Looking back to think forward in my academic pursuits

My environmental studies education has been all over the place (in a good way).  After all, that is what defines my major as interdisciplinary.  Along with my core courses, so far I have also taken Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, Investigation in Ecology and Environmental Science, Climate Science, German Topics: Humans, Animals and Nature, and Environmental Engagement.  There has been extensive overlap.  In multiple of these classes I have worked on researching environmental topics, concept mapping, environmental communication, using GIS and Xcel, along with so much more.  In both climate science and Bio-141 I learned about earth cycles such as the carbon cycle.  Tragedy of the commons and the anthropocene have come up in almost every ENVS course I’ve taken so far.  Furthermore, since taking Intro to Environmental Studies, different perceptions on the environment – which were first introduced in this course – have also come up in just about every other course I’ve taken.  I’ve especially enjoyed learning about using concept maps to connect key processes and actors, as well as learning about GIS, and ecological topics, especially urban and freshwater ecology.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed working on my concentration.  I am constantly interested when doing research for and talking about my area of interest, and am excited to develop it further in preparation for my senior capstone. I was able to connect Gabby and Jesse’s thesis’s to what I want to do with my own frequently when I was reading them.  Their thesis’s gave me ideas and inspired me to work hard.  I especially appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of both, and I aim to do the same with my research this semester and next year.  What impressed me the most, however, was the professionalism and care of Jesse’s methods. Hedonic price analysis is very difficult for numerous reasons, and he addressed he did well with this method despite its limitations.  After reading his thesis I am especially motivated to challenge myself with methodology in my research.

Reading Jessie’s and Gabby’s thesis’s was very beneficial to me, but by far the most helpful activity so far this semester (the past three weeks) in helping me figure out what I want to do with my own concentration/capstone was reading another art double major’s (Chelsea Ambrose’s) capstone.  Her paper had elements that I now know I want to incorporate, and that I now know I don’t.  For starters, I’ve been wondering how to situate art for a while.  It’s not easy to choose a specific place, especially when the genres discussed in environmental art tend to be very niche and dispersed. I was very drawn to her use of situating ecofeminism in the context of 2 artists, as well as her comparison approach; she showed the two artists in stark contrast to one another.  The opposing examples work well.  I enjoyed reading Ambrose talk about artists/works I myself have already researched for my own concentration, such as Ana Mendieta and The Spiral Jetty.  She does a good job of defining terms, and getting narrower by starting with a broader discussion of ecofeminism and the role of art in emotional communication.  Furthermore, she has an extensive section on further research, which I haven’t seen before.

This is part of Ana Mendieta’s “Silueta” Series, a project both I and Chelsea Ambrose studied separately.

I definitely learned from reading elements of her paper that didn’t sit well with me as well.  I noticed, especially in her introduction, an issue I have experienced with a lot of scholarship I have read about environmental art.  I like to call it “mushiness:” positively opinionated attitudes towards art as a tool that are general and not clearly grounded in research. Later on her analysis of ecofeminist art becomes more grounded, but this still happens a little.  For instance, at one point she says “religion and belief in a higher power are highly persuasive tools; religion and religious beliefs have unalterably shaped the face of human history,.” (20)  While I agree with this statement, and probably just about everyone does, it still needs to be grounded in evidence.  I am aware that I read Chelsea’s thesis with a more critical eye than I did for Jesse’s and Gabby’s. She shares the same major as me and I knew more about the topics she was discussing.  This being said, I learned the most from her thesis.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Rachel Aragaki says:

    As a fellow double-major, I’m really intrigued by your review of Chelsea’s thesis. It’s reminded me that I, too, need to ensure that my evaluations are grounded in research, especially in an artistic field of study. Additionally, I’m really interested in the German Topics class that you took. Did you happen to discuss either Memoirs of a Polar Bear or Rings of Saturn? I attended a guest lecture that included some brief discussion of both books, but I’d be interested in hearing some more in-depth analysis and maybe some opinions, since I’ve yet to find and purchase translations.


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