectively run the store. The whole thing was completely new to me- but I met a ton of amazing students and locals who made that experience a special one.

Were you involved in any activities, clubs, organizations, Alternative Break Experiences, and/or study abroad programs while enrolled at CSB+SJU?

I was an Eco-Haus member at both Marmion and Tholl, the manager of the Saint. John’s Greenhouse down on Lower Campus, and I also helped with mindful meditation club. I studied abroad with Professor Timmerman and a solid group of biology folks in Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. There we studied with members of the Tiputini Biodiversity Research Station and then headed to the Galápagos Islands to work on group research. Mine specifically focused on Damselgish and their impact on algal diversity in shallow waters.

What did you do immediately after graduation?

After graduating I headed out to Europe to volunteer for WWOOF (worldwide opportunities on organic farms). I traveled through Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. From there I hopped jobs throughout the Twin Cities- from large scale sustainable farms like Tangletown Gardens to Urban Organics, an indoor aquaponics farm.

If it differs now, what are you currently doing?

Currently- I am working as a Senior Park Aide at Like Kiln State Park in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Don’t be afraid to take chances. Enjoy life to your fullest potential. See the world! Put yourself in uncomfortable situations.

“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all. If you make a plan, life never works out that way.” -Kang-Ho Song (Parasite, 2019)

Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?

Initially I wanted to be outside and was intrigued at what the broad interdisciplinary topic could offer. I was hooked after one class and loved the variety of classes in science, policy, history, geography. natural resources and economics.

What activities, courses, and groups that you were involved in at CSB+SJU did you find most valuable when applying for jobs/school after graduating? Why?

I was involved in the Peer Resource Program, Collegebound, Nordic Ski team, Inaugural UNFCCC Cop 21 delegation, and worked at the Outdoor Leadership Center and Outdoor University. The most beneficial courses I took were GIS, Sustainable Urban Planning, Conservation/Natural Resource Management, Environmental Politics/Policy, Research Seminar/Thesis and all of my courses in Economics. The intersection of class work, research, and personal development via club involvement is incredibly beneficial. I developed many valuable skills in leadership, communication, event planning, marketing, collaboration/teamwork and financial management while working with various clubs and organizations. Additionally the technical skills and independent research conducted in advanced courses gave me great topics to discuss in a cover letter and job interview that helps set me apart. Lastly, a rudimentary understanding of economics and it’s various applications in any field can lead to insightful and impressing conversations with professionals.

What was your internship experience at CSB+SJU? What skills did you have from courses and the department that qualified you for the department you for the position, and what skills did you learn?

I interned at the CSB Office of Sustainability. I brought skills from introductory classes in environmental studies and sustainability as well as a background in economics and my environmental/natural resource economics class. I spent most of my time compiling the college’s greenhouse gas inventory which included gathering data in various forms and metrics, organizing data, making calculations and preparing everything in a final report. I also focused on development and financial management of the Full Circle Greenhouse and campus events promoting sustainability and local foods. Through this I gained exposure to various professionals in the industry and within the college administration. I also learned about the steps to producing professional reports and documents.

What did you do after graduation?

I moved to Denver, Colorado where I worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at their National Operations Center. I was a part of the national Socioeconomics team and worked with Economists, Anthropologists, Recreation Planners, and Natural Resource Managers to conduct socioeconomic analyses on various natural resource and recreation projects on public lands.

If it differs now, what are you doing and how did you get there?

Now I work for the Three Rivers Park District as an Outdoor Recreation Specialist. I worked as a seasonal employee at Three Rivers throughout high school and college and when the opportunity came to return full time I knew it was the right decision. My programming experience at CSB/SJU, independent research, and experience with the BLM helped set me apart and contributed to my experiences. At the park district I have worked in various supervisory positions within many different park reserves and regional parks. On a daily basis I collaborate with staff in natural resources, planning, finance, public safety, and human resources.

What advice, if any, do you have for current students on being successful on campus and in life after college?

Use your thesis as an asset when applying for jobs. It can be a great tool to research, network, and contribute to a topic or field you are interested in working in. Get involved in a few groups, clubs, or organizations and seek out leadership opportunities. Get to know your professors and take advantage of the alumni network. Find the right balance between interdisciplinary research, coursework and technical skills that will help set you apart. Take advantage of undergraduate research opportunities and funding available to travel to conferences for gathering research or presenting. Matt Lindstrom’s classes and the McCarthy Center are great networking and professional development resources. Most importantly, find something you are passionate about and advocate for yourself.

Why did you choose to major/focus in Environmental Studies?

I knew I wanted to work in the environmental field even though I wasn’t quite sure what I envisioned my “career” to be while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree.

What activities, courses, and groups that you were involved in on campus did you find most beneficial when applying for jobs/school? What skills were taught that got you to where you are today?

I strongly feel that all of my environmental studies courses were instrumental in my career path after CSB/SJU. In particular, the internship and thesis requirements were two of the most beneficial for applications to jobs and graduate school. Other courses that were benefical included my math and science courses since I pursued engineering for my graduate degree.

Activities that were beneficial to my career path included my study abroad semester in South Africa, involvement with CSB Senate, and student employment and involvement with the Leadership Development Team. I wish I had been more involved with outdoor leadership during my time in school.

