The MWCE aims to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic, and social factors influencing them. With this podcast, we’ll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke College is doing to address our environmental impact, and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work and mission.
Check back as we release more episodes and keep an eye on our social media for announcements. You can listen to the episodes below or on this page. Episodes will be made available on your favorite streaming service soon! If you have questions about the podcast or thoughts for future episodes, you can contact us at email@example.com
Episode 1: Introduction to the MWCE
Episode 1. Introduction to the MWCE
Welcome to the inaugural episode of The Miller Worley Center for the Environment Podcast! In this episode, Community & Sustainability Coordinators Hareem and Adrianne talk to Dr. Olivia Aguilar, the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College.
Olivia shares her path to her current position and her vision for the center, as well as why centering justice and building community are vital to environmental efforts. She discusses what she sees as the most pressing issues facing us in this time of rapid climate change and the global pandemic, in addition to what actions we can take.
- “Diversifying the Environmental Movement Isn’t Enough” by Olivia Aguilar
- “Are We Prepared for a Climate Crisis in the Middle of a Pandemic?” by Olivia Aguilar
- “Environmental Groups’ Greatest Obstacle May Not Be Republican Opposition” by Zack Colman
- BOOM! Building On Our Momentum: Community Day
- Campus Living Laboratory
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Episode 1: Transcript
Olivia: [00:00:00] The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn, work, and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck, neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North. Recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities, we work to honor and respect the history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land as we also work to steward it. Hello and welcome to the Miller Worley Center for the Environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors influencing them. On this show, we'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke College is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work.
Adrianne: [00:01:27] I'm Adrianne. I use she her pronouns and I'm a biology and politics major as well as a Community and Sustainability Coordinator at the Miller Worley Center. And I'll be one of your co-hosts today.
Hareem: [00:01:39] Hi everyone. I'm Hareem. I use she, her pronouns. I'm an economics major and also a Community and Sustainability Coordinator at the Miller Worley Center with Adrianne and I'll be our other co-host today.
Adrianne: [00:01:51] Over the next few episodes, you can expect to learn more about the Miller Worley Center and our work on campus. So for our first episode, we'll be talking to Dr. Olivia Aguilar, who is the Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment at Mount Holyoke College, quite a, quite a hefty title. Um, we want to just talk about your work on campus and beyond.
Olivia: [00:02:17] Awesome. Thanks for having me.
Adrianne: [00:02:19] Yeah.
Hareem: [00:02:19] But to start off, we'd love to tell you a bit more about the Miller Worley Center in case you're not very acquainted with our work. So the Miller Worley Center is dedicated to engaging Mount Holyoke students more actively in the scientific, social and global dimensions of environmental study. We believe that it's students who are well-grounded in the liberal arts, who have the greatest ability to address environmental challenges in responsible, just and equitable ways. The Miller Worley center enabled the students to make connections across disciplines and point of views that help us understand the concept of environment more broadly at work community and lives, as well as tackling the world's most complex issues as environmental leaders.
Adrianne: [00:03:04] And our guest today is the director of this wonderful Center. Dr. Aguilar's teaching is interdisciplinary by nature. She often examines both the science and the human dimensions of environmental issues. So her classes are often experiential and community-based including her most recent course on food equity and empowerment. Similarly using her background in horticulture and natural resources and education, her research crosses many fields and areas of study often falling at the intersection of community, race and transformative learning in environmental education. Specifically, she examines how and why environmental, science and learning communities are exclusive and how they can be more inclusive of groups, often marginalized. Her current research involves collecting oral histories from people in the Latin X community to reframe the normative discourse on what it means to be outdoors for an upcoming book.
Hareem: [00:03:58] Hi, Olivia, thank you so much again for joining us. We're so appreciative that you were able to make the time.
Olivia: [00:04:05] Absolutely. Thanks for inviting me. This is exciting.
Hareem: [00:04:08] Yeah, of course. And I think we were talking about this the other day that you joined Mount Holyoke in January, 2020, and just within like a month and a half, we all went virtual. And I can't imagine how challenging it must have been to start a new job that you're very excited about in a setting like this, particularly a job that is, so community focused where you do want to interact with students and other members of the Mount Holyoke community. How are you doing? How are you managing everything?
Olivia: [00:04:37] That's so sweet of you to be concerned for me, because I can't imagine what you all are going through as students, but you know, I'm hanging in there. I'm doing fine. It is difficult to move to a new place in the midst of a pandemic, especially because people, luckily I think here in Massachusetts, take it very seriously, and so quarantine has been for real and we really don't see people well outside of our home. And then even if I come to campus, you know, I shut my door and sort of stay in my office by myself. So it can be a little bit lonely, but I feel like that's just what people around the globe are experiencing right now, you know, this is just the way of the world right now. But luckily, as you both know, we have sort of managed to keep things going at the Center virtually. And I think that this podcast actually is a great example of how we decided to try to be creative and engage people while being virtual and wanting it to be inclusive as much as possible and thought that like, oh, maybe we'll try something other than just programming or finding ways where we have to be together in a space that we could actually do something that would allow people to access us wherever they're at. So yeah, the pandemic has been challenging in a lot of ways, but It's also forced us to be a little bit creative, so that's exciting.
Adrianne: [00:05:51] Yeah, we're super excited to have you as part of our community, even if we aren't able to meet in these traditional formats. So to start off, we wanted to know if you could tell the listeners a little bit about your journey here, what sparked your interest in the environment and sustainability in general?
Olivia: [00:06:07] Yeah, it's a long journey, um, because you know, I'm middle age. So, I feel like it's been, it's been quite a journey to get here, but I think in my interest in environment and sustainability, I've been working on this as part of my book project and, what I've really started to recognize through interviews with other people is a lot about my own past. I collect oral histories from people about their experiences in the outdoors and how they grew to be interested in being outdoors. And I realized through some of those interviews that I have a lot of connections that I didn't even think about growing up in terms of being outdoors and having these interests in the environment. So, you know, I just think about my grandmother who was always outside and had so much knowledge of the land. She lived in South Texas. And so things like rattlesnakes and how to deal with Javelinas and how to make her own wine. And then pass those things down to my father, who I feel like I learned a lot of that stuff from what berries you could pick on a walk and eat. And when you knew a rainstorm was coming, those sorts of things. So I think just this wanting to have this connection through my family and to the land has sort of always been tugging at me. And I'm more and more realizing that now, as I do these interviews for the book, but also I entered college and I really didn't know what I was going to do. And again, that interest somehow tugged at me and I ended up majoring in horticulture and that's a long story, but as I was in that major. I really took to the sciences and I was in the sciences and then I entered into a natural science field and recognized that there weren't a lot of people that looked like me in my field.
So that was a point that became really interesting for me to explore and find out more about that. So really since entering horticulture in the sciences I've always really been interested in the intersections of, of race and ethnicity and the sciences and particularly the environmental sciences and studies as a path into the sciences.
And then from that, I would say my interests have gone beyond just those connections into really what do we do in the environmental field for BIPOC communities and how are we addressing issues like racial justice in the environmental field. And so that actually is what brought me to Mount Holyoke. So sorry for the long story, but I randomly got an email from Professor Hoopes here saying that there was this position that was open and, you know, would I be interested in applying? And I was at another small liberal arts college and was very content really had no reason to go anywhere, but this Center was really intriguing to me. And what was this center all about? So I talked to my partner and told them that I got this random email and he was like, well, you don't, it doesn't hurt to like check out what the Center is, you know?
So I was like, yeah, maybe I'll call her and just ask her what this is all about and called her and started learning more about the Center. And what really intrigued me was the, the desire for the Center to bring issues of diversity, equity and inclusion to the forefront of what the Center does. And because that's really at the heart of what I'm interested in, it seemed like a really cool position and so fast forward, I just ended up applying. And I got the position and I'm here and it's been really exciting.
Hareem: [00:09:20] Well, we're very fortunate to have you and all the wealth of experience that you bring to our school. And, you know, because we work with you, we see you being involved in literally everything, you know, you're so focused on literally everything that's happening in the Center, whether it's social media, whether it's event planning, but for those people who don't know very much about what you do, can you tell us a little bit more about your role as director of the Center?
Olivia: [00:09:44] Sure. So the Miller Worley Center for the Environment is really the hub of what I call the curricular and the co-curricular around issues of environment, sustainability and justice. And so when I think of the curricular, like we try to support faculty and we start to support departments and including environment sustainability and justice aspects of the curriculum in the classroom. And then we also support students in a wide variety of ways. And then co-curricular, we really try to connect things outside of the classroom, like speaker events or the Campus Living Lab, and I'll talk about that here in a minute, or sustainability initiatives on campus to, you know, the student's lives. So the whole aspect, but how we connect to the students, like we're really the hub for that. So, I see sort of three branches of the Miller Worley Center and I call them, and you can see it in the website, but I call them leading, learning and living. And so leading for me is really this, the student piece, like how are we supporting students to be environmental and sustainability leaders, both on campus and off. So we try to support students in a number of ways through research grants that they can apply for, through internships. We also support conference, travel and attendance. There's a number of ways we support students, but those are the big three things that I can think of. And then we also have obviously the Community Sustainability Coordinators that do so much work. Adrianne and Hareem are representing right now. And then we have the living aspect, which is sustainability and what we do in terms of sustainability on campus, anything from recycling to composting, and then big things like right now, we're working on a energy master plan for the campus. So that takes up a big aspect too, of what we do. And then with the learning piece that Campus Living Lab is really the hub of that. And connecting really everything on campus to, again, the curriculum and even the co-curricular, but how do we learn from, and using campus as a living lab? So those are the three areas. And my job as director is to really try to coordinate all three of those areas, you know, make sure things are running smoothly in supporting the staff that run those three areas. So making sure that they have the resources to run those areas effectively. In terms of like being involved, yeah, I really am excited about the call to bring diversity, equity and inclusion into the Center. And so Adrianne was here when we talked about sort of reenvisioning our mission and bringing issues of justice to the forefront of the Center. The other big piece of what I do is really having a vision for the Center and trying to see that that infiltrates all of the areas of the Center as we move forward and think about initiatives and events that we want to do in the future.
Adrianne: [00:12:24] That's a great way to conceptualize all the different aspects of how the environment and sustainability show up in our lives. So speaking about DEI and diversity in the environmental movement, this is something you've written about in the past, and we'll link to one of your articles on truth out in the episode description. So, we're wondering if you can share any suggestions of where and how to start diversifying the environmental movement so it isn't primarily these quote, white middle-class citizens on a do gooder mission. How might the movement change or how has it changed when people with different backgrounds have had more say and influence.
Olivia: [00:13:04] Yeah, it's a good question. And it's a perennial question. I think. I think there's been a long history of exclusion and environmental movements, and that's been documented enough at this point and there's a lot out there that you can read and then you're right I did that op-ed and talks a little bit about it too. And also, I just want to point out when I typically, if I write an op-ed it's because I'm very upset or frustrated about something. So there's, there's usually a bit of emotion in them. Um, but taking a step back from that, I think about what organizations have done and what they could do better. Luckily, enough organizations, mostly environmental justice organizations, I would categorize them as, are taking enough initiatives on their own to really be inclusive and really be the voice for BIPOC communities. And I think that social media has played a role in that, you know, being a place where people have access to information, have access to resources, can find other people that are interested in the same things they are and can find people who are activists. So social media has been, uh, played a big role in terms of activism. And I think that that's allowed a lot of communities of color to be involved in ways that they probably weren't able to be involved in before, because we had these big mainstream environmental organizations that essentially were exclusive. And again, this has been documented enough, there's been work on those, what we'll call mainstream environmental organizations, there's been work in them to diversify, but even Politico came out with an interesting report that there still is a lot of tension and friction in some of the upper levels of these organizations around race. And so you sort of have to wonder when they will finally make the adjustment that needs to be made to really be inclusive in the way that they need to be inclusive. And so one of the things that when I get asked sometimes from organizations, well, what can we do to be more inclusive? And, and I would just say the things that I always look for are to see who's making decisions at the top and what do they look like? And I also look at mission and to see how the mission is really addressing the needs of BIPOC communities. And it doesn't have to address like every need of every BIPOC community, but attending to justice is critical at this stage. And so if organizations aren't doing that, I wonder if they truly understand the needs of BIPOC communities. And then if their mission isn't quite there yet, I also ask how willing is your board or your, the people making decisions, to change that mission and address the needs of communities that really, I would say are not only dealing with these issues on a level and scale that others are not, but also that have continually been marginalized by some of these things.
Adrianne: [00:15:55] Absolutely. And we'll leave a link to that report in our episode description, for those of you who are interested in reading more.
Hareem: [00:16:02] Olivia on that note, you know, when you think about the pandemic, I think COVID-19 has exposed so many inequalities and concerning patterns that have existed in our societies and you actually wrote an essay which I really enjoyed, and we're also linking that in the description, about the relationship between climate emergencies and migration. And you asked, are we prepared for a climate crisis in the middle of a pandemic? Can you tell us more about what problems you see in our current system? How, in your opinion, we can address them. And why do you think it's so urgent for us to act on this?
Olivia: [00:16:38] Yeah, this is such a, um, uh, it's almost like a sad question for me right now, just thinking about Texas, because it, so I'm from Texas. But when I wrote this, I can tell you, I was at the kitchen counter in Amherst, down the road from us. I was staying at somebody's house and, you know, we had just gotten into the thick of the pandemic and I was thinking to myself, what is this going to look like when, cause I knew it would be when, when we have a tragic climate crisis or a tragic incident related to climate change this year? I mean, we have them every year now. Right? So. I just was worried. And again, this is why I write op-eds when I have major concerns. So I was feeling worried and I think in it, I haven't read that for awhile, but I think in it, I was saying we have to start thinking ahead and really plan how we're going to bring people into shelters, how we're going to provide resources for people when we're supposed to be keeping, you know, six feet apart and keeping social distance and quarantining and these sorts of things. So I don't even think in my head, I had a vision of exactly what it would look like. I think I was sort of asking the question, like, what is this going to look like when we have a climate crisis? How are we going to handle it? With the hopes of, and this is my continual hope that has never come to fruition, but with the hopes that somebody would read this and say, yes, let's plan ahead. And unfortunately, I just feel like we never plan ahead when it comes to climate crisis and we are always reacting and we are not being proactive when it comes to this. And yet we know every year, we're going to have some situation. Now, that being said, I'm not saying that Texas absolutely needed to know that they were going to have this deep freeze. I think that part was really difficult to know, and that they, you know, should have known what to do and in this kinds of weather, they're not prepared for it. Again, I'm from Texas. Like we don't even have the right coats for something like that really, you know? So that was totally out of the realm I think of a really even grasping what they were going to come to terms with. But I do think we can be prepared for when people are going to have to leave their homes, when people are not going to have water available, when people are going to struggle with access to food and just basic necessities and resources. I think we need to know what shelters are going to be available and how to prepare shelters for people and again, where we're going to have water. And one of the things that really gets me when I see those images of people at home is the long lines to get water. And I don't know if either of you reads much like climate fiction, but in some of the books that you read, like this is what is described these like lines for water as we enter more and more into climate change catastrophe. So that worries me. And I think we just need to realize, like it's a reality and you know, I try not to be like doom and gloom and I try not to be drastic, but I think we need to recognize that it's a reality. We're going to have situations where people are not going to have resources and we need to be prepared for that. So I guess in terms of the problems I see the, the main problem is that we are not prepared and we are not planning ahead and for whatever reason, I think there are still government officials that are not taking this seriously enough.
