Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


Environmentalists Abroad

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    Senior environmental studies major Leah Jones was one of the first students to take advantage of Southwestern's new Environmental Fellows Study Abroad Program.
  • News Image
    Leah Jones took this picture of a anti-nuclear power demonstration under the Brandenberg gate in Potsdam during her semester abroad in Berlin. Jones took advantage of her study abroad experience to examine “green consciousness” in German society.

New grant program helps students pursue study abroad opportunities with an environmental focus

As an international studies major, Rachel Freeman never had a chance to take environmental studies courses at Southwestern. But when the opportunity came up to combine public policy and sustainability, she jumped at the chance.

Freeman was one of the first two students to participate in Southwestern’s new Environmental Fellows Study Abroad Program, which offers $5,000 scholarships to students who want to participate in an environmentally focused study abroad program during their junior year. Five scholarships are awarded each year, and the scholarships can be applied towards any expenses related to travel, room and board, tuition and fees for more than 40 approved programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

“The scholarships are particularly valuable for students whose financial aid might not transfer,” said Laura Hobgood Oster, a faculty member in the Environmental Studies Program who helps select the scholarship recipients along with faculty member Melissa Johnson and Sue Mennicke, director of intercultural learning.

Freeman spent the fall 2010 semester participating in a program on comparative ecology and conservation offered in Ecuador. She spent most of her time in Puyo, Ecuador, which is located near the southern part of the Amazon. Freeman did an independent research project that involved a political analysis of the region’s watershed policy.

“Without the grant I would not have been able to go to Ecuador,” said Freeman, who hopes to pursue a career in public health.

Southwestern was able to fund the Environmental Fellows program through a grant it received in 2009 from the Kendeda Fund.

During their senior year, scholarship recipients are expected to share what they have learned from their study abroad. At a recent meeting of Southwestern University’s Board of Visitors, Freeman and the other initial participant in the program, Leah Jones, shared their experiences with Board members.

Jones, who is an environmental studies major, spent the fall 2010 semester participating in a metropolitan studies program offered in the former East Berlin. Her research examined “green consciousness” in German society. Her observations in Berlin led to the topic for her capstone project, which focuses on what is at the root of Germany’s “green behavior” and how such an environmental ethic could be instilled in the United States.

“The scholarship definitely helped me,” said Jones, who hopes to pursue a career in environmental organizing.

Four students studied abroad in spring 2011 with funding from the program. Katherine Castles attended a program in India, Jillian Curran attended a program in Spain, Zoe Martin participated in a program in Senegal and Vanessa Toro participated in a program in Costa Rica. Whitney Moore will be attending the same program in Costa Rica in fall 2011.

Other students selected to receive scholarships for the fall 2011 are Kathryn Campbell and Kalyn Chacon. Campbell, who would like to pursue a career in environmental law, is going to study in a program offered by Alliance India titled “India: Sustainable Development and Social Change.” Chacon, an animal behavior major who hopes to pursue a career in field research, will participate in the School for Field Studies Wildlife Management Program in Kenya.

“This program offers a golden opportunity for me to experience a large-scale field research study, and perhaps discover a place or an animal that I would like to study further in my professional future,” Chacon said. Chacon said she also is excited about the prospect of taking a course in Swahili, the native language of Kenya.

Two students also will be studying abroad this summer thanks to funding from the program. Harrison Glaser will attend an environmental studies program in Quito, Ecuador, and Kira McEntire will study about the management of coral reefs at the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos.

For more information on the Environmental Fellows Study Abroad Program, visit Applications for the spring 2012 semester are due Oct. 1