Steven Pignato ('15)


Why did you choose Environmental Studies as your major?

I enjoy learning about natural processes. I like to think of the field of Environmental Studies as like a big puzzle, because of how interconnected everything within the natrual world is.  I also really enjoy learning about how these different areas of the environment interact with one another, especially how we as humans interact with the environment and how that interaction effects the natural world and our own culture. Environmental Studies is also very relevant to my personal life, and career-wise it applies to a variety of fields, which is really beneficial because it will allow me to be able to choose from a variety of career choices. It is also truly rewarding to see the results of what we are learning in the classroom out in the field. For example, in a class from previous semesters, we learned about how wildfires change the ecostystem, and then we were able to take a field trip to view the effects of massive wildfires in nature. Overall, a major in Environmental Studies opens doors to a variety of employment opportunities, especially here in Minnesota.

What has been your favorite Environmental Studies classes and why?

Integrated Environmental Science was by far one of my favorite classes because the professor presented us with information in an interactive format. In addition, Food, Gender and Globalization was another one of my favorites because I learned about topics that are applicable to my daily life.  For example, we were taught in detail about our global food system and how it has changed in response to population increase and modernization. 

What is the best part about being an Environmental Studies major?

Environmental Studies is a major that applies to so many different employment opportunities and the field is booming; so I don't feel as pressured in choosing a specific career path.

What advice do you have for future students?

If you are interested in the Environmental Studies major, I would suggest taking Environmental Studies courses that also satisfy common curriculum requirements.  I would also say that if you are unsure if you do want to become study Environmental Studies, take a course that sounds interesting to you so that you can get a better grasp as to what it is Environmental Studies majors do, in terms of academics.

How did your study abroad experience relate to your major?

The theme of my semester abroad in Austria, Environmental Ethics in a Global Context, correlated perfectly with my major. We studied different views and perspectives about nature and the environment and read classic environmental literature, such as Aldo Leopold's Sun Country Almanac. It was really remarkable how politics like, for example, zoning, and the environment correlated. In addition, we learned about the variety of differences in environmental practices in North America and Europe during field excursions to the Black Forest and a German Lumber Mill, whose policy was to never cut timber at the full capacity it was designed to in order to preserve the forests. It was also great to learn how to function as a minority in a foreign society, live within and adapt to another culture, and learn how to be more tolerant towards others, which is really applicable to being able to interact well in the professinal world.

Where did you complete your ENVR 397 internship?

My internship was through the National Resources Consrevation Services, or NRCS, office in Elk River.  The NRCS was created after the end of the Dust Bowl with the goal to educate farmers well enough so that something that environmentally horrific does not happen again.  I really enjoyed being able to work with this group of people, they were all very kind and enthusiastic about being able to help farmers learn new ways of being able to preserve their topsoil so that they may be able to be continually productive years down the road.  I was also able to experience how a federal program operated, which was an experience in of itself.     

What are your future plans and goals?

I'm still trying to figure out what I would like to do after graduation. I am considering working in the fields of agriculture, energy or environmental politics.