Adrianne: [00:19:53] Yeah, I think you you've hit on all the points we wanted to talk about. And what's happening in Texas is something I deeply empathize with as someone from California where we've had our share of just year after year, increasingly worse wildfires. And so there, I feel like even with a little bit of increased awareness, like we know there's going to be fire season, we still don't see adequate support. We don't see adequate government preparation. So obviously this is a huge issue that we need to be thinking about more. So what would you say to students who have hopefully felt a little bit galvanized by what you've been talking about today and who want to get more involved with environmental movements or even with the Miller Worley Center specifically?
Olivia: [00:20:32] The answer has a lot of arms. Obviously, you can make individual changes to address climate change. And I think everybody sort of knows that and that's been what we've been taught through school and growing up. And so I'm not going to spend too much time on that, but we could eat less meat for instance, right. And we could waste less food and et cetera. And then, you know, in terms of our studies, studying technology, studying how we can be prepared for things like this, if you're interested in policies, or if you're interested in government, you know, how do we prepare environmental law? Like really interesting things I think to study, I think the future around how do we deal with climate change is going to be huge. And so I think those are a lot to study and invest in there, but then there's some other pieces that I think are really big that often go overlooked. And I tell all of my students this. And so I'll say it again, but we have to be engaged in the political system. We must be actively involved in voting and voting at every level, not just in the presidential race, but voting for your local representatives all the way from people who are engaged in city planning, cause that's actually going to be what, impacts whether your city is prepared in these types of climate disasters, making sure that you are knowledgeable about people on the ballot and then that you are voting in a way that, you know, will help not just protect your community, but also being prepared for these sorts of things. So that is, that is huge for me. I tell all of my students, we have to be engaged politically because I think it's just a great example to see just going from one administration to another, how drastically they can change environmental policy for our entire nation. I mean, I think, I just don't think we give it enough credit, how much political representation matters when we're talking about these types of issues. It's huge. So that is for me almost number one, the other tie, and this is I think, less obvious, but maybe as I talk about it, it'll become more so is the importance of building community. So Adrianne, I don't know if you were ever in my office, but in behind me right here on my little whiteboard, it says, um, how are you building community today? And that really, I think is how I try to think about the Center and what we're trying to do, because I was just recently watching Bill Gates on 60 minutes. And he was talking about how much he's investing in green technology. Um, all sorts of things really that he thinks will help us manage climate change. But he said also, you know, we're going to need global cooperation on a scale, like we've never seen before, but then he never talked about how do we get global cooperation? And I don't think we talk about enough how we get global cooperation. And I really think it starts with, how do we even have cooperation at the very basic level of our community? Like, can we even cooperate with the people that we live next to and the people that are on our campus and the people that are in our city, et cetera, et cetera. Right. It builds up from there. And I think another piece that's intrinsic to that is what are we doing about justice? Because I just don't think that we can be good community members if we don't care about racial justice.
So that's another piece that I don't think we talk about enough in the environmental field and sustainability field. I mean, we're starting to talk more about it. And I, and I got at that a little bit earlier, but racial justice just has to be inherent in what we do, and we're not going to be able to make these massive changes and cooperate on these massive levels if we are not attentive to these issues of justice. Those are ways that I think students can engage in these issues. And then more specifically, how can students get involved with the Miller Worley Center. You both can maybe speak to being a Campus Sustainability Coordinator or Community Sustainability Coordinator. So we have those roles, which are vital obviously to what we do. But then I would say outside of those roles too. Yeah. We try to support student research. We really want to support student leadership. So if students are interested in, in a conference or an internship, so we really want to help them get those skills and so we can support those aspects as well. And then we, we always have programming and events happening. I think one of the best ways to find out about that other than our calendar of events is through social media. So I'm really going to push our social media our Instagram page is amazing. And again, that's run by Community Sustainability Coordinators, but through our social media, through Instagram and Facebook, less so on Twitter, cause, um, I'm the one responsible for Twitter, so I'm not as good at it, but you can really find out what, we're doing and how to be engaged with us. And then we have some like big events that happen regularly that we try to get students involved in.
Hareem: [00:25:15] Thank you, Olivia for that. And of course, we're very focused on community building and justice and DEI at the Miller Worley as well. And on that note, what hopes or plans you have for the Miller Worley Center this year and going forward?
Olivia: [00:25:30] Well, first of all, this podcast, we're finally getting going, which is really exciting for me. And hopefully you all getting that podcast going is really exciting for us. And then BOOM is the next sort of big event that we're really looking forward to again, Community Sustainability Coordinators are working on organizing and planning for that event. So that'll be exciting. And then we'll probably do another really big celebration around Earth Day. So really celebrating the week around Earth Day, Week. I think we'll have a cool speaker that week. And then I'm also really excited to see what the Community Sustainability Coordinators are interested in pursuing for that week as well. We did our first virtual Earth Day, Week, last year, and it was kind of successful. So we'll see what we can do again this year. Oh, I also want to point out too, that one of the cool things we did last semester was we installed the Campus Living Lab camera over by Lower Lake and you can check out Jorge was always sort of hanging out there. And so, um, it's kind of a cool camera to check out and spot for Jorge when you get a chance and also just a nice view of campus. And then another initiative that we have happening that we're trying to roll out is the Community Commitment to Climate Action. And this is really an idea that would allow us to come together and, and really decide for ourselves from the ground up, how we want to address carbon neutrality on campus and sustainability and justice on campus. And so it would allow for various stakeholder groups from students to faculty, to staff, to administrators, To come together and not only talk about what they are already doing and what's happening, so it's going to be a great hub for communication, but also to come together and talk about like what they are willing to commit to moving forward into the future and then creating sort of their own commitments and their own ways of assessing those commitments. So, ultimately, the community is sort of holding itself responsible for how we want to build a culture of sustainability on our campus. So I'm excited about that.
Adrianne: [00:27:38] Yeah. So that wraps up our more formal interview with you today. Um, and we wanted to move on to a bit more of a lightning round, uh, setup where we're going to ask you a couple of questions and we know we're not going to give you a hard and fast time limit, but we just want like your immediate, immediate answers. Hareem, do you want to start us off?
Olivia: [00:27:56] This always makes me so nervous.
Hareem: [00:28:00] Yes. What's the one thing that's going to happen in 2021 or it's happening already that you're super excited about?
Olivia: [00:28:07] Podcast.
Adrianne: [00:28:08] Yes. If you had 25 hours in a day, how would you use that extra hour?
Olivia: [00:28:16] Oh, wow. I'm sure relax and either read or watch Netflix or hang out and talk with family and friends.
Hareem: [00:28:26] Yeah. Self-care. I feel like we just don't get enough time for that. And there should be more time.
Olivia: [00:28:31] For real, yes. Self care. That's right.
Hareem: [00:28:33] I love asking this question because I think that it tells you so much about the person. So if you can have lunch with one person living or dead, who would it be?
Olivia: [00:28:42] Oh my gosh, that's crazy. I feel like I should be prepared for this. If I can have lunch with one person. Oh, my grandma, probably my grandma. She's still living. She's 93. She's in, she actually had, she had COVID and luckily she managed to get through it without having to go to the hospital or anything. So, but my grandma, she just really makes me laugh. She is so funny and she cracks me up and I really love getting to talk with her and try to spend as much time with her as I can.
Adrianne: [00:29:10] It's beautiful.
Hareem: [00:29:10] Is she doing better now?
Olivia: [00:29:12] Yeah, she's much better. She had it for, you know, a few weeks and she's much better now. So thanks for asking.
Adrianne: [00:29:17] Yeah. Um, okay. This is going to be a hard pivot from that, but if you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?
Olivia: [00:29:24] These are hard questions. Um, I feel like it would be something super random, like some kind of music or we'd have to be outside of academia. So yeah, I would say something about music.
Hareem: [00:29:36] That's great.
Olivia: [00:29:37] I don't, I don't know what, but something about music.
Hareem: [00:29:41] I would love to become an expert in a language without having to like put in all the work.
Olivia: [00:29:46] Yeah. Right. That'd be awesome.
Hareem: [00:29:48] Hard pivot again, but what's most underrated fruit in your opinion?
Olivia: [00:29:52] Oh, I like that one. I'm going to say papaya. I don't know if that's rated. I just don't feel like people talk about it very much. And I really love papaya.
Hareem: [00:30:01] I love papaya, too.
Olivia: [00:30:03] Yes. So good.
Adrianne: [00:30:04] All right. Pivoting again. What's your favorite book that you'd recommend to everyone?
Olivia: [00:30:09] Uh, Station 11. That's essentially the book that I recommend to everybody. It's a hard for me to describe, but check it out. Station 11. You can do, maybe you can.
Adrianne: [00:30:17] Yeah. Yeah. We'll we'll, we'll we'll link to it in the description.
Olivia: [00:30:20] It's a really cool book.
Hareem: [00:30:23] Last question. What's the best advice that you've ever gotten, you know, on a personal level or professional level.
Olivia: [00:30:30] Hmm. That is really, really good. My mom gave me so much advice growing up. I mean, we grew up with not a lot. Right. And so I would complain. She would say, you know, life is not fair. She would tell me that a lot. Like if it's not fair and as tough as it sounds, I feel like in so many ways it's helped me either persevere or also helped me to be really empathetic, I think, to other people too. And just realizing that like, even if you think you have it bad, like other people are really struggling and to always be aware of other people's struggles and just recognize it. Like everybody has their thing that they're dealing with and it's just part of life. It's just part of life that you have to deal with those sorts of things. But I think that even though it was a bit harsh, I think it made me realize that like, you're never going to have like perfect circumstances to have like this either life that you want or have this path, you know, ahead of you. And there's always going to be some obstacles you're going to have to deal with. And so I think that that prepared me a lot.
Hareem: [00:31:29] That's great advice. That's very nice.
Adrianne: [00:31:32] So, thank you so much, Olivia, for joining us today for this inaugural episode. We're so happy you could be here to talk about what the Center does and what you do, and hopefully get a few more students interested in what's happening around campus, because I know it's hard with the amount of information available online, all of the emails, all the websites, there's a lot happening. So hopefully some people have been able to identify some areas where they want to pursue something that they could do in their own lives. that advance environmental efforts. So thank you so much for joining us today. Coming up on our next episode, we're going to be talking with some of the other Community and Sustainability Coordinators about what we do on campus, how we got into these positions and what we're looking forward to in the year to come. So stay tuned for that.
Olivia: [00:32:17] Thanks so much for having me. This was a lot of fun and I'm really glad we're kicking it off this way.
Hareem: [00:32:21] Yeah. Thank you so much again, Olivia. And we'd also like to thank all of our staff, all the students at the Miller Worley Center, our wonderful editor, Claire Bidigare-Curtis, Sophia Hess who made our intro and outro music. If you'd like to learn more about the Miller Worley Center and connect with us on social media, check out the links in the episode description, where we'll also include links to what we discussed in today's episode. Thank you so much again for listening. We hope you'll join us again soon. Bye.
Episode 2: Meet the Team, Part 1
Episode 2. Meet the Team, Part 1
In this episode, Olivia Aguilar, Director of The Miller Worley Center for the Environment at the Miller Worley Center at Mount Holyoke College, talks with Community and Sustainability Coordinators (CSCs) Sophia Hess, Hareem Khan, Julia Talamo, and Isabelle Wohlin.
Olivia and the CSCs discuss the team’s social media strategy, the challenges of creating posts like infographics, and follower growth. The Community and Sustainability Coordinators expand on their interest in the environment and share tips for getting relevant internships and work experiences.
Episode 2: Transcript
Olivia: [00:00:00] The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn, work and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohican and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North, recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities. We work to honor and respect. The history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land. As we also work to stewards.
Hello, welcome to the Miller Worley Center for the environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors influencing them on this show. We'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke college is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work and mission.
Hi, and welcome to the podcast. My name is Olivia Aguilar. I use she /her pronouns and I'm the Leslie and Sarah Miller director of the Miller Worley Center for the environment. And I'm thrilled to have four of our community sustainability coordinators also known as the CSCs with us. And I'm really excited to introduce them to you all, to hear a little bit about what they do for the Miller Worley Center. So we will kick it off with Hareem.
Hareem: [00:01:42] Hi everyone. Thanks Olivia for having us. So I am Hareem. I am a junior at Mount Holyoke, majoring in Economics. I use she/her pronouns. I was born and raised in Pakistan. I'm one of the CSCs with Julia, Sophia and Isabelle. One thing that I've learned the hard way is to not plan everything in advance. Because I was the kind of a person who would obsessively plan everything for the next 10 years because that gave me a sense of comfort, knowing that I knew where I wanted to be. But now I'm beginning to realize that there are so many factors beyond your control that you can do nothing about and they can change your life in a second. So it's good to plan to an extent. But it's also good to have an open-minded . When you have an open mind, I think there are so many opportunities that come your way that you actually, you know, get to see. And you think about it as opposed to when you have an open mind when you're so focused on one thing that you don't think about anything else.
Olivia: [00:02:39] Yeah, I love that and that is so important for us, especially with the pandemic and COVID right. And having to really learn from that. So that's awesome. Thank you. Isabelle, I think you're up.
Isabelle: [00:02:50] Yes. Hi everyone. I'm Isabelle. I'm a senior now. I use she/her pronouns and I am an environmental studies major and statistics minor. And I am a CSC. One thing I guess, that I learned the hard way, which is more practical, I guess. In like a tangible sense is to not clean up sugar with water because it gets more sticky. Cause I spilled a bunch of vanilla sugar on the floor in our kitchen and it was there for weeks. So that's probably the first thing that came to mind.
Olivia: [00:03:18] That's great. I love it. Yes. Those lessons are just as important, right? So good to note. Maybe somebody will learn from that. Up next Julia.
Julia: [00:03:26] Hi, my name is Julia. I use she/her pronouns, I'm environmental and geography major, and I'm also a community and sustainability coordinator for the Miller Worley Center. Something that I learned the hard way for me personally, is when having a debate to challenge the idea, not the person.
Olivia: [00:03:44] Yeah, that's a good lesson for sure. Thanks, Julia. Sophia?
Sophia:[00:03:49] Hi, my name is Sophia Hess. I use she and they pronouns. I'm currently a junior at Mount Holyoke college where I'm double majoring in environmental studies and art studio. And I do social media as well as events scheduling and reaching out to other organizations on campus for the Miller Worley specifically. And one lesson that I learned the hard way is that it's better to say no authentically than saying yes inauthentically, because that comes in by two, in the, but later when you realized that you didn't actually want to do something, you don't actually have the capacity to do something. And so just being clear about your boundaries upfront is way better than trying to please everybody and saying yes all.
Olivia: [00:04:30] Yes. I see a bunch of heads nodding. That is so important, really good lesson. And if you are already learning it, that is great because that is not something you want to learn later, for sure. Awesome. Okay. So we've kicked it off and everybody's been able to say hi, and again, I'm thrilled that you all are here. And so the idea for today's podcast, as you all know, cause you helped develop it was really to talk a little bit about your role as social media coordinators for the Miller Worley Center and also other aspects that contribute to your role as community sustainability coordinators. So the first question I want to ask and we can sort of do a round Robin and we'll start again with Hareem. What drew you into the environmental field broadly? So, you know, another way to ask this is what made you interested at all in looking at the Miller Worley Center for the environment?
Hareem: [00:05:20] Yeah. So I think I have a bit of a non-traditional story because I'm not an environmental science major. I'm an economics major, really interested in finance and banking. And I actually got interested in sustainability when I was doing a very finance and economics type internship at a bank where my team was advising renewable companies, companies that were developing solar power in rural villages in Pakistan. And I was like, Oh wow. this is great. This is so important. And I had heard about corporate social responsibility and all of that, but I realized that I wasn't very educated about environmental issues or how do environmental issues interact and intersect with corporate practices. So I started educating myself about that a little bit, and I wanted to learn a bit more about what companies were doing, what organizations were doing, what schools like Mount Holyoke were doing to create more sustainable practices, contribute to a cleaner environment. And I had been coming to Miller Worley events for a lot of years. I had interacted with some of the staff andI realized that the best way to really educate myself a bit more about sustainability and environmental issues would be to get involved in the Center. So I started working at Miller Worley like a year ago, and it's been a great experience, I would say.
