My name is Jaclyn Lucas and I am a current senior at Denison University. I am an Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Psychology.
Since the first semester of college, I have been interested in pursuing environmental studies classes and learning more about the department. Starting early, I was lucky enough to take classes from many departments that connected with environmental studies. It wasn’t until my junior year however, that I truly realized how involved I wanted to be with the department. I had just taken two of my favorite classes to date—environmental politics and environmental psychology—and I knew I wanted to keep learning more.
I spent the spring semester of my junior year participating in a coastal ecology and natural resource management program in Zanzibar, Tanzania. I gained immense field experience, learned about tropical ecosystems and marine life, and saw first-hand the strong connection between local communities and their resources. Every day was interactive and I was able to learn so much about the culture and the lifestyle of the locals, which varied so much between communities. In my final month on the islands, I was able to do an independent research project and camp on a very small island called Misali. It was about one kilometer circumference with no fresh water and no residents. One other student and I spent our time with the local fishermen who camped there as well, and the few rangers who rotated staying on the island. My focus was looking at their environmental education program, and seeing the shift from community based conservation to a government program. I interviewed locals and spent time talking to tourists, really understanding what this island means for their livelihoods.
At Denison, I was able to bring that research experience back and do a summer research study on nature learning. Professor Kaplan advised my project and I became even more interested in the elements of experiential learning. During my senior year, I did a research project on student preference when it comes to choice and learning styles. I was able to use my background in psychology and focus more on the education side of environmental studies. Throughout this time, I realized how much I wanted to continue being a part of experiential environmental education.
Within the department, I have now been able to work with other interested students as a Senior Fellow, and as the student representative on the department committee. It has been wonderful to work so closely with the faculty at Denison, and learn the process of developing schedules and discussing the goals of the program. I was further able to see the process behind hiring new faculty members as a representative on the most recent search committee. I learned so much about the time and effort put into bringing in new professors to the department, and it really helped my own ability to interview and apply for jobs after Denison.
Following graduation, I am lucky enough to be able to tie in environmental education and my study abroad experience. I will be working on Catalina Island off of California, as a marine science instructor. The Catalina Island Marine Institute is an experiential education program that focuses on bringing students and the outdoors together, while making sure there is a strong emphasis on academics. I will be able to teach about island sustainability, the local marine life, native plants, and exploring the environment with activities like hiking and snorkeling.