Kate Sheridan '08
Environmental History was the pivotal point in my time as an undergraduate. I had been a long-time environmentalist, in the vegetarian, Greenpeace t-shirt wearing way, but was looking for an academic discipline to channel that energy and interest. Environmental history provided a completely new and fresh perspective to looking at history - in terms of resource use and consequent migrations, rather than strictly political movements - and I became immediately enthralled with the ideas that appeared from studying Nash, Cronon, and Price. Environmental history also opened up the possibility of Environmental studies and the humanities, and I continued to take courses in environmental literature, environmental ethics, and specific environmental history courses.
In addition to this classroom and library-confined experience, I unexpectedly discovered farmer's markets and a delicious local food culture while studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I worked weekends for an organic farmer in markets throughout Dublin, while learning a
great deal about Europe's perspective on local food, talking to people about food and cooking, and discovering the joy of doing something tangible as a complement to academic work. I combined these ideas into an independent study course upon my return to St.Olaf entitled "Humane Environmentalism."
Since graduating from St.Olaf, I have worked as a basil hand-harvester on an organic farm, taught environmental education, and served two terms with AmeriCorps, one in garden-based education, and one in community food security. I also had the opportunity to present my independent study research at an Environmental Humanities conference at Portland State University, as well as the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment's biannual conference. This fall I will be enrolling in a Master of Science in Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana. Like St.Olaf's undergraduate program, this will allow me the freedom to explore interdisciplinary environmental issues, while focusing my passion and experience specifically on sustainable food systems and writing. I am proposing a course of study that will examine bioregionalism and food culture, in the hope that we can create viable models for the way we eat, that are also appropriate to our geographical location. After Montana, I will either continue writing and research through a non-profit organization, or enter a PhD program in the Environmental humanities.
Regardless of the outcome, I plan on growing a garden and ensuring that there is always dirt under my fingernails.
Kate enjoys a little backpacking journey with family at Mt. Hood.