Olivia: [00:06:35] Awesome. That is great to hear. I love that story. Isabelle, do you want to jump in?
Isabelle: [00:06:40] Sure, I have a very, I guess, traditional story in the sense where I took a class in high school about environmental studies actually, and was really interested in the systems, basically that interact together to create the environment in which we live, which I think is something that we don't often think about and talk about. And so super interesting to hear that in an environmental aspect, and that can be applied in so many other fields. So that was the main thing that piqued my interest and then learning more about it. You know, the role that we have as humans in society and how we can actually make an impact if we can kind of pick some systems or reduce a small amount of X, Y, and Z, that's going into that system can really make an impact. Overall. So just learning about that and knowing that I could do something was something that piqued my interest and made me continue and pursue an environmental career.
Olivia: [00:07:30] Cool, thanks. Julia ,do you want to tell us about what drew you into either into the environmental field? Because it is one of your majors or into working for the Miller worley Center?
Julia: [00:07:41] Yeah, so actually going into Mount Holyoke, I was interested in public health and so I took a class that was called environmental and public health, which dove into how our environment affects human health in general. And I really got interested in how it intersects with climate justice and environmental justice. And then after being with Dr. Descida Taylor. I got more into, how can I learn more about these topics? And then I learned that the Miller Worley Center was doing different projects , gatherings and you sit in engagement on food justice and different things like that. So that's how I came across the Center and how I began to begin my engagement with the work that the center is doing. So that's kind of my story and how I got in.
Olivia: [00:08:27] Cool. So your entryway was a bit more around social justice issues.
Julia: [00:08:31] Yeah. And, and the intersections with human health that exists within the environmental field.
Olivia: [00:08:37] Awesome. Thanks, Julia. Sophia, what about you?
Sophia: [00:08:41] I feel like I've been quote unquote into environmental issues for a large majority of my life. I had the privilege of going to a progressive elementary school where they were really into the Wild and pond, even though it was located in California and kind of nature philosophy. The reconnecting with nature. So I got a lot of education about global warming from a very young age, about endangered animals, which I think really set me out on what started off as a traditional nature conservation path. But as I got older, I started to notice the inequalities within , especially framing it from a very like Western white scientists go into the global South and tell people how to run their environments, which didn't sit right with me. And so it was only when I got to college and was able to learn about more local led community led conservation efforts that I felt that was at the intersection of the social justice issues and environmental nature, conservation issues where I really want to be in right now, learning a lot about indigenous land stewardship and what we can learn from indigenous people regarding nature conservation.
Olivia: [00:09:48] Very cool. I think the cool thing about hearing all these answers is that you each have something very different that brought you to either the field or the Center, which is really great to hear. And I think one of the things that we really try to do at the Miller Worley Center is to try and reach a broad audience. So finding those pathways to meet other people where they're at is really an exciting piece of that journey for me. Okay. My next question for you all is two parts. First part is what is your role as a community sustainability coordinator? Because we do have six of you. And then how have you been able to bring your own interests and skills into the work that you do for the Miller Worley Center?
Hareem: [00:10:30] Something that's really exciting about working at Miller Worley is that there's always something new to work on and projects keep changing all the time. Currently, what I'm working on is like I've been doing a lot of data-driven work with Isabelle and Raghu and Jordan. And of course, like data is very important in the field that we work in. So collecting data about how Mount Holyoke has been doing where sustainability is concerned. Do we have classes where there is a sustainability component. So I've been doing a lot of those. And that's something that I really enjoy because of my quantitative background. Apart from that, we all work on social media and I don't do a lot of content development. That's more like Isabelle, Julia and Sophia, but I love discussing what is it that we can put on our social media to reach a broader audience, particularly because right now, so many people are studying from their homes. So kind of being able to incorporate that. You know, and we recognize that that's different from being on campus or coming up with exciting things that people can relate to, even as they're not on campus doing that. And of course, I think something that we're very focused on our community efforts, diversity and inclusion. So another thing that we do is that we collaborate with a lot of other organizations and offices on campus, whether it's other student organizations, whether it's the student life office and the McCulloch center for international students. In the past, we've hosted like speakers, which I have loved all those speaker sessions and all of you should attend them if you have the time and I mean, of course, boom is coming up, which is pretty exciting.
Olivia: [00:12:05] Great. Thanks. Isabelle, how about you? What is your role as a community sustainability coordinator? And then how have you been able to bring your interest and skills into that work?
Isabelle: [00:12:15] Yeah. So as part of the social media component, I've created the sustainability tips, which got, I believe every Sunday, which is fun just to put people's mind onto something small that they can be doing individually they may not have thought of. and that you can do regardless of your situation, especially during these times. And I also have previously worked on the green work place program, which is our effort basically to reach out to the faculty and staff that are on campus because a lot of focus is on students. And it's really important to broaden that perspective. So talking to them, seeing what they're looking for from the Center and how we can support them in what they're doing in their own workplaces. And that's been really fantastic just to work with different communities that I may not have otherwise been in contact with, and meet a lot of new people along the way. And so I've enjoyed being able to kind of have one thing that's just for me to work on, which is really fun to figure out my ideas and put those into practice and actually make that difference where it's not super siloed. So that's probably the main thing that I've been working on. And my interests are in sustainability, both in higher education as well as in the corporate sector. So it, it fits pretty well in.
Olivia: [00:13:25] Yeah, that's awesome. Julia, do you want to jump in and tell us about your role as a community sustainability coordinator and then also any interest in skills you've been able to bring to that work?
Julia: [00:13:35] Yeah, so I'm on the social media team and I am mainly in charged of two things. I'm in charged of the Tuesday posts, which are the environmental justice lessons and also to increase engagement and increase the following. So I on my own I am interested in social media. I am very much involved in numbers and increasing followers and things like that. So I try to set a goal for each semester of like how many followers I want the account to reach, and then working on engagement and having followers and alumnis and new students and prospective students follow our page. And then the environmental justice lessons. It started out because I wanted to read more about environmental justice. I wanted to read more authors I didn't get to read in class. And so I was like, this is a perfect way for me to be able to read the authors that I want to read and make a job out of it. So I based the Tuesday posts on readings on authors that I didn't get to read in class or a friend will be, Hey, this is a really good reading. And that's how I make my Tuesday posts. Besides those things sometimes I have students reach out to me and ask what the center does or what they can do for them. Before I used to have listening sessions with cultural groups and that was really informational. So it's really multifaceted, but for social media, I focus on those two things.
Olivia: [00:14:58] Yeah. That's awesome. So I think what everybody is saying, and Sophia, I'm going to get you here too in a minute is sort of like being an ambassador about like, around certain like content material for the Miller Worley Center. And so, Julia, I know you do like a lot of that environmental justice stuff, and that's really cool that that is something You both want to study and then you can relay that information back out to the audience for us, which is great. And also, yes. Shout out to how many new followers we have on social media.That's Great. And we can talk about like, maybe if we have a goal, a number goal here in a minute, but I'll jump to Sophia. Sophia, tell us about your role as a community sustainability coordinator and any interest and skills that you have been able to bring to your work.
Sophia: [00:15:37] Well, I do a lot of things
Olivia: [00:15:40] that is true
Sophia: [00:15:42] but if I had to sum up, I think that it's mainly outreach to students and outreach to people who aren't currently involved in the Center. And that takes Variety of forms. Before the pandemic, Julia and I did a lot of outreach with student groups on campus, as well as hosting events, specifically for BIPOC students to help them get environmental careers. Since everything's remote, that's really taken a different turn as it's hard to be on zoom all day. So that's not really what we're trying to do. We don't want to have too much excessive virtual programming. So we have focused more on the social media, which is a more passive way to interact with students, but also less than the demanding of students and their time. In terms of my own interest in skills, I'm also an art major. So that has really slipped me into this defacto role of graphic designer for the Miller Worley, which I really do love. And not just because I enjoy making things aesthetically engaging, but because I think it's really important that these are messages that are easy to understand, and that will be read by lots of people from lots of different backgrounds. Some of the literature for environmental studies or a lot of parts of academia can be really inaccessible. They use language that is taught only in higher education. You know, that a certain class barriers to understanding concepts. And I think social media is a good tool to push back against that a little bit and try to bring this education. Into an open access, public resource type of space, which is what I personally try to do with my graphic designs. And it's really not color palette choices at this point, you know, we've got a brand. So what I'm doing when I'm designing these slides is: what information needs to be bolded to jump out what are the main points? Is there a word that I can replace that maybe is too jargony and won't be understood by some types of people? Does this need to have more texts in one side or is that too overwhelming? Should I split it up into smaller pieces so that people don't get overwhelmed? Because a lot of these topics, I work specifically in the environmental justice posts, they get heavy. It's about really sensitive topics. And so figuring out how to spatially communicate those themes in a way that's both respectful of these issues, but also informative and not washing them down to be palatable and fun is like a very tense line to hold that I feel that I'm always balancing as the person who puts together the final graphic that eventually gets seen by the public.
Olivia: [00:18:16] Yeah. That is really cool to hear how you frame the work that you're doing, like on so many levels. But first, you know, one of the things I've been studying recently is the way that social media in many platforms, specifically Twitter, but also Instagram and Facebook has been a place to Sophia you said pushback, but like a place for activism in a way, and to push back against mainstream ideas of I'm looking specifically at environmentalism. So pushing back at mainstream ideas of who's involved in environmental ism and what it means to be an environmentalist. But I do think there's a lot of power in social media. And so it's really great to hear how all of you are contributing and also how you are bringing your own skillset to that work. And I think the other really cool thing that I'm seeing as how much of a team it requires, like in terms of contributing information and then creating the graphic and then tweaking language, and then working on like getting more followers and users and that sort of thing. So I think that is another really cool piece about what the community sustainability coordinators do in terms of really having to work as a team. And since we've done virtually, I think you've had to even do that more with figuring out, like, how do we work together as a group when we're never together in the same room anymore, you know? And we're all only on either zoom or on a call, like once every few weeks or once a month or something. So that has been really cool to see how you have all decided to do that as well. Okay. So I'm going to jump into a question about infographics. So I'll let anybody jump in on this and I might even combine it too with your goal. Some of you talked about your goal already as a social media content creator, but if you hadn't yet, and you want to answer that part as well, I want to sort of ask a little bit about how do you choose the information you want to share or the information you want to admit, because that can be difficult to determine. And part of that too, is like, you know, what's your goal with the information you're sharing. So I'll let anybody jump in.
Isabelle: [00:20:21] This is definitely something I think about because when I'm doing the sustainability tips, I want to keep them short, but not too short that someone would just brush them off and say," Oh, I can't do that". Or "I don't want to do that." It's definitely very tricky with infographics because some people won't read the caption. And so you kind of have to get everything across, just within an image, with a short piece of text. And I think when trying to figure out what to say, basically, I try to do some research on what's accessible to most of the population, whether you're living in you know, like I'm living in my bedroom or you're living in a dorm room or some other living situation. And so making sure that everybody can do that in the space that they're living is super important because you don't want it to feel inaccessible to someone or someone feel bad that they can't do something. So I think that's the biggest thing that I have learned while doing it. And I had my mom review what I am submitting and she's sometimes like, "what are you even mean?" And I realized, "Oh, well, I guess I'm on the younger side. "And so she doesn't really understand that and so trying to bridge that gap and thinking about our audience, being both alums , Mount Holyoke community members, as well as students, it's not just for students. So it's definitely tricky, but it's definitely doable. And I think so far we've done a really good job at doing that.
Hareem: [00:21:36] To add on that. I mean, Isabelle, you made some really great points and that's something that I really appreciate about our content is that our content is not super Mount Holyoke students specific, you know, like it would only apply to you if you go to college at Mount Holyoke currently. We have so many followers on like our Facebook and Instagram, both who are Mount Holyoke alumni, or who are like five college students or students from other you know, even like beyond the five colleges or people in academia, or like, you know, small businesses. And I think like we have something for everyone and particularly things like, you know, sustainability tips. They're so straight forward, like something as small as, you know, a very small lifestyle change that you can makethat can help create a cleaner environment. Like having a plant or, you know, taking books out from the library as opposed to buying books and things like that, as opposed to really grand things that you need to put a lot of thought and effort and resources in. And that's just something that I really appreciate about some of the content that Isabelle creates on Sundays and what Julia and Sophia are creating.
Isabelle: [00:22:43] Thank you,
Julia: [00:22:44] For me making the content is only worth it,if people see it and I want as many people to see it as possible. I want as many clicks, as many likes, as many swipes, like I want it all. So I have a goal. Ideally, I try to get at least a hundred new followers every two weeks. And I have been doing that so far. So that's my goal as like content creators having as many people see it and I, I always find new, new niches within Mount Holyoke, like Mount Holyoke Boston alums alums and Mount Holyoke New York alums. And I follow everyone on that page and then they'll follow me back. So that's kind of like how I do my work, like finding alums, finding prospective students or different clubs and like, Following them. They know our page exists and then more likely than not, they'll follow us back. And then that's how we get a larger engagement, which for me makes making the content worth creating. And then for environmental justice lessons, I don't really have a specific goal with the post except to cause I don't want to say teach because I don't want to teach nobody, but share, I guess, share what I learned that I thought was interesting and then share that with whoever decided to follow our page. So I guess that's my goal. Every time I create something or I do something on the page.
Olivia: [00:24:01] Thanks Julia!
Sophia: [00:24:02] I just want to talk about infographic culture for a little bit, because I think the two forces that I see was one, most of the world going online in higher education socially and academically is like putting a lot more emphasis. I personally am spending way more time on screens. I don't know about you guys, but I think maybe similar than before and social media has been one of those constant things that was around before the pandemic and is around after the pandemic, coupled with this kind of I don't know how to characterize the black lives matter protests of June, 2020, but I see it as a big cultural shift in terms of people paying attention to social justice issues and the broad umbrella that that is. And within that, there's also fake information going around and it's being widely shared, but there's also good information that's going around and being widely shared. And so this has made infographics as a whole kind of a tricky place to inhabit because it's going against this quote , unquote, reputable sources that we're talking academia, which, you know, the Miller Worley page we always cite everywhere we get our information, usually from Julia's readings and also research papers, but it also enables people to share their lived experiences in a platform that is welcoming of that. And that wasn't possible before in Western academia that has traditionally like shut a lot of voices out. So you kind of have this double-sided coin with infographics. And again with Isabelle saying they're being so short, environmentalism is so complex. It's so challenging to figure out what to keep and what not to keep and what will engage the public. And what's too much, but I just wanted to speak a little bit on how I see infographics as someone who creates them as both being good, but also generally approachable a little bit of caution because there's a lot of variety in the ones that are going around nowadays.
Olivia: [00:26:06] Yeah. I think the cool thing that I'm hearing from you all, and by the way, I know this to an extent, but I'm really learning it in this podcast is how much goes into our social media, that's just beyond like a post and the amount of thought that goes into the language being used, the length of text and which text is highlighted and what imagery is going to go with the text. And how are you reaching your audience. And Julia, it's so cool to learn that you have these goals. I never knew that. So that's really great to hear that you have follower goals. And I was also wondering like, how does she accomplish this. And now I'm hearing that it's like through sort of tagging and following people, which is really cool, but even so, like, what are we doing in terms of tagging on our post? And what's the hashtag? I've actually a paper I've been recently reading this week was on hashtag activism. And how hashtags are actually another form of a narrative and how that narrative can be activism too. So, but I think that what we see is that we go through and we see an Instagram page and we don't really see a think of all of the things that are going into that one image on Instagram. And there's quite a lot that's going into it. Right. So I think that's all really cool. And I would just say, Julia, I don't know what you're so 200, did you say a week or a month?
