During the last two days, Thursday and Friday, August 30th and 31st, I had a general orientation for the entire graduate school at Brown, as well as a specific orientation for the Center for Environmental Studies (CES). Both have gotten me extremely excited about the start of classes on Wednesday, the other students and professors in my program, my own course of study as well as my future after completing the program. At the CES orientation I finally got to meet the other students. In total there are 8 of us, from varied backgrounds, social as well as educational. The most important thing, however, is that in addition to being extremely engaging, smart and passionate, I can already tell that it will be easy to make friends with all of the students. So from that perspective alone I feel happy because I now have eight new friends, colleagues and collaborators.
But that’s not the only reason why I feel happy: the program happens to be fantastic as well. This first semestre I will be taking three classes; a seminar that all incoming students are required to take, and two classes of our choice. The seminar is entitled Carbon Neutrality: fact and fiction (Separating Environmental Good from Not so Good in a Complicated World). In this class we will get to work with real clients, who have come to us to find out 1)what it means to be carbon neutral, 2)Should they and how can they become carbon neutral? and 3) Is it feasible? The three clients are an NGO, a corporation and the city of Providence. We will divide into three teams of three, each one assigned to a particular client. In the end they will, in part, base their decisions on our findings and recommendations. The best part is that this is truly cutting-edge stuff. For my other two classes, I am thinking of taking a class called Sustainable Design in the Built Environment, as well as perhaps a class in Geology or International Relations. We are all encouraged to really push ourselves to figure out what we want to do when we leave the program and then choose those courses that will help us get there.
Personally (and I am sure this will change over time) my present thinking is that it would be very interesting to do work on International Sustainable Development, possibly in Latin America. I definitely want to be at the nexus between social and environmental issues; something that enables me to empower people to improve their lives and their ecological surroundings at the same time. I’m sure that my approach to doing this will evolve, but that’s basically my starting point as I enter the program.
In addition to working really hard in my classes and pushing myself to learn more, question conventional wisdom, and the like, I hope to continue logging a lot of good, solid miles on the bike. This morning, for instance, I did a brutal 55 mile ride with three other really strong riders. What was hardest about the ride was the fact that we were practically sprinting the entire way, and I was often either on the front of the group of initiating the attacking. Well, I can definitely feel it in my legs now!
So on Wednesday I begin this new, challenging and exciting path towards being a scholar, a researcher and, most importantly, someone that is actually out in the field working on real projects that have bearing on the direction humans take going into the future. Can anything be more inspiring than that?