I’m not sure if I can pin down all of the skills I gained during my time at CSB/SJU but I feel as though a liberal arts degree really helps develop interpersonal skills. Other skills include, but are not limited to, project coordination, organization, perseverance, and critical thinking.

What did you do immediately after graduation?

Immediately after graduation I interned with the U.S. Senate for a few months. After my internship I moved to New Zealand for a year where I began outdoor guiding. I then worked in the environmental education field for a number of years before beginning graduate school.

If it differs, what are you currently doing and how did your career path lead you there?

I am doing very different things from what I did when I was a recent graduate, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am now an environmental engineer that focuses on water quality engineering, specifically permitting and compliance work. I work for an environmental consulting firm in Duluth, Minnesota.

After working in the outdoor guiding and education field for a few years, I decided I wanted to go back to school to pursue more of the “technical” background to what I was teaching. I ultimately ended up pursuing a M.S. in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in water resources.

What advice do you have for current students when it comes to being successful on campus and in life after college?

Never be afraid to pursue something that seems far out of reach. Networking with those you do and do not know can open doors you might never expect.

Additional advice and comments:

I am happy to discuss my career path and time at CSB/SJU with anyone who is interested. I could not have taken the path I did without asking others about their own career pursuits.

Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?

A good education is one that emphasizes asking and exploring good questions. As a freshman in college, I liked the kinds of questions that the Environmental Studies department was asking, and I was compelled to see where those questions led. Ultimately I chose to major in Environmental Studies because I thought the program had good leadership. I was impressed by the faculty members who were part of the department, and excited by the prospect of building a degree around their expertise. The Environmental Studies department felt fresh, dynamic, and relevant. Most importantly, faculty in the department seemed cognizant of the world beyond CSB/SJU, and they devoted time, energy, and thoughtfulness in helping me learn about that world, navigate it, and eventually venture out into it.

What was the most important aspect of the Environmental Studies coursework/curriculum?

The ES department did a good job keeping things focused on the student. They help students use the curriculum to create a comprehensive program of study, relevant to the student’s interests and future pursuits. I loved the field-based exploratory nature of many of the courses I took. I also appreciated that this field-based learning was balanced with more academically rigorous coursework. Students are exposed to different social sciences, biophysical sciences, and humanities. More importantly, the ES program teaches students that there are many ways of thinking and generating knowledge. My degree taught me a lot of scientific humility, which has served me well in graduate school.

Were you involved in any activities, such as clubs , organizations, Alternative Break Experiences, and/or study abroad programs while enrolled at CSB+SJU?

The most transformative aspect of my undergraduate experience was easily the semester I spent in Northern Brazil with the School of International Training (SIT). It wasn’t a program operated by CSB/SJU, but the ES department was incredibly supportive, urging me to go, and welcoming the perspective that I brought back. I chose to minor in Classical Greek. Many may not see a connection between Classical Greek and Environmental Studies, but to me, the classics are essential to any liberal arts degree. Classical Greek was my true passion project at CSB/SJU. The ES department was nothing but encouraging of this pursuit, seeing in it the same benefits I saw.

What did you do immediately after graduation? 

Following graduation, I enrolled in the US Peace Corps. I was sent to Ghana, West Africa. I lived in a fairly rural community close to the border of Cote d’Ivoire. My experiences in Peace Corps were both rewarding and frustrating. I wanted to better understand the nature of the problems I was encountering before I continued to work towards their solutions.

Following 2 ½ years in Ghana, I returned to Portland, Oregon, where I began working for the World Forest Institute as an administrative assistant. At any given time there are dozens of pretty impressive researchers working on problems from all over the world. I didn’t have the greatest of positions, but I was positioned well to meet interesting people. Those connections have served me well. I met folks who helped me transition into a research position with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research StationMost of the research I did, and continue to do, has a communities and natural resources theme.

If it differs, what are you currently doing?

Currently I am pursuing a PhD with the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. I’m in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, a department with a variety of different disciplines, including social sciences (my orientation). In particular I study the effectiveness of natural resource based development interventions at promoting resilience in socio-ecological systems. My dissertation focuses on one particular development project – STEWARD (Sustainable and Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development) which is located in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. I’m not sure where I will go, or want to go, next…but I’ll just have to see where things take me.

Do you have any advice for current CSB+SJU students?

Obsessively follow, and hold on to, effective mentoring. Favor opportunities that come with great mentoring. I stumbled into a humble and low paid research position that came with a great mentor – my boss. My boss recognized my skills and interests, and never failed to advocate for me, giving me opportunities that would help me in the future, and pushing me to take on more responsibility. Derek Larson and my classics professors continue to be important mentors in my life. We’ve stayed in touch, we email back and forth, and when I need advice, or moral support, I can email any of them. They’ve written me meaningful, personal letters of recommendation that have helped set me apart from other applicants to various positions and schools.

Good mentors can provide opportunities for you, help open doors, and teach you skills that make you more marketable or improve your resume. Good mentors give more than advice. The best mentors are people who teach me enough so that I can give myself good advice. Finding them is not always easy. But the potential for good mentoring should always be on your mind. In grad school the degree you get is maybe a quarter of the value of your program. The people you meet along the way – including other students – that’s where most of the value is.

“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all. If you make a plan, life never works out that way.” -Kang-Ho Song (Parasite, 2019) harvesting!