Julia: [00:27:24] A hundred followers every two weeks.
Olivia: [00:27:25] A hundred every two weeks. Okay. So I'm trying to figure out how long that would take for us to get to 2000. Do you have a, I think I was thinking it'd be fun to say, like by earth day we have 2000 followers.
Julia: [00:27:37] I mean, I don't know about Earth Day, but definitely by the end of the semester.
Olivia: [00:27:41] hahah okay Earth Day's a little too much pressure, we could maybe do like a push, like the week before, like follow us for earth day or something and yeah. We'll see, but I love that. Okay. So I think my last question for everybody, and then we'll try to get to a couple of lightning round questions, but my last question for everybody, and again, whoever feels like they want to respond to this can, and if you don't have something, that's fine. But beyond your work as a community sustainability coordinator, what research or maybe internship experiences have you had, and what tips do you maybe have for people that are trying to get a similar experience to the one that you're talking about today?
Hareem: [00:28:21] So I'm like very lucky that I've had quite a lot of holistic experiences. Like obviously I've mentioned like some of my finance internships earlier this semester, for example, I'm working at a venture capital firm, which invests in female founded and sustainable companies. So that's been very exciting and I have gotten the opportunity to interact with all of these amazing founders who are leading these very innovative companies. Last semester, I worked at a human rights law firm, which was great as well. And it was actually with the Wellesley alum. On campus, I am involved in like the career development center if you ever want to come and get your resume reviewed. In the office of student involvement, of course, Miller Worley, the Pakistani student organization. So I think like a big advantage of being a liberal arts student is that the education is so holistic that you get to have all these different experiences across different sectors and industries. And I think my advice would be to, don't be afraid to reach out to people. And like a lot of times, most of us, we of course like, you know, Mount Holyoke students are smart and they can do things on their own. That's great. But there's always someone who's been through what you're going through right now. And they have really great advice to offer. So I love reaching out to like Mount Holyoke alums and even like five college alums , you know, who, who are in professions, where I see myself or even like my friends in my class, I talk to them about like interview advice or resume reviews, things like that because you know how they say it takes a village and it truly does. So don't be afraid to reach out, like put yourself out there. I know it's hard, but don't be afraid to get advice from people.
Sophia: [00:30:02] I'll just jump in here. Shout out Julio, because Julio helped me get my internship, a fellowship program with the university of Washington, with the Doris Duke conservation scholars program, because she also did that program, but at the university of Michigan. So again, just really talking to everybody, you know, and if you have connections, sharing them with other people to just help build that network. I haven't started my program yet because I deferred due to the pandemic, but I am really excited to start that to summer.
Isabelle: [00:30:35] That last piece is huge. I know I've definitely looked over a number of my teammates resumes just to say, this is what has worked for me, because it really is challenging.
You may go to the CDC, our career development center and get one opinion. And then you talk to someone who maybe is working in a field that you want to get into, and they say completely different thing. So having that ground experience can be super valuable. I know this past summer I worked at a utility company actually, which is not something that I had ever expected to say, but I basically just started applying everywhere that I thought, okay, maybe I could do this and I've gone and driven all the way an hour and 15 minutes from school to go to Boston, to do an interview and not gotten a response or anything back from them. So just not taking that to heart is probably the biggest thing that I would say . It's really challenging because I probably submitted over a hundred applications in two years with one or two responses in total, three responses, I think, and one interview that led to nothing. So it will happen and it just matters how you, how you react to that. And just continue on it sucks. But it's going to happen and you just have to live through it.
Julia: [00:31:46] So I have had multiple experiences, but I guess one of my first ones happened through lynk funding . So I really wanted to get link funding, but again, I didn't want to go through applying. On application portal. So how I found my internship was messaging professionals directly on LinkedIn, not Mount Holyoke alums, just random people I wanted to work with because I did it by country actually. So I really wanted to go to Uruguay , which is a country in South America. So I started messaging on Linkedin professionals who worked in the environmental field in Uruguay , and everyone got back to me and everyone said yes, but I had already accepted the offer from the first person I had contacted. And he was a professional working for the United nations on this project called partnership fraction on green economy. And it was super cool. I was able to spend like, I want to say maybe eight weeks in Uruguay and I got Lynk funding for it. And honestly, the most surprising thing was how willing everyone was to have me shadow them or work for their program. And then I have also been with the Doris Duke conservation scholars program for two years, doing research with landscape architecture and food justice with Dr. Dorceta Taylor who's now at Yale, and I'm going back with her for a third summer, my third and final summer with the Doris Duke program. I'm going back as an alumni assistant because I'm technically an alumni of the program. And to me, those two different experiences, both with the Doris Duke program and with the partnership fraction on green economy have been more than what I could've ever expected for internship experiences. So I'm quite content with what I got from my undergrad experience.
Olivia: [00:33:39] Yeah. I think that everybody has experiences to sound amazing, actually. So that's pretty cool. I think the lynk funding I think is probably really valuable for almost all of you and that's a great resource that we have, but I agree. I think Isabelle , you know, not feeling bothered by like not hearing back from people and just persisting and keeping going, and then, you know, just really being excited and appreciative of the opportunities that we do have and like putting them together and making, you know, making something out of them, I think is awesome to hear how you all have done that.
Okay. Lightning round session. Woo. Get excited. I am going to now ask you a sort of fun question. I might switch things up so that I can get a little freshness and it'll be a little bit more spontaneous your, your answer. So I don't know that I'm going to go in order. I think I'm going to go, I'll call somebody and ask you to answer one of these questions that we have here. So Hareem, I'm going to start with you. What's one thing you're excited for coming up in 2021?
Hareem: [00:34:42] 2021. So a lot of things, but my family's visiting the US over the summer. They will visit me in New York. I'm super excited about that.
Olivia: [00:34:50] That's a good one that, okay. That wasn't hard, right? That was like a big thing happening. Okay, cool. Sophia, I'm gonna ask you something, not on this list. If you could recommend one book to anybody. I think this is what I was asked the other week. If you could recommend one book to anybody, what would it be?
Sophia: [00:35:06] There's one that comes to mind is "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall kimmer. I am reading it right now. It's really great.
Olivia: [00:35:12] Yes, really good. I feel like a lot of students are reading that right now. I don't know if there's a class that's teaching it or if it just happens to be like the book that people are reading,
Sophia: [00:35:20] I'm like not to to be a cliche, but braiding Sweetgrass.
Olivia: [00:35:24] I mean, it's good. It's really good. So that's awesome. Okay. Julia, what is the most underrated fruit?
Julia: [00:35:30] Grapes
Olivia: [00:35:33] hahaha
Julia: [00:35:33] People don't appreciate grapes, especially if you freeze them and then you eat them like semi frozen. It's like doesn't even taste like fruit. It tastes like a dessert.
Olivia: [00:35:44] Oh, yum. Okay. Yeah.
Hareem: [00:35:46] I've never done that.
Olivia: [00:35:47] Yeah I've never done that either. Goals I'll go and freeze the grapes. That's a good one though. Yeah, I think you're right. Grapes are probably underrated. I would not think of them.
Julia: [00:35:58] Yeah
Olivia: [00:35:58] Okay. Isabelle, you could teach one subject in school, what would it be?
Isabelle: [00:36:02] Well, it's statistics. I know I'm crazy for saying that. My mom's like why, you know, I hate statistics, but no, I think it's really empowering when people can like read a paper or something that they never understood before, just because they understand where the data comes from.
Olivia: [00:36:18] Ha, you're getting a thumbs up from Hareem. So you are not the only one who thinks that. I would not teach statistics. That's that's all right. Okay, I'm going to ask everybody one more question. I thought this was a fun question. I'll go back with actually, we'll start with you Isabelle. Since we just ended up seeing if you could have lunch with one person living or dead, who would it be?
Isabelle: [00:36:38] Well, Probably Barack Obama.
Olivia: [00:36:40] Oh, cool. All right. Okay. We'll jump to Sophia. If you could have lunch with one person living or dead, who would it be?
Sophia: [00:36:49] The first person that came to mind was Martine Gutierrez who's an artist whose work I absolutely adore. And I got to have dinner with her once at the cultural centers. And I'd love to talk to her more.
Olivia: [00:37:01] oh, that's a good one. All right. I like that. By the way, this question took me forever to answer. So I'm giving you a little bit of time. Hareem, what's your response lunch with the person?
Hareem: [00:37:10] Yeah, I would say William Shakespeare, because I'm the biggest Shakespeare nerd in the world. Like I've read almost every single thing that he's written like multiple times. And I'm really intrigued by some of his ideas.
Olivia: [00:37:21] Oh, I love that. What I love is that I'm learning a little bit about each of you from these things. So that's really cool. And Julia last but not least. If you could have lunch with somebody living or dead, who would it be?
Julia: [00:37:31] Okay. So I believe that, you know, we all have like past lives. So I would like to have lunch with whoever one of my past lives person was.
Olivia: [00:37:45] Yeah. That's pretty amazing. I mean, do you have any idea who a past life, like what a past life was for you?
Julia: [00:37:51] I don't know, but I would just want to know, like, was I a good person? Was I a bad person? Like what did I do for a living? Just like, I would like to know who I was in a past life.
Olivia: [00:38:01] That is really fascinating. I'm like really fascinated by this because I think what's interesting is you assume you're a person, like, could you have been something else?
Julia: [00:38:09] Yeah, no. I mean, if I was like an animal that would, you know, I would still have lunch with them, you know, I could take them, but preferably a past life person.
Olivia: [00:38:23] Okay. That is awesome. I love it. Y'all had really great answers. Like I said, these questions really threw me off guard, so I was struggling, but. It's good to hear from you all your responses. Because as I said, we get to learn a little bit about each of you and your personalities and your interest and your likes. And so, yeah, I think we're going to wrap up our conversation there. It's been really exciting to hear about how you are contributing to the Miller Worley Center as community and sustainability coordinators and specifically as social media content creators. And I think also just really exciting to hear how much thought and how much work goes into a post. Like I said, that might seem really simple and is actually quite complex. And so thanks so much for taking the time to sit and chat with us and introduce yourselves to the broader community. So I'm psyched. I'm excited about this episode and I'm excited about the next episode, which we'll be talking to the rest of the community and sustainability coordinators, Adrienne Baxter, and Adrianne Wu along with Genesis Lara Granados, the campus living lab assistant. And that will be part two of our series on meet the Miller Worley Center student team. So two parts series. This was part one, the next one we'll meet the rest of the crew. And then I also just want to do a thanks again to each of you. Sophia Hess, Hareem Khan, Julia Talamo, Isabelle , and all of the other staff and students at the Miller Worley Center for the environment. Also want to thank our editor, Claire Bidigare- Curtis. Again, Sophia who made our intro. Oh, Sophie, I didn't talk about your making our intro and outro music that you also contributed to that as well. And then Adrianne Wu, who made our podcast artwork. So thanks everybody. And to learn more about the Miller Worley Center for the environment and connect with us on social media, please check out the links in the episode description. Thank you for listening and we hope you'll join us again soon.
Episode 3. Meet the Team, Part 2
Episode 3: Meet the Team, part 2
Olivia Aguilar, Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment at Mount Holyoke College, talks with Community and Sustainability Coordinators (CSCs) Adrienne Baxter and Adrianne Wu, as well as Campus Living Lab Assistant (CLLA) Genesis Lara Granados.
The CSCs and the CLLA trace their unique paths to environmental work and discuss the necessity of inclusivity in the movement. They share what skills they’ve developed while working at the Center and offer tips for getting research and internship experiences.
Episode 3: Transcript
Olivia: [00:00:00] The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn work and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck, neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohican and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North. Recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities, we work to honor and respect the history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land. As we also work to steward it.
Hello and welcome to the Miller Worley Center for the Environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors, influencing them. On this show we'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke college is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work and mission.
Hi, my name is Olivia Agular. I am the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment. I use she, her pronouns and welcome to the third podcast of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment podcast. Today, I will be talking to the Miller Worley Center's Community and Sustainability Coordinators also known as CSCs. And I'm going to let them introduce themselves and any identifiers they want to use.
Adrianne: [00:01:46] Hi, I'm Adrianne or Adrianne to help distinguish from our next guest who will ntroduce herself. I use she her pronouns. And I'm a senior majoring in biology and politics in addition to being a community and sustainability coordinator.
Adrienne: [00:02:01] I'm the other Adrienne Adrienne B basically, and I use they and she pronouns. I am a biology major and an entrepreneurship and organizations and society minor, and I graduate in 2022.
Olivia: [00:02:15] Awesome. Thank you. And then we also have our Campus Living Lab Assistant.
Genesis: [00:02:20] Hi, everyone. My name is Genesis. I am a senior class of 2021. I'm a biology major and I am the Miller Worley's Campus Living Lab Assistant.
Olivia: [00:02:30] Thank you Genesis. Great. So this is essentially a part two of where we started from the last podcast episode, where we talked to some of the other community sustainability coordinators about their role and what they did. And so it's great to meet the rest of the, what I call the team here in the Miller Worley Center. And last episode we heard about social media and how the students were working on social media contact. So I'd love to hear more from all of you today about both what you are doing as a Campus Sustainability Coordinator or for Genesis as the Campus Living Lab Assistant. Cause that's actually a really different role than what some of the other pieces are here. But is very significant to what we do in the Miller Worley Center. And Genesis has a huge role also in social media. So Genesis, you can talk to us about that too, but I want to kick off the questions with just something sort of basic and simple, and really ask you all, what drew you into the environmental field broadly, or like what intrigued you about working for the Miller Worley Center for the Environment? And so we'll just start Adrianne with you.
Adrianne: [00:03:38] So I'm from California, which I try not to mention too much because I know, I know it can be a whole thing, but I think I grew up with just an increased awareness level of sustainability practices on kind of an individual level. And just like in my community, there was a widespread acceptance of climate change as real and a crisis. Even if there wasn't necessarily action, there was that like acceptance of that reality. And I, I remember in third grade I did a project on CFL, light bulbs, like complex fluorescent light bulbs and like how much better they were for the environment. And I like convinced my parents to like switch all of our incandescent ones afterwards. Um, so I've always just been like super, super into like, thinking about like how what we do in our everyday lives has all of these broad reaching impacts. And then as I've gotten older, I've been able to learn more about systemic oppression and how that ties in with environmental issues, which is something that's really important to me and why I applied to work at the Miller Worley Center. So I applied, I think maybe like a month or two after I had gone to the Boston Climate March. Um, and I was like super glad to see like such a huge mass of people gathered in support, um, of climate action, but I also felt extremely out of place as a non-white person. So even though like the organizers, I think that a really good job of having a very diverse variety of speakers just looking out at the crowd it was also in a way isolating to not see anyone who looked like me. And that, that was, I think, kind of what drove me to apply to the Miller Worley Center. Um, even though I don't major in environmental science and that's not kind of the focus of what I want to do as a career like sustainability and environmental issues are still like really important to me and something. I think that we can all incorporate into our lives.
