Meet The Graduate Students, Class of 2020, part 3
This is part 3 of our Cohort 18 Graduate Student Introductions. Click to view part 1, and part 2.
After two months in the field, learning, getting to know each other, and taking many 90s band photos, the new graduate students from the Graduate M.Ed. Program‘s 18th Cohort have finally settled into their Residency in the North Cascades! Each member of our cohort will bring their unique backgrounds, experiences, and personalities to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center as they continue to learn and engage with our new home. In my work study position as blog post writer and editor, I’ve been tasked with continuing the tradition of allowing all of these weird, wild and wonderful individuals to introduce themselves.
Below is the third and final installment of a 3 part series, sharing with you a brief look at who we are, why we’re here, and anything else we think you should know about us. If you work or play around the learning center, you are likely to run into us, so take a few minutes to get to know us here!
In high school, I was fortunate enough to participate with an organization called the Student Conservation Association for three summers. Each year, I would fly to a remote part of the country and spend four weeks doing trail work in a National Park. I was fortunate to be placed in Grand Teton NP, Kenai Fjords NP, and Lake Clark NP. These experiences developed what I wanted to do with my life. I was astonished to have my learning style met for the first time; it was not something that was taught at my school. I realized that environmental education was the field that I needed to pursue.
My favorite experience at NCI was going on a 9 day backpacking trip with members of my cohort. There is something special about being out in the woods, in places that we’ve talked about, with only my gear on my back that brings a group together. It’s amazing to see more of this special place we live in!
The first time I had ever seen the state of Washington was this August when I packed up my life and made the four-day road trip from Virginia to start my residency in the North Cascades Park. Prior to moving across the country, I had been working as a youth development professional at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center teaching adventure, multimedia, and STEAM. While I was there, I realized that I really enjoyed sharing my passions for adventure and natural exploration with people of all ages and decided to pursue a M.Ed in Environmental Education.
So far, I have really enjoyed my time at the North Cascades Institute, as it has given me a great way to try new things and explore new places. My favorite experience has probably been the 9-day backpack that concluded our Place-Based Learning Course in September. I had never been backpacking before and was super nervous about the experience, however I realized that it is not an impossible task and that the experiences and views are almost always worth the long days of hiking.
For the rest of my residency, I am looking forward to working as the Youth Leadership Assistant and learning about the different teaching styles used in the outdoor education world at North Cascades Institute. You can catch me experiencing the amazingness of the North Cascades and watching movies when I’m not studying or sleeping.
I grew up in the East San Francisco Bay Area and have been drawn to wildlife and conservation since I was a child. I studied zoology at Evergreen State College and was able to study tropical biology in Ecuador and Australia as well as participate in marine mammal research. After spending time in the research and conservation world, I figured out that a lot of our messages aren’t getting out to certain groups of people. As someone who considers myself an environmentalist, I believe that the fight to conserve our environment is one that everyone should be a part of. I was drawn to this program because it combines my interests of conservation and public outreach. My goals include inspiring more African-Americans and other marginalized groups to get involved in conservation and environmental issues. I hope to increase access for underprivileged people in outdoor spaces and to get better at working with diverse audiences.
My favorite part of the residency so far has been observing ecological changes through altitudinal changes. It has been mind-blowing to see how the species composition changes is you ascend or descend in altitude, which we did a lot of on our 9-day backpacking trip. So far, I have made some fantastic ecological observations such as seeing my first ever merlin, seeing a moose run in front of our bus, and getting to hold a rubber boa that we found on the side of the road. I look forward to seeing what other organisms I will see throughout the residency and what changes I will see as the seasons change.
My hobbies include birdwatching, hiking, backpacking, and kayaking. I recently became a leader in the organization Outdoor Afro; an organization that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.
When people first meet me they usually think, “Wow! What a fun, extroverted person!” After they meet me, I like to run away and hide in my room to regain my strength. I have expended all my mana on casting charm spells, leaving me (read: the biggest introvert) completely exhausted. However, after recovering I will indeed interact with those humans again and again. Having been born from the shadows of anxiety, I struggled to emulate those wonderful (and definitely non-toxic) binary genders that all my favorite celebrities display. Instead I toil my days away as a non-binary specter, preferring to be referred to with pronouns like they/them. This toiling usually takes the form of long nature walks, providing me with ample time to will myself into preposterous situations. I have weaseled my way into many of these situations: performing stand-up comedy, acting, leading backpacking trips, singing opera, and being a summer camp director. Now it seems they have let me into graduate school, where I can hug all of the trees. It is my dream to always be a part of intentional, emotionally safe communities with dedicated purpose. For this reason I have become particularly enamored with the North Cascades Institute. I also like cooking!
Since we as a cohort began camping back in August I have had the opportunity to cook many soups, curries, and chilis. In my opinion, the pinnacle of outdoor cooking in our generation is the practice of making Thai food in the woods. There are many important considerations to peanut sauces and curries: What oil are you using? How much peanut butter is TOO much? Have you remembered to fry your pastes and spices before adding meat or vegetables in order to bring out the flavors? However, at the end of the day I would suggest that you simply have fun and accept that what you make will not in the end resemble anything you might actually order at a traditional Thai restaurant. This will not keep your foods from being any less delicious, in fact the unique nature of these dishes has greatly improved my time here in school. Some people tell me that graduate school is about keeping your head down and completing all of your assignments on time, but they have never floated upriver in a canoe. I have and it felt awesome, like seeing all of the members of Radiohead in line for frozen yogurt, but better. Thank you NCI!
In conclusion, the world is a beautiful place made better by all of us being in it, especially those of us working to bring people closer to the natural world; I know it, you know it, Aldo Leopold knew it, and Smokey Bear knows it, too. You may be asking yourself: “But Thumper, what can I do? They don’t even recycle in my hometown. How can I possibly make a difference?”
Connect yourself to the world, and all of its people.
By changing even just our own lives we all serve as wonderful role models for friends, siblings, lovers, distant cousins and weird co-workers. Be brave and love with reckless abandon. I will be right there next to you.
That’s All Folks! Thank you for reading all of our wonderful biographies, and keep a look out for us next time you visit the Environmental Learning Center!
So fun to read about each of your backgrounds and passions. I look forward to participating in your learning journey with you over the next year and half!