After graduating in May 2014 with my BA in Environmental Humanities, I knew it was time to move my career in sustainability forward. So I applied for an internship through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for a position at a National Park in Vermont. During my phone interview, an SCA recruitment officer asked me: “Why do you want to connect people with nature?”
The perfect question. My response was: “I love nature, I love everything about it and I so desperately want to save it from a human-created demise. That being said, I don’t believe the world will try hard enough to save it unless it sees the environment as I do, as a nurturer. I want to dedicate my life to showing people to love our environment, so they will try as hard as I do to save it.” Or something along those lines. (It was probably crunchier; I was having a moment.)
In my response, I went so far as to quote Earth In Mind, a book by eco-critical author David Orr, which was included in the Sustainability Studies Program curriculum I followed at Stony Brook University. I find Orr’s work not only completely eye-opening, but absolutely inspiring. I find peace with his words and consolidation in his thoughts. Yet it’s incredible to think that I probably would have never read his work if I had not been exposed to it in my studies at Stony Brook.
My answer to the SCA recruitment officer’s question was very much inspired by David Orr, but also by my Sustainability Studies Program professors. Not only did they give me direct inspiration with reading lists, but they served as the actual muses themselves. Dr. Jessica Curran is the reason I still keep a journal, have a blog and write haikus for fun. Dr. Heidi Hutner is the reason I got into activism. She taught me a new kind of passion, a protective and honest passion.
What’s funny is that before I was asked that question during the interview I would not have been able to tell anyone what I specifically wanted to do with my life. But that question was all I needed to realize that I wanted to go into environmental education. Now I am an interning as an environmental educator for N.Y. State Parks, providing experiences for people to have with nature, hoping that these experiences will lead them to love the environment as much as I do.
When people ask me about my experience at Stony Brook University I am not one of those people who complain about classes being too big or professors not knowing my name. That was not my experience. When I talk about Stony Brook I speak of how tight-knit my program was, how my professors not only knew my name but knew my dog and had my phone number. I talk about how I would get a text about a county legislature hearing happening the next day, and my professors would tell me to go, speak up: you must go out and make your voice heard if you’re going to change the world.