Adrienne: [00:05:29] So for me, what drew me into the environmental field? I think really, it just started with seeing waste. So in my high school, we don't recycle, like we have recycling bins and at the end of the day you would see them just dumping the trash into the big bins that they would bring out to like the trash trucks, right and then they'd also put in their cycling in the same place. And I was just like, I specifically sorted my paper and my cardboard and like certain things into there for a specific reason. They just didn't have the infrastructure to recycle. And they're just like, it's too expensive. And I'm just like, but the cause of not recycling, even though America doesn't really have that credit for a second stone, if we're not sorting certain things and just throwing everything to trash that also has complications for future generations and people right now. So I was just appalled. I also went to an art school. So I think maybe like in my sophomore year of being in art school, I started to look into fashion. Cause I really like fashion since I was younger and we had a specific class that was called cash and fashion were basically would use things that are recyclable or not recyclable things that people would view as like waste besides, you know, like rotten food and things like that. Not that stuff, but we would make those into like handbags or like shoes or dresses and pants and shirts like that. And we would present them at the Hartford Capitol because I lived in Connecticut. So my school was Credit Hartford Academy, the arts, and we presented them at the Hartford Capitol during the fashion shows that that would happen, I think, around Earth Day. So that specifically was to present awareness of we're throwing out so many different things that we can take and reuse one for art, but also just for like, potentially other things, whether it's in your house or in the workplace using still have to be like taboo and you don't always have to throw them out. So that was like my introduction into environmentalism and also through like an artist point of view. So at Mount Holyoke, seeing waste is something that, just really irks me, especially cause we have like all these, not like all these fake systems, but it's like recycling is something that it was ingrained in my mind that this is like helping the planet. Right. But America doesn't have that great of a second system compared to like Japan or like some other places and other countries. And I'm just like, this is crazy. So you figure out all the lies along the way. So at Mount Holyoke with the dining hall. Um, we see a lot of food waste and that comes with having thousands of people crammed into one space. And so me and a few of my other friends in my environmental sustainability class, we did a food waste project where we basically talk with dining and like wanted to, understand, why aren't we composting our food and then why aren't we separating, you know, the food from like the plastics and things like that, as well as how much waste do we actually waste, as students, you know, are we not being mindful enough of our food intake? Is it because we're not like scraping our plates and like we're disconnected from that food belt? Cause all we, all we do is we eat the food. We put on the plate and we put on a conveyor belt. We don't even scrape it. We don't do anything. We can't even wash the dishes, which makes sense. But just that disconnection does it make food waste increase? And so we did a project about, how much waste is there in the dining hall and how can we as students minimize that. And so we made that whole entire scrape your plate day, and I hope that we can do that again. With COVID that kind of impacted a lot of things, but that is a way that I want to impact, um, Mount Holyoke as a community member. And I want to continue that through the Miller Worley Center.
Olivia: [00:09:20] Thanks. And then Genesis, I know your role is different because you work with the Campus Living Lab and for those of you don't know the campus living lab is you can listen to episode one in which I explain a little bit more about it, but Jenica Allen is the manager of the Campus Living Lab and just to sort of summarize that it's really looking at the campus as an actual lab. And a place in which we live and learn, you know, every day. And I won't give away Genesis all that you do as the assistant. Um, but I wanted to sort of prefer provide that context and just ask you the same question. What drew you into either the environmental field or working for the Miller Worley Center?
Genesis: [00:10:03] Yeah, I always think back and I look at it and I think if it wasn't for the pandemic, I wouldn't be in this role. So obviously we were all sent home and I usually just work at dining and dining services or at the pub. And I love my job, you know, it's fun. My friends come, but then we were sent home and then I came back in the fall and I was like, I need a job, obviously. And so I look on JobX and I saw the position for the Campus Living Lab Assistant and they were just looking for someone for like data management and helping out. I thought this was like really cool. And I thought it would be nice to get more experience. And I'm really happy that that happened because I've enjoyed those role a lot. I think you can like go through all your college career without interacting with different offices in different places. And I think I've been to the Miller Worley Center before, but never been a part of it or never try to investigate more. And so I was just super excited to be in that role. And I'm a biology major, so I've been like doing research with the professor on campus and this position was also looking for someone for data management. And so specifically for the environmental monitoring program and, I thought it was super cool. And with the pandemic again, I am from New York. And so I spent in pandemic in my apartment with my family and I had also just come back from studying abroad the fall before in Tanzania. And so it was just a complete culture shock to come back from a place like that. And then. Come back here and then be sent home to live in my apartment for like six months with my family. And so I definitely miss that environmental aspect, you know, just even being on campus is different than being in the city and. I remember in my interview, my boss Jennica would ask me like, you know, like your experience, like we do, like whether a field work and like collecting data. And I was like, yes, that sounds like so much fun. Please take me out. I want to do that. Obviously I still haven't gotten the chance. Cause you know, COVID rules are like still happening, but everything about this, it just sounded really cool. And the idea that they have all this data from the monitoring program is also really interesting. And I was actually super surprised at the fact that there's no research being done with all the data or like anything with the data. I know there was a research project done with the actual installation of the weather stations. And that was super cool because I don't think that's a big step for the College a few years ago, but I'm excited to like, be able to start contributing to that or setting up the foundation for that in the future.
Olivia: [00:12:21] That's great. Thank you so much. I do know classes actually use the data. Some classes actually use it, but yeah, in terms of long research projects, I think as you know, I know Jenica is working on, on getting that data more accessible for people and cleaned up a bit.
So we'll talk, we'll get more into that aspect too. So with the next question, now, I think that might tie into this and that is so first of all, it's actually really cool for me to hear what drew you to either the field or to the Miller Worley Center. Cause I don't know a lot about your specific backgrounds, so it was really great to hear that.
And so now I know this question a little bit more, but for the people listening, could you tell us a little bit about your role, either as a Community Sustainability Coordinator or as Campus Living Lab Assistant. And in your role, what is it that you work on and how have you been able to maybe bring your own interests and your skillset to that role?
Adrianne: [00:13:13] Yeah. So I think one of the great things about working for the Miller Worley is that there's a lot of flexibility in terms of which projects I can devote my time to .So there, really is this built-in way to integrate my own interests and skills, and also developed new interests and new skills, depending on what's available.
And like what needs a little bit more help? So I started out doing the more like programming stuff, focused on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion and creating spaces where a students of color could connect and talk about these issues and opportunities in the environmental field. But after the campus shut down, I was able to pivot to primarily working on the website.
And reviewing it because there is a lot of like inconsistent or outdated or incomplete information. So just even having like a systemic review of everything that's happening there and just like organizing all of that information and all of those pages into what needs work and what doesn't need work. Uh, then I took a leave last fall. So this semester I'm kind of getting back in the swing of things and getting more involved in the Sustainability Steering Committee and the collection of campus, sustainability data, and then doing something with all of that data.
Olivia: [00:14:27] Awesome. Thanks. That's that's a lot. Yeah, I do think that's one of the cool things about the work of the Miller Worley Center is that there is so much, and I just also want to recognize that we're all at our respective homes and or residence halls and there may be pets in the background occasionally. Um, Adrienne, you were gonna tell us about what you do and what you've been working on, and then maybe how you've been able to bring your interests and skills to that.
Adrienne: [00:14:54] Yeah, I can definitely share some things that I have been working on for this year, because I am still new as a CSC. And I just started last fall. So I originally was finding guest speakers. And so we made like a good, a good, like, 20 to 25 people for guest speakers that we can potentially have for the Miller Worley Center to present to the students and have the students get to know.
I made sure that that list was very inclusive. So there's first nation people. There's, African-American people, there's South American people, and there's also some white people in there too. And then also for this semester, I've been working on podcast content. So definitely like the structure of the podcasts that you guys are listening to now and making questions as well.
And also I am, trying to set up some interviews eventually with some of the dining faculty and some other people who might be interested in coming onto these podcasts and talking about the work that they do and how that can be integrated with environmental work. And then you also asked how.
Olivia: [00:16:01] Your interest in your skills, maybe you've been able to bring that to your work.
Adrienne: [00:16:05] I think talking to people. That is definitely like something that I've been able to do in this work. And I'm very glad about that. I eventually want to work more closely with Dining to set up like either other scraper plate events or just like other student awareness things, because I feel like there is definitely like a disconnection between what the students know about dining and what Dining knows about Dining and how that all ties in with environmental aspects and diversity equity inclusion.
Olivia: [00:16:31] Awesome. Thanks for that. And I agree. We should definitely. Do something with dining and hopefully get an episode here with them, for sure. Genesis, how about you? What is your role? Because we sort of indicated how you got interested in, so you can maybe tell us a little bit about like what the week to week looks like for you. And then also, how have you been able to bring your interest in your skills to that work?
Genesis: [00:16:53] Yeah. So, like I mentioned before, I'm the Campus Living Lab Assistant. And so basically I feel like my job is to part of it is to connect the global community to Mount Holyoke, especially in times like this, where not everyone is on campus or you're not close to campus. And it's just a difficult time for that. So I do social media, as well. And so once a week, I'll post, but are really, really try to focus on something happening on campus or something related to Campus that you can see if you would be here. I know I've talked about Jorge or the Canada geese, and I know last semester I talked about how they started putting the composting bins back into the dorms. And so just like little things that you would notice if you were on campus. And so that's one part of it, but the second part and most important I think, is helping with data management for the environmental monitoring program. So there are several weather stations, all over campus in different trees surroundings, but different canopies, some in water, some not. And so basically we're just collecting a lot of weather data for a long time, and I'm not sure exactly the year, but there's a lot of data compiled again for each station. For weather data and for water level data. And there's also some tree data as well. And so basically all of the data has been collected. And so my boss Jenica is really excited about starting to fact-check and error control the data. And so we've been working on creating something we're calling the historical weather data project. And so that's basically compiling historical data in the surrounding area from like the last 20, 30 years. And then using that to create our code, which Jennica has been working with data science students, computer science, students from Mount Holyoke. And we're hoping to create some sort of R code fact checking system where we can input the data, to make sure that everything is within parameters, that it should be so that some measurements aren't off or not, um, recording the data correctly or too high, or they should be low or too low when they should be too high. So we're excited because then that can kind of start the motion to maybe students can start using this data, or we can share the data with collaborators or people in the larger community want to do some sort of project with the data. So we're excited about that. And I know we also talked about hopefully doing something for Earth Week as well. So that's in the works, hopefully, especially with campus and the weather starting to get nicer, we can do something outdoors and promote that and somehow connect out with students on campus and the community, and also with the larger community, not on campus as
Olivia: [00:19:18] well. That's great to hear. Thanks. That's exciting. I mean, there's just a lot going on. And I don't know if I have another question later, but hopefully you can tie in maybe your social media posts, like what your favorite one has been. I know the videos that you do get a lot of likes on our social media.
Genesis: [00:19:34] I love the posts I made last semester. I called it critters on campus and so it was obviously a much nicer weather. So I was just out more naturally. And I think I saw like the cutest little Caterpillar crossing the road around lower lake and I saw a video. I think it was a Hawk and it had just hunted and picked up something to eat and it landed on a tree. And then, you know, Jorge and all that Canada geese are out and about. And so it was just super nice cause. So just like little things about campus that maybe you don't experience at home or somewhere else. And so they just like add to the Mount Holyoke environment and I just really love that.
Olivia: [00:20:09] That's great. Yeah. I think that was a really popular one. So that's fun. So I think I'm going to kind of change gears a little bit and just ask you all, what you, what you think in terms of, um, I mean, this is sort of a two-part question, but what skills have you maybe developed also working at the Miller Worley Center that you might use in the future or what do you see yourself doing in the future where some of these things that you're doing here might be able to connect to that. So it's sort of two parts. What do you see yourself doing in the future and how might your work and the Miller Worley Center connect to that? If at all?
Adrianne: [00:20:43] I think a lot of the skills that I'm getting through working at the Miller Worley Center are like pretty transferable. I'm not planning to pursue a career in environmental science or in like community organizing or anything like that. But I think there are a lot of valuable skillsets that engaging in activities for that can bring. I think the skills I've developed the most while working at the Miller morally are definitely like teamwork. You can be very isolated in your own lab Miller depending on the setup, but it can be a pretty like solo experience. So it's been like really great for me to be able to. Directly work with so many people. Like not just the other, like student interns, but also just people around campus and in different offices. Who, you know, I don't think I otherwise would have, would have maybe interacted with. And then I also think it's been really important for me to think about how I communicate, because I do want to go into academia and there are a lot of very valid criticism that had been made of the environmental movement specifically, but also sciences as a whole. Of being like elitist and inaccessible. And that's like a huge issue in something that I want to constantly be working on. So like in this position, I've been really able to like challenge the way that I automatically talk or the way I automatically write something or like present information and think more consciously and critically of who my audience is. Um, and so like, it's particularly hard when, you know, you have an audience with like a wide variety of experience. But like, just as like a specific example, it was weird for me to recognize that not a lot of people had recycling bins and compost things like not just recycling, but also compost ends bins like their high school. Which is also just a Mark of the incredible privilege I've had in life of having a school with those resources. So it was really important for me to, to recognize that and not just barge into talking about like contaminated recycling streams or something like that. And like just backing up and explaining, explaining everything in a way that isn't patronizing. Cause it's not, it's not that I know this because I'm better. It's I know this because I've had previous experience with it. So I really want to be able to share that experience and knowledge with other people, which I think ties with my more like career goals. Like I mentioned, I want to go into academia, but something that's really important to me is not really seeing like diversity equity and inclusion as this thing to like append onto like all of your existing work, but as something that you really need to like actively incorporate into everything you do and just be mindful of kind of constantly. So as someone who's studying biology and interested in humans, I think there's a lot of effort to like divorce biology and politics, which I think is a mistake. Um, and I'm majoring in biology and politics to kind of help formulate my thoughts about that. But I, I think we just all need to be more aware of how our politics influence our biology, literally like our bodies, not just like how we study biology, um, and then like that influences our politics. And then that influences our society at large and our cultural norms and like whether or not they're like, stagnating or shifting. Um, and then that influences our politics and biology again, and like, just so on and so forth. So like that's not super like concrete, but I'm like kind of an idealist driven person. I'm like, that's the kind of work I want to do. And anything I do, I try to think about it in that context and how it can help me advance those goals.
Olivia: [00:24:01] That's great to hear. I mean, I love that. It certainly speaks to a lot of the issues that we talked about when you interviewed me and what I think the mission of the Miller Worley Center is for sure. So that was great to hear. Adrienne, what about you?
Adrienne: [00:24:16] I want to echo, like what Adrianne said. Yeah. I definitely like agree that biology and politics influence one another and one can not be without the other. I think the Miller Worley Center has helped me open those doors as for like speaking to people and like being confident in the words that I'm saying, because I'm not really like approaching people. As in, like, you need to change this, you need to change this. You need to change this. It's more. So just like, what resources do you have? How are you working right now? And where do you feel like you can move forward? And, whether it's just like intersectionality, whether it's incorporating and environmentalist sort of view, or having a conversation and being able to get your point across and communicate well and not be patronizing and things like that. I think that's definitely helped me anywhere that I go. And the Miller Worley Center is a good place for me to being able to access many different types of people. Like, Adrianne, was saying. So those are the skills that I really like coming from this position. And if I had to choose something, I really like to change things. So maybe like the USDA maybe changed some policies in there. I've a friend who is trying to get a position in there. And so she like analyzed her degree and made her degree specific for that, for a position in there. And so maybe I'll look into that, but also I think community organizer is something that I'll probably just do as a lifelong thing. So we'll see where I end up.
Olivia: [00:25:41] Yeah. I feel like I am also a community organizer, but my community just changes and I sort of feel like my role as the director of the Miller Worley Center is actually community organizer, but at Mount Holyoke and for a specific issue. So I think that's a great title to carry with you wherever you are, and it fits in various places. And I definitely see that you can do that work. So that's awesome. Genesis, how about you? Are you developing any particular skills with your work and do you see that as being of use at all in the future?
Genesis: [00:26:13] Yeah, I think the one thing that really comes to mind and I appreciate that I get to participate is just remote working in general. I think obviously with the pandemic and everything going on, I think people and businesses and companies are realizing that business and working from home is like a reality. And you can get just as much done. And I appreciate just getting that experience, you know, what was said before, just teamwork and collaborating, you know, um, we have Google docs, you know, we have Google drive and we share all these files and you can still be in the know of what others are doing and like reaching out again what was mentioned and just expressing your thoughts, your concerns in a different way. Now feels different, but like now it's becoming the new normal, I guess. And so I appreciate that in general, but I think specifically from my role, I really like the data management part of this as well. I've looked over the data many times at a new data. My eyes hurt after a while from looking at everything because it's a lot of data, but I think it's a skill that's really important in research because I am a biology major. And so I'm hoping to continue that in the future, do research or some sort of field work as well. And participate in that in the future. And I think data management can just be a strong skill to have. I think if you're working on bigger projects or like in anything as well is useful. And I also just like the collaborative nature of my role with Jenica with other students, like I said, I also liked the versatility of it kind of, like I mentioned before, this is the environmental monitoring program, but we're doing stuff in R code. And we have been collaborating with like computer science students who are helping us. And so like, it all comes together in the end for one goal and like there's different sections. And I like how they all have different roles, what have the same goal in a sense. And so I think that's also important because in a real life job, you would see different people again, coming together. I'm just hoping that these skills helped me in the future.
Olivia: [00:27:59] Yeah, that's great. I think really good point about the working remotely. It's almost, weird because I didn't realize this until you said this, but I don't think as a full team we have ever met in person, which is bizarre to me, but we have met quite a few times on zoom calls. And so it feels like, you know, we know each other, but yeah, that, that is a really interesting point. So last question for everybody, um, beyond your work at the Miller Worley Center, what research internship experiences have you had. That you feel like I've been really helpful too. And do you have any tips for people to get similar experiences?
Adrianne: [00:28:35] I pursued kind of more traditional paths to get research experiences by which I mean like applications with like personal statements and like essays and your CV and like letters of rec and everything. So my previous experiences have all been state or federally funded research. I actually did some stuff funded by the state of Texas, Olivia, your home state. So I worked in Houston for a while. That was, that was fun. But I think my biggest piece of advice for that it's just to like, get organized and like, figure out what tools you need to achieve that organization. Because for me, it's spreadsheets and just being able to organize all that information to both like compare program information, like the stipend, the location, the possible research areas, extracurricular, and like professional development opportunities to like compare those. And then like, to kind of later on track where I am in my application, like maybe I need to like follow up on the letter of rec or something like that, but just being really proactive about being organized. And then I also think it's important for like Mount Holyoke students to be aware of and just kind of assert that we have a lot to offer as people who have liberal arts educations. And there are a lot of programs that are specifically recruiting and like targeting students who work at these smaller institutions. So we do have a lot of opportunities, even if like South Hadley is a bit more remote than a lot of other places. I think like, just definitely keep an eye out for those and be ready to discuss what unique perspectives and like experiences and skills you've been able to get from like your time at Mount Holyoke.
Adrienne: [00:30:03] Yeah. I think all of Adrianne's tips are like, great. So please follow those. So I didn't get mine through applications. I got mine through one of my teachers that I had at Mount Holyoke. So I'm a biology major, right. So I biology teacher, she's just like, are you interested in working with crabs? And I was just like, sure, why not? I need to get some type of experience. Right. And I guess she saw that, like I had, good skills, at least within her classroom. And so then I applied for that position. I got it. So I think utilizing your teachers and your teachers have interacted with you more than maybe say, like someone who's not even in the same institution as you. And so, um, there's definitely opportunities at your local college or local area. So now I work at the crustacean lab with, for Rene Brodie I'm still applying to like other internships for this upcoming summer, but yeah, all the tips that Adrianne has presented are basically all the tips that I'm using right now. So they're very helpful.
Genesis: [00:31:02] The biggest piece of advice that I have is just to put yourself out there. I think, especially in academia and like smaller colleges, imposter syndrome is like really common, especially with research. Cause you know, if it's not a big school, a big name, I think that gets in the way. But I always laugh when I look back, when I started doing research on campus, I just sent an email cause I thought something, sounded super cool. And then my professor said yes, and I was then, and that started it. And then. That summer I did with Lynk funding through Mount Holyoke. I stayed on campus to do a lot of data collection and run data collection. And that actually set me up for my thesis now. And so I think it was just really nice that I was just really excited that I knew I had to do research. And I was like, okay, this is what I want to do. And my research is in reproductive morphology. And so I never expected for me to do something like that. You know, I think people always think of all like, more concrete, like molecular biology, cellular biology, but this was something completely different. I didn't think I would ever do. And so I'm really happy that I did that now. And I think putting yourself out there also connects to like what you apply to, like, don't just apply for something small or local. Like if you want to put yourself out there, like shoot big and aim high, I think. As long as you believe in yourself, I think is super important because I think I experienced that last summer and obviously the pandemic didn't help, but I was lucky enough that I did get into a program last summer. And unfortunately, because of the pandemic I had to defer, but it was really nice cause I got to divert. So I'll be doing that this summer and I'm super excited and yeah, I think if you put yourself out there, you never know what to happen. And sometimes it works out in your favor.
Olivia: [00:32:38] That's awesome. No, that's all really good advice and good tips. I think between this episode and the last episode, we are like really giving those tips out there to the students and on how to take advantage of like resources. And like you said, put yourself out there. You know, one thing I want to bring up before we get into our lightning round, so get ready is you brought up imposter syndrome Genesis, and I think it's interesting. Also Adrianne, you brought up earlier how sometimes you're in this field and you don't see people that look like you, but nobody can see us as a panel.
But I think it's pretty interesting how we look as people doing this podcast. I identify as a woman of color and you know, I don't want to speak for the rest of you all, but the we're a nice, variety of shades on this call right now. So that's pretty exciting for me. So anyway, I just, I can relate Genesis to your point that you do raised. And so to some of the points raised earlier. All right. Ready for the lightning round. Okay. I'm seeing thumbs up. So probably everybody make sure you're un-muted cause I'm just going to throw a question and not you and you don't know who I'm going to throw it out. We're not going in there order. I am going to ask, some of these questions and actually I'm going to bring in my own because I wasn't prepared for the lightning round. So I feel like that needs to be similar to you all do. Okay. Genesis, if you could make a documentary about anything, what would it be?
Genesis: [00:33:56] Okay. I think I would do a documentary on a cute little fungus called a hat thrower fungus.
I learned about in my micro biology class year. And basically the top of the little fungus fills up with fluid and it kind of pops off and explodes. And so I think it's like the fastest accelerating organism on earth or something like that. And I think it's super cool.
Olivia: [00:34:17] Love it. Okay. Adrienne B, if you could teach one subject in school, what would it be?
Adrienne: [00:34:22] Oh gosh. Um, probably trash and fashion. That's very easy.
Olivia: [00:34:28] That was good. You got a good one. Okay, Adrianne Wu, uh, what is your favorite place in nature?
Adrianne: [00:34:35] Yeah, I'm not a very outdoorsy person, so like this has definitely been something I've had to figure out. I like the idea of bugs. I just don't like the reality of bugs, but I'm like, I'm not to be choosing. I do think it's like just being around Mount Holyoke campus. Like it's truly beautiful. Not going to say everywhere, but almost anywhere around campus is just. A great place to be in.
Olivia: [00:34:56] Got it. All right. Okay. Here's a question that I asked everybody in the last group and someone ask everybody here, Genesis, I'll get back to you. If you could have lunch with one person living or deceased, who would it be?
Genesis: [00:35:07] Oh, I, the first person that comes to mind is Serena Williams. I think she's so cool. I think she's an amazing athlete and amazing mom too. And I just it's the werid, because I didn't used to watch her play when I was younger. Um, until like maybe I started high school when I was like, Oh my God, she's amazing. And so I also play squash, so it's not the same, but you know, athletes and women in color are amazing.
Olivia: [00:35:31] Nice. That was a good, good, quick answer. All right. Um, Adrienne Baxter.
Adrienne: [00:35:36] So for me, probably Jessica Gordon Nembhard. I've been watching a lot of her talks, a little bit of her talks, and then I'm going to read her book called Collective Courage because I'm in the process of making a Collective. And so. It's a very helpful book, number one, but also she's like a very helpful resource. And so I would love to pick her brain and just talk to her about like all of her research that she did to go into this book and all of her experiences that she side with cooperatives in like specifically African-American type cooperatives in like unions.
Olivia: [00:36:07] Nice. Awesome.
Adrianne: [00:36:08] I think I I'd want to get a meal with Dorothy Roberts who is a feminist legal scholar. Um, and we just read part of her, her book, Fatal Invention in my seminar, but she also writes a lot about the law and like intersectionality. She's so smart and I would love to be able to talk with her.
Olivia: [00:36:26] Nice. Yeah. I like the there's a lot of like picking brains and having conversations about things that you find inspirational. That's really great. Okay. So be on the lookout for future episodes, as we continued to meet with them members of the Mount Holyoke Campus Community. Thanks so much for joining us again. Adrienne Baxter, Adrianne Wu, and Genesis Lara Granados all the other staff and students have been Miller Worley Center for the Environment, our editor Claire Bidigare-Curtis, Sophia Hess, who made our intro and after music and Adrianne Wu who made our podcast artwork. To learn more about the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and to connect with us on social media, check out the links in the episode description, we do a lot of work there and some of the people that you just heard from are also doing a lot of work there. So please check us out. Thank you for listening. And we hope you'll join us against soon.
Episode 4. The Land on Which We Learn
Join us for a conversation between Dr. Olivia M. Aguilar, Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Dr. Aaron Miller, Associate Curator of Visual and Material Culture and NAGPRA Coordinator at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.
Aguilar and Miller discuss Mount Holyoke College’s physical context within the Native landscape of the Connecticut Valley as well as the repatriation of ancestral remains and how this may impact land acknowledgements on campus. (Originally recorded as a conversation with a live audience)
Co-hosted by the MHC Art Museum.
- MHC Art Museum https://artmuseum.mtholyoke.edu/profile/aaron-miller
- Campus Living Lab https://www.mtholyoke.edu/mwce/campus
- NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm
- Mount Holyoke Fire https://artmuseum.mtholyoke.edu/exhibition/mount-holyoke-afire
- Five Colleges NAIS (Native American and Indigenous Studies) Program: https://www.fivecolleges.edu/natam
- Five Colleges NAIS new hires https://www.mtholyoke.edu/media/2021-feb/five-colleges-hires-nais-initiative-staff
Visit our website: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/mwce
Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sustainablemhc
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MillerWorleyCtr
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MWCEMtHolyoke
Episode 4: Transcript
Olivia: [00:00:00] The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn work and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohican and Pequot to the South , the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North, recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities. We work to honor and respect the history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land as we also work to steward it.
Hello and welcome to the Miller Worley Center for the environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors influencing them . On this show, we'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke college is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work and mission.
Hello, my name is Olivia Aguilar. I use she/her pronouns and I am the Leslie and Sarah Miller director of the Miller Worley Center for the environment. And thanks for joining us on this next episode of the Miller Worley Center for the environment podcast. Over the past few podcasts episodes, we have talked to members of the Miller Worley team about their work for the Center. But in this episode, we will be talking to Aaron Miller, the Mount Holyoke college art museum's associate curator of visual and material culture and the NAGPRA or native American graves protection and repatriation act coordinator for the Mount Holyoke college art museum. So welcome Aaron.
Aaron: [00:01:55] Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Olivia: [00:01:57] Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, we're thrilled to have you as our first guest who's actually not part of the team. And I want to provide a little background for those of you that are either watching us or listening to us about why we invited you. Part of the Miller Worley Center, and for anybody who has listened to the first one of the first episodes, is managing and stewarding the campus living lab and the living lab involves over 700 acres of natural and engineered ecosystems, a four mile network of trails and online database housing decades of data obtained from 11 permanent water sampling stations, five weather stations and additional ecological field sites across campus. And so because of this, the campus living lab is able to offer countless opportunities for class engagement for student research and inspiration. And so while we know much about the temperate deciduous forest ecosystem on which the living lab is situated, we also believe it's really important to know about both the natural and cultural history and the land in which we learn, work and reside.
This is a history that Aaron has worked on presenting and curating for the college. And so we see this conversation with Aaron. As a really important first step in learning more about Mount Holyoke college as a place with many facets and the landscape history of the college. So again, thank you Aaron, for joining us.
I'm going to jump into some questions and, and so I think the first place to start with is that I'm fairly new to the community. I've been here a little over a year since last January, but as you know, things got crazy about almost exactly a year ago with COVID hitting and us sort of shutting down campus and things got a little hectic for us. And so I am still learning about Mount Holyoke college and about the campus and everything else. I'm really excited to bring you here today. And as a starting point, could you just tell us about your role at the museum and what a typical day at work might look like for you?
Aaron: [00:03:54] Yeah, so, so nothing's really typical these days,
Olivia: [00:03:57] Haha that's true
Aaron: [00:03:58] But I think in many ways, you know, at the art museum we're doing what we've always done, maybe just in a different, different format. So I've been at Mount Holyoke for, well, I guess since 2012, And I work at the Mount Holyoke college art museum, but also the Joseph Allen Skinner museum, which is kind of under the umbrella of the art museum. So I'm in the curatorial department and I work really closely with both the educators and the collections department at the museum. So most of us here, we do a bit of everything. So you know, I, I engage with faculty on course development. I will work in classes sometimes. We have student interns that we work with. So various research projects, you know, thinking about how different aspects of the museum run. Oftentimes I'm talking with alums who have collections of their own, that they're interested in maybe finding a home for exhibitions, some publications, we do a bit of everything, but you know, we're, we're very much aligned with kind of the teaching mission of the college and on the day to day, it's a bit of everything. I think that's at the core of, of what we do.
Olivia: [00:05:12] Great. So as I mentioned in the intro, the main reason that we were really interested in talking to you is because we see your work intersecting with the landscape history of the college, and that's integral to the history of the campus living lab. So could you tell us about your role and work with the museum that pertains to sort of the history of the land of Mount Holyoke College?
Aaron: [00:05:33] Yeah . So, you know, between the two museum collections, you know, there, there are many objects, both art and material culture that connect to this particular landscape, this region, some cases, the indigenous communities of the Connecticut river Valley, you know, so we engage with these objects or these conversations in exhibitions that we do, in class visits. So it's interesting how many different courses from different disciplines are interested in the history and for different aspects of the history of this area. So we hold a lot of these objects. We care for a lot of these objects that are directly connected to this landscape, or in some cases, the history of Mount Holyoke college, the seminary. So we have materials connected to the early teachers and professors here also, you know, one of the things that we do at the museum, we want to be aware of all of the different campus collections that are on campus. And you know, sometimes I think these intersect with the work that you're doing, they're standing buildings and structures that are collections in some ways, even the trees and the greenhouse. So we don't steward those, but that's one of the things that I try to keep track of, you know, as different professors retire, we want to make sure that we have kind of an archive of really dozens of different collections across campus.
Olivia: [00:07:03] That's exciting. Could you give us an example of maybe any objects or anything that you have that you're thinking about?
Aaron: [00:07:09] Yeah, so not too long ago the geology department realized that they had all of these lithics, so, you know, stone tools. You know, many of them are connected to the Connecticut river Valley. Some are hundreds and thousands of years old. There were also things in that collection that were from sites, paleolithic sites in Europe. And so that collection was actually transferred into the museum, but they're really incredible collections in many of the different departments, things like dinosaur tracks and, you know, skeletal material from all sorts of different types of animals. You know , there's a barometer collection. You know, sometimes we're, we're finding new things and, you know, that's, that's why it's important to keep track of it. Make sure that no matter when people retire, that there's somewhere where that's being archived.
Olivia: [00:07:59] Great. And I know we keep like building off of this question cause it's, it's really interesting to me, but is that where the Skinner museum? Cause I haven't. As I was saying, we had to leave campus shortly after I came to campus. So is that where some of these things are housing?
Aaron: [00:08:14] It's a mix between the two museums. We don't know exactly when this specific collection came in, but there was a small museum space in Mary Lyon hall. It was called the Mary Lyon room. And there all of these objects, either connected to the founder of the seminary or maybe early graduates and those objects probably in the seventies kind of went into the Skinner collection. So, you know, it's also kind of a matter of trying to put together the pieces and figure out where did these things kind of come from? When did they, they enter the collection, very significant things. But as soon as they lose some of that, that history, then, you know, you're losing a big part of the story.
Olivia: [00:08:58] Yeah, for sure. Well, it's also interesting because I'm thinking of the basement of Clapp and there's just like a collection of very interesting things in that basement.
Aaron: [00:09:07] Yeah. Yeah. And that that's, that's where the the lithic materials were sort of rediscovered because, you know, back in the late twenties, there was an anthropology museum on campus. So I'm particularly interested in kind of that history of the structures and institutions within even Mount Holyoke. And over the years, you know, we worked with the late Bob Herbert. He did a lot of work reconstructing the landscape, you know, thinking about the parks that were here are the buildings that burnt down and fascinating to think about that history. But then some of the, kind of the material culture of those histories still exist in different places, whether at archives or at the museum or elsewhere on campus.
Olivia: [00:09:50] Yes. And I think you've mentioned his name to me before and I, again, since I'm fairly new, I don't know much about him, but he was a professor?
Aaron: [00:09:59] So he's a professor emeritus art history, but later in life, he became really interested in the history of Mount Holyoke and we were able to work together on a few different exhibitions on that history.
Olivia: [00:10:13] Cool. Yeah. I'll have to dig into that a little bit more. So a lot of what you do is around history and one of the things we try to highlight on the podcast is skillsets that people might not consider directly related to environmental work. You might consider yourself or your work environmental per se, but it certainly relates I think, to the natural environment or to environmental history, perhaps. And so could you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to this work and what you do with the Mount Holyoke college art museum?
Aaron: [00:10:43] Yeah. So my background is historical archeology. So that's a field of archeology that I was focused in Northeast of what's now the United States and Canada, and kind of a period post-contact so 17th, 18th, 19th century, primarily. And because of that background and my, the other thing is I'm actually more or less from this area up North Charlemont. So I'm really interested in the history of this area in particular. And you know, as an undergrad, I worked at historic Deerfield. So I have a connection with decorative arts material culture more broadly. And that's in part what brought me to the museum in the first place. But my passion is always going to be archeology. So since I came here, I, you know, I've been interested in how this landscape has changed over tens of thousands of years, but, you know, Most specifically kind of in the last three, four hundred years and, you know, learning from different professors and local historians and students about some of the changes of this landscape. And, you know, I think there's a lot more work to be done there. And I think that's definitely a place where my interests correspond with some of the work that you're doing right here on campus. I mean, it has changed so much and I'm always interested in learning more about how those changes happened and why, and when from that, it comes a much bigger conversation about, you know, how this landscape has changed over thousands of years. That's something that I'm able to connect to my work at the museum in different ways, but, you know, it's really sort of my passion on the side.
Olivia: [00:12:20] I think that's fascinating. And in my own work, I have really started to grasp the importance of historical context for anything. I mean, even, you know, I talk a lot about race and justice in my work. And I think even those conversations, like the historical context is so key to understanding, you know, where we're at in those conversations. So I find that to be like really interesting. We didn't talk about me asking you this, but if you had to. You know, you talked about the historical changes at Mount Holyoke over the past 300 to 400 years. If you had to point to one or two big changes that you thought were really fascinating or interesting. What comes to mind?
Aaron: [00:13:00] I think it's, in some ways it's more of a question. So I don't, I don't really know the answer. But thinking about lower Lake and upper Lake and that waterway was really altered and damned. And, you know, I know there's a, like a later 18th century mill on lower Lake that I would be particularly interested in. And maybe some of this work has already happened, but kind of reconstructing what that watershed looked like in particularly thinking about, we don't know exactly where, but we do have a few projectile points. These are likely arrowheads in the museum collection that we know were found on campus. So facilities back in the nineteen or twenties, they uncovered these artifacts. So, you know, we know that this is a landscape that has been directly people than utilize for, for thousands of years and Patricia Mangan, anthropology professor, both here and at Smith, she did an excavation on campus of the site related to the real original seminary building back in the nineties. And You know, from talking with her and reading some of what she's published, it's clear that at different points has been a lot of fill. So thinking about the plateau where Clapp and the library are, I think a lot of that has been built out over the years. So it's just really significant aspects of the landscape have been changed even in the last few hundred years.
Olivia: [00:14:29] Yeah. In fact, I was talking to, I don't know if I would call them a developer, but we were talking about the behind prospect Hill and like all of the trees and sort of forced it in quotes "area"behind prospect Hill, but also prospect Hill. And how, if you look at pictures over the past couple of hundred years, it wasn't always, it didn't look like that. You know? And so those landscape changes too, I think are really interesting and windows occurred as well. So yeah, and I think the lakes is a great example of when those came about, but then also how that changed the landscape. And then, you know, we are also thinking about having conversations about what does the future of lower Lake look like and how that will change campus as well. So all facets,
Aaron: [00:15:09] well, I think this happened in the 1930s, they drained lower lake and they found some of the, you know, the huge granite millstones from that mill. And this is when Joseph Allen Skinner was still alive and he actually. I guess they moved them over there. So some of the milestones that you see over at the Skinner using EMR are actually from that.
Olivia: [00:15:29] Oh, wow. Very cool. I'll have to check out the museum once you open back up. Yeah. Great. So actually you talked about some, some things that I think are relevant to my next question that I have for you. And I had mentioned in the beginning that you are the NAGPRA coordinator for the Mount Holyoke college art museum. And again, just for people that might have tuned it a little bit later, NAGPRA stands for the native American graves protection and repatriation act. So I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what NAGPRA is generally, and then specifically what you do as the coordinator for NAGPRA, for the art museum.
Aaron: [00:16:07] Yeah. So, you know, NAGPRA is a 1990 act that really required museums and other institutions that had collections of getting primarily native American ancestral remains, but also significant cultural objects to kind of consult, reach out to those communities. And I think in many ways it began the process of repatriation of appropriate objects. So my role at the art museums to try to help that process. So we have objects from many different native American, Alaskan, and Hawaiian communities that fall under that act. And what we tried to do is, as we are able to identify objects that we have, you know, sort of a cultural affiliation, and that happens often too through classwork. Students will be helping with that interns will be helping with that. And it's in our obligation to be reaching out to those communities. And you know, whether we think or know that they are culturally sensitive or not, we want to let people know. And then, then the consultation process begins. And so with the art museum, we've repatriated some objects, that's an ongoing process and it's really one that will never end. So. I think at this point, I've been communicating back and forth directly with dozens of different communities. And oftentimes it's just, people are interested in learning more about what we have or how it came into the collection, sending images, things like that. And then if it gets to a point where the community wants to claim something, then I work with them in that process. And at the end of it, things are sent back to these communities where they were never really intended to leave. And so to ancestral remains and then objects that were placed in burials with those people. Or, you know, sometimes these objects get separated from people. It also applies to objects of cultural patrimony. So, you know, something that could never really belong to one person who was always part of the broader communities. So therefore it never should have left in the first place. And then kind of a final category of sacred objects, which could be many different types of things. And, you know, I think that's really it, a designation that is placed by the community and themselves, because they're aware of what these things are.
Olivia: [00:18:40] I think I actually didn't know much about. The work that you did in that respect. And so I had this assumption that most of these artifacts or objects that you were working with were maybe associated with local communities, but it sounds like they could be maybe from all over.
Aaron: [00:18:57] Yeah. So both the art museum and the Skinner museum, those collections of objects really across what's now the United States. So the process, and it happens with any community, Hawaii and Alaska are also part of that. There, there are also things that are directly connected to the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck and other communities more regionally. And so those are materials that we're also working on. I mean, there, there are objects that we maybe haven't been consulting with anyone yet, but we know that they are, you know, sensitive objects. So those are things that we don't put on display. We don't use in classes. So we're, we're trying to educate ourselves, learn as much as we can about the collection. And then, because unfortunately there are many objects, you know, things like projectile points and lithic materials that don't have any of that history connected to them. So it can be very difficult to know exactly what community they came from and what region. So there are challenges on our end to really be able to continue to research things. And, you know, the consultation process is really helpful in that way. Cause sometimes I'll be talking to a community member about one object and they'll see something and they say, "Oh, you know, this isn't from our community, but it's probably from this community". So through the process, we're learning more. And then hopefully being able to, to reach out to more tribes and communities that we weren't able to before. Yeah, that's that's
Olivia: [00:20:29] Great. And I think what I really appreciate is highlighting that this is an ongoing educational process. I was saying that at the beginning, when we talked about the land acknowledgement of the Miller Worley Center and how that for us, I feel like is also an educational process. And so. There are a lot of people, as I was preparing for this conversation, I was learning, there are many people on campus that are really interested in creating better, stronger relationships with local indigenous communities. And there's a lot of things happening on our campus. And I've heard that there are two classes that were in mod, one, working on issues around land acknowledgements, and there have been community members that we have brought to campus that are speaking on issues of relationship building. We had Sonia Adelaide speak last fall. The Weisman center brought her and we have the anti-racism action plan, which includes a plan for our campus wide land acknowledgement. There's also a few different working groups that are working on issues related to race and honoring and respecting indigenous knowledge. So there's a lot, there's a lot happening. Oh. And also, I don't want to forget that there's a newly formed a task force on history, legacy and memory, which I think is shaping up right now as we, as we speak. So I just think that there's a lot happening around some of these issues. There seems to be a lot of interest. And as I was saying, it's definitely an educational process. And when we have started it, but certainly don't feel like we are anywhere near we're just at the, at the starting point, which is why we were interested in engaging in a conversation with you. So are there other things that you know of, maybe that I missed that the college is engaged in around this word?
Aaron: [00:22:07] Yeah. So you mentioned the anti racism statement. My title is NAGPRA coordinator really connects to the art museum. I have been assisting the college, you know, so within that statement talks about the repatriation of ancestral remains. And, you know, I think, I think there's a lot of work that will come out of that. And that connects, I think in many ways to some of the bigger conversations that are, that are happening on campus about. Like you said, kind of continuing this conversation and making it into a sort of a moment of learning and reflection. And it's pretty incredible to see this, how many different faculty and students are interested in tackling these difficult conversations.
Olivia: [00:22:53] Right.
Aaron: [00:22:54] And yeah, I think part of the purpose of these acknowledgements and reflecting and it's about having the uncomfortable conversations. And it seems to be about connecting the land to the indigenous communities that were here in the past and they're here in the present. But I do think it is also about looking at the horrible history connected to settler colonialism more generally. The history of the Northeast and the Connecticut river Valley is pretty dark and it can be very complicated and I feel positive in that these conversations are really happening and thinking about the repatriation that's happening for the college right now, you know, the ancestral remains have been legally repatriated, which means that just sort of waiting on the Stockbridge Munsee communities for when they're ready. You know, I'm hopeful that following that there'll be more of a conversation about where we go from there.
Olivia: [00:23:53] Yeah. And so I think as a followup, I would just say, I mean, I think you're absolutely right. Like this requires a lot of difficult conversations, internal reflection, and then also reaching out and beginning to have conversations with the local communities. And so that's one piece of it. And then the other piece is, as you know, you were also talking about the landscape history of the college and various things that have happened on college and over just the past couple of hundred years and how that has changed the landscape. So I guess if I were to say, do you have a suggestion on where a student could start to like, learn more about the landscape history? You know, where would you suggest that they go to?
Aaron: [00:24:32] I think there's some amazing resources. At Mount Holyoke, but then five colleges more broadly. There's the native American indigenous studies group program. I know that there are a lot of faculty within the five college community that have thought a great deal about the landscape history connected to this area and the indigenous history of this area. One of the great things about being at Mount Holyoke is the five colleges. Generally you can take courses at all of these different institutions. And I was in the five college consortium a long time ago, and maybe I didn't take enough advantage of that, but I think there are a lot of really interesting conversations happening here at Mount Holyoke, but then also within the larger community. So I know Hampshire has been doing a number of talks of late and, you know, Amherst , Umass are always doing things so I think if you kind of keep your ears open and see who's teaching what, what community events are happening there, there are a lot of opportunities to think, engage more with thinking about some of these questions.
Olivia: [00:25:46] I mean, I often, again, you know, because I'm because I'm fairly new in learning the ropes. I often forget about the value that the five colleges brings and how much sort of wealth of knowledge there is not just within the Mount Holyoke college community, but sort of within the five colleges you just reminded me that Jenica actually sent me an recent news announcement that. The NAIG program, is that, am I getting that right?
Aaron: [00:26:10] That's right. NAIS.
Olivia: [00:26:11] NAIS. That they hired, I think two new people and one I think is working on curriculum specifically. And then I would think one person is working on community relationships. So I think that is a great example of, and I, and I'm really looking forward to connecting with them and trying to figure out how we can work with them. So yeah. Five colleges, a great example of. Of a resource that we can turn to also and use. And as I said, as soon as Skinner opens, I'll try to head over to Skinner, to see what you all have there too. Do we know any, any plans of opening?
Aaron: [00:26:44] So the art museum is right now open, specific days a week. I mean, Friday and Sunday for student campus audience, but the art museum and Skinner museum will be available for sort of a campus audience, hopefully, you know, as soon as we have more things happening here. So I can't give you a clear date. We probably won't open to the public until later, but you know, for class visits, we've always been available at any time. So hopefully, you know, next, next semester, things might look very different, but we do, we do things like tours and stuff kind of remotely where I will be in. In the museum or one of the educators will be in the museum. So I'm thinking about class-related stuff there there's a lot of potential, even in the shorter term.
Olivia: [00:27:35] Right. That's awesome. Kudos to the art museum for doing so much virtually, I mean, it's just a great example of how your team just jumped on virtual engagement and really made the art museum accessible. So good job on that. Okay. I think we're ready for lightning round.
Aaron: [00:27:52] I am not ready
Olivia: [00:27:53] So we're going to jump in. Here we go. And you just answer whatever is on the top of your head. This one is one of the students' favorites. What do you think is the most underrated fruit?
Aaron: [00:28:06] Oh man. See, I knew I wasn't going to do well with this. I tried to be, I'm trying to be clever about it. Pomegranate.
Olivia: [00:28:14] Pomegranate. All right. All right.
Aaron: [00:28:18] I'm trying to be cool about it. That's the problem.
Olivia: [00:28:21] I mean, we've had answers from grapes to I think that's an papaya, but no, no, but I pomegranates maybe. I mean, I guess it's all in the, the eye of the beholder, right . Of the, of the actual who eats the fruit. All right. Let me see if I can get even an easier one. If there's one book, you recommend it to everybody that you came across, what would it be?
Aaron: [00:28:42] It would probably be a Frank Herbert's dune science fiction book.
Olivia: [00:28:47] Cool. That's good one. Okay. If you could be anything other than your current profession and you didn't have to worry about the educational trajectory to do it, what would you be?
Aaron: [00:28:59] I think it would probably be a paleontologist, so pretty, pretty close, but yeah.
Olivia: [00:29:05] Yeah, not bad right. That's great. And then this is one of my favorite questions. If you could have lunch with anybody living or deceased, who would it be?
Aaron: [00:29:16] Oh man, that's tough. Probably because my PhD was on this person is George Calvert, who was first Lord Baltimore. He probably wouldn't enjoy my company, but I have a couple of questions to ask him.
Olivia: [00:29:31] That's so great. All the questions you weren't able to, to answer in your dissertation. That's great. All right. I think that that will conclude the, the lightning rounds. It wasn't so tough. You bring up a couple of events that I think people will be interested in knowing are happening, especially because these are events that I think are pertinent to this conversation, but for the live audience, because you will get this in time. Boom is happening March 23rd. Boom is the Mount Holyoke colleges, annual diversity equity and inclusion learning symposium which features a series of events, the events incorporate voices and experiences of students, faculty, staff, and alumni and sessions are designed by members of the community for the community. And we'll meet participants where they are in their learning and comfort and engaging in sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so the reason I bring that up is there are a couple of events that I noticed that were, I felt relevant to our conversation today. One is on implicit bias, stereotypes and monuments with Claudia Fox tree in which she, it looks like she will be speaking about engineers, how indigenous people have always lived on this land, their history, culture and contributions are not seen instead stereotypes and implicit bias imposed by the dominant culture. Define their identity. The journey of developing a counter narrative to missing information and misinformation about the first nations people of this land begins with Annette racing, indigenous voices and learning truths we are not taught. It continues by having conversations with families, friends, and community members to confront and visibility and implicit bias. So join Claudia. She takes back the narrative and focuses on strategies to challenge bias in contributions made visible. And then there's also a tiny desk talk. It says indigenous students at Mount Holyoke join Leslie Fields, the head of the archives and special collections for this tiny desktop. Leslie will share archival materials, documenting the experiences of several indigenous students at Mount Holyoke from the 1840s to the mid 20th century, including I'm not going to say this right? The Buddhano sisters. And then Ruth muskrat and then Evelyn yellow robe. So there should be some cool conversations, as I said, that are relevant to this. Anything else? Aaron, do you have anything?
Aaron: [00:31:52] I don't think so.
Olivia: [00:31:53] All right. Well, we will be sure to be following the museum and to see what you are all up to. And we will be anxiously waiting the opening so we can get over there and, and see things. But in the meantime, the museum has a great Instagram page. Miller Worley Center also has a great Instagram page. Check us out, see what we're doing. And I'd like to thank our guests, Aaron Miller, and all of the staff and students of the Miller Worley Center for the environment. I'd like to thank our editors Clara Bidigare Curtis and Adrianne Wu. Sophia Hess who made our intro and actual music, Adrianne Wu, again, who made our podcast artwork and also Jordan Lassonde . She does so much behind the scenes work or this podcast and for the Miller Worley Center. So thanks to Jordan to learn more. As I said about the Miller Worley Center for the environment, you can connect with us on social media. We'll have links in the episode description, or I will also link to everything that we've referenced in today's episode. So thank you for listening. We hope you will join us again soon.
Episode 5: Welcome Back (featuring Jenica, Raghu and Jordan)
Episode 5. Welcome Back
In this episode, Olivia Aguilar, Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment at Mount Holyoke College talks with the rest of the MWCE staff. Olivia introduces Jenica Allen, Raghu Rhaghavan and Jordan Lassonde. The staff give a brief overview of their roles with the MWCE and share what they are excited for this semester.
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Episode 5: Transcript
[00:00:00] Olivia: The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn work and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck, neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the east, the Mohegan and Pequot to south, Mohican to the west and the Abenaki to the north. Recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities, we work to honor and respect the history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land as we also work to steward it.
Hello and welcome to the Miller Worley center for the environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors influencing them. On this show, we'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental, cover what Mount Holyoke college is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities and resources that are relevant to our work.
Hi, and welcome back to the Miller Worley center for the environment podcast. My name is Olivia Aguilar and I'm the Leslie and Sarah Miller director of the Miller Worley center for the environment. You can learn more about me and my role at the center in episode one. If you haven't listened to that yet, I'm not going to reiterate things from episode one, but I do want to jump in and really kickstart the 2021-2022 school year with this episode here in which I will introduce the rest of the Miller Worley Center team. And we'll talk about things that we are excited about for this fall. So, as I said, my name is Olivia. I use she/her pronouns and I am excited to introduce the rest of the team: Jennica Allen, who is our campus living lab manager, Raghu Raghavan, who is our director of sustainability and Jordan Lassonde, who is our assistant director. So with that, I think I'll kick it off Jennica. Welcome. And tell us a little bit about yourself.
[00:02:13] Jenica: Thanks Olivia, I'm excited to connect with everyone. My name is Jenica Allen. I use she/her pronouns. As Olivia mentioned, I am the campus living lab manager on campus. I've been a part of the Mount Holyoke community in this role for just over two years. So its been a wild ride over those two years, but here we are. And in that role, I really helped you connect faculty and staff to campus as a teaching and learning resource. Personally, I grew up in Western Massachusetts though for grad school and various professional positions, I've moved all over the east coast and spent some extended time in Japan, working on research projects as well. So mostly a Western mass native, but really have bounced around. So in terms of what I'm excited about this fall, some things you've perhaps heard about before as part of the campus living lab and some of them I would be surprised if you had, so I worked directly with classes to use campus, so that means I will go out with classes and give tours, help faculty find resources on campus. You know, I've helped faculty develop art projects on campus, identify particular types of trees for use in labs. So if you're in a class and you think it would be cool to do something outside, have your professor get in touch with me and we'll see what we can do. We also have a live stream camera. We call it the campus living lab camera that is rolling 24/7. So it really allows folks to connect with the place that is our campus from wherever they are in the world. You can find that link on the Mount Holyoke YouTube channel. So you can always tune in at any point, whether you're on campus or not , see if you can spot Jorge and just see what the season looks like. I also helped to run the environmental monitoring program, which measures a variety of water, weather, and forest parameters on campus. This is a really long running program in some cases, 20 plus years, which is quite unique. And we make those data available publicly to anybody who wants them through the campus research center website, which is accessed through the Miller Worley Center website and through the institutional data archive. So you can find links to all of those data sets, if you're interested in using them for projects, and there's no restrictions, you can do whatever you want with those. And there they're ever growing data sets about what the campus natural environment is doing at any given time. So the thing that you probably haven't heard about yet, and that I'm super excited about is a series of events that are designed to identify ideas, values, and priorities for using Stonybrook and lower lake for education, recreation, and sustainable management leading into the future. So we're calling this the waterways planning project for short. So these events are cosponsored by the Miller Worley center and facilities management. And the events are going to be facilitated by the Place Alliance, which is a landscape architecture and planning firm that previously designed and installed the boardwalk at project stream. So we want you to participate in this process and there's lots of ways that you can do that. The first is through a series of virtual kickoff events. There'll be replicating events. You don't need to come to all of them. But we're going to have one of those events on Monday, September 27th at 3 pm. And the other on Tuesday, September 28th at 7 pm. You can register for those events on the MHC events calendar. You can also just show up at our community visioning session, which is going to be held on Friday, October 1st from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm in the Blanchard great room. So that's an opportunity if you've got five minutes during your lunch block to drop in and tell us what you think about lower lake and what we should do with it, or what you'd like to see, feel free to do that. There's no registration required. And finally there's a town hall presentation at the end of a design workshop. That place Alliance will be leading to present and discuss the plan that they develop after they've heard all of these different opinions from our, our campus community. And that event is going to be held on Thursday, October 28th, from 3 to 5 pm in Willits. We do again, request registration, and that link is on MHC events, calendar. So I'm going to stop there and let my colleagues share what they're working on, but I would love to see all of you at these Events this fall.
[00:07:05] Olivia: Awesome. Thanks Jenica. And then also, I just want to mention too, that you can find the campus living lab. Camera link from our website as well. So check out the website where you can find a lot of different, exciting things. I'm going to move now to our director of sustainability, Raghu. So Raghu. Tell us about yourself and how long you've been here and what you do.
[00:07:26] Raghu: Thank you, Olivia. Hello everyone. My name is Raghu Raghavan as Olivia mentioned. I use he/him pronouns. I am the director of sustainability here and the associate director of the Miller Worley Center. Been in my position here at the Miller Worley for over a year now, originally from India. And I've been in the US for about twenty-five years. I've been working in higher ed and community sustainability for about two decades. My role here is to bridge campus operations with academic affairs, to the Miller Worley Center, institutionalized sustainability. It's all about the campus. The flagship sustainability project here right now within the campus operations is the carbon neutrality project. Mount Holyoke has set a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037, working with a consulting firm, MEP associates. The college conducted a year long study beginning in March of 2020 to evaluate our energy infrastructure and assumption there. The main objective of this study was to identify and evaluate options and ultimately recommend the plan to achieve this goal. The criteria for the plan included minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from campus utilities, maximizing renewable energy usage, minimizing reliance on carbon offsets to achieve zero effective carbon emissions, implementing cost-effective and forward looking technology and replacing an aging and archaic infrastructure with a modern, efficient and flexible system and analysis was performed on multiple options throughout the study period before selecting the recommended option includes conversion from steam. This option was developed to provide a cost effective solution with significant greenhouse gas reductions, including the reduction of emissions by 80% come back to the business as usual case. The recommended option includes conversion from steam, heated, hot water district heating backward, including an upgrade of the heating system. It's important for each building to be compatible with this network. The transition to heat and hot water will be the first step in the progression to in low temperature, hot water system. The source for the low temperature, hot water, it's expected to be the ground source feed pump system with Geo exchange boards in the athletic fields. And now we're currently in the schematic design phase of this project. The other significant continuing sustainability initiatives on canvas include improving the canvases energy efficient. Over the last few years, the college has worked With a consulting firm on various energy efficiency projects. Current projects include installation of new led lighting, fixtures and retrofits in Kendall, Creighton hall and Mary Woolley installation on steam piping and accessories in four steam, manhole locations, and five mechanical rooms. Installation of variable frequency drives replacement motors and associate furnace traffic controls on three central heating plant induced draft point and a fan and installation of attic insulation in Platt and porterhouse. An initiative of the Miller Worley Center includes being a host institution for a conference that is conducted by the association for the advancement of sustainability in Higher education. It's acronym is AASHE. As host institution, all members of the Mount Holyoke community are able to attend this conference virtually free of charge. This year, the conference will be held from October 12 to 14. AASHE conference is a great opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to explore sustainability and environmental justice in higher ed. This year, Rich Perna , executive director of Dining services, and myself will be presenting on the fantastic achievements of campus dining. I hope you all will stop by the center to discuss about all of these initiatives a lot more so we can broadcast them throughout campus.
[00:11:40] Olivia: That's awesome. Thank you so much for updating us. There's a lot going on. Probably each of those initiatives you talked about deserves its own podcast. I think so. Maybe once the students get back, we can have one of them interview you and dig a bit deeper into those various initiatives. Cause there's a lot, so a lot going on with sustainability on Campus that we're really excited about. And yes, as Raghu mentioned that last piece we're hosting the AASHEconference this year and you can find out more about that on our website as well. There's a link for that under the grants page. So you can check out that as well. But as Raghu said, we do encourage you to come into the center and talk to us about all of these initiatives and stuff. Last, but certainly not least I will have our assistant director introduce herself. And some of the things she's excited about for this fall. So Jordan who's also, I didn't mention an alum, but I'll let you introduce yourself.
[00:12:34] Jordan: Thanks Olivia. Yes. My name is Jordan Lassonde and I use she/her pronouns. I grew up in Southern New Hampshire. And as you said, Olivia, I'm a proud Mount Holyoke alum class of 2016. Go blue Lions. I've been with the Miller Worley center for close to two and a half years now. And in my current role as assistant director of the center, I assist in the everyday management of the center and support the rest of the team in their incredible varied efforts. I also work on event management and program development, working most closely with our community sustainability coordinators. So I do a lot of student facing work and really enjoy and love hearing all of their great ideas. I'm always blown away by what our students have to offer. They have some really incredible initiatives that are completely run by them, which is great. As for this fall as an alum, it's not a surprise that I'm most excited about mountain day, mountain day is a beloved Mount Holyoke tradition. And so I'm really excited that this year with students being back on campus, that we get the chance to have a more traditional in-person mountain day. So. Excited for the day that that bells will ring and we'll all get to celebrate as a community, whatever that looks like for everyone. And that certainly looks different for faculty, staff, students, and alums. But we can all celebrate together. So the Miller Worley Center is really excited this year to be a part of that. And so we're kind of promoting community and celebrating the day in a couple of different ways. One of those being a mountain day nature photo contest that we Are hoping. I'm planning to kick off this year to bring together the entire community of students, alumni, faculty, and staff, to see how everyone celebrates. So we're doing that mainly through our Instagram and hoping that people will share photos of how they got outside, how they celebrated their mountain day. And then we're going to take winners from each category: students, alumni, faculty and staff from that group. So that's something that we're excited about for the day of, and then also we're hoping to create some of this spirit of mountain day on campus for those people who can't make it off to the mountains. So we're going to be promoting our campus trails and being out there to support our staff and faculty or, or anyone who just can't make it to the mountain. So I'm very excited for when the bells will ring for mountain day. And I don't think I'm alone on that one, so that's pretty great. And then later in the semester, we also have our annual. Generally, what has previously been called our environmental studies alum panel, which has a history of around 10 years, I believe at this point. And so this year we're hoping to expand this event into a two day event that we're calling, exploring future possibilities. And so with partners from around campus, our plan is to host several sessions over the two days around professional development and career exploration. So you can keep an eye out for more information as the semester continues. And as we finalize some of our campus partners, we're hoping to have a session on grants and what you can find in grids being offered or navigating different aspects of careers as well. So keep an eye out as we post more information and we hope to see you on December 1st and December 2nd for that great exploring future possibilities event. But there is certainly plenty going on this fall. So we hope to see you in any of the things That we are putting on.
[00:15:59] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks Jordan. And as Jordan mentioned, she works really closely with the students in the center. And well, we are recording this without them right now. We hope to have them back shortly and I'm sure we'll do another podcast episode with the new group of students that are here, but you can check what our students did. And again, in some of the older episodes that we had, I think episode two and episode three of the podcast, which you can find on our website, introduced the students and their work as community sustainability coordinators on campus. So that's a really exciting thing to check out as well.
So thanks Jordan for that. I think the last thing that I'm just going to mention is our community commitment to climate justice, which we are excited to kick off this fall. We've been talking about it since early spring. And the idea of the community commitment to climate justice is really a community wide approach to carbon neutrality. And it's sort of a nod to the Paris agreement in which we will be seeking commitments from the colleges, primary stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, everybody really that's part of our campus to come together and commit to address the level of carbon neutrality and sustainability in keeping with our 2037 carbon neutrality goals set forth by the sustainability task force. And I think the important thing of convening together is that we recognize that the commitments from each stakeholder is going to look different based on their contribution to emissions on campus and to their level of responsibility on campus. So for this reason, we really think it's important to come together. And have both a transparent and a sustained dialogue to develop goals that are agreeable to each stakeholder group, and that can be revisited consistently. So, you know, what are things that we think we can do and can manage and can keep up on a consistent basis? Ultimately, I think the idea behind this is that when actions are defined by the actor, It really gives us agency and we believe that this will incentivize long-term commitment and empower the community as a whole, to really move forward towards carbon neutrality and accomplish a culture of sustainability across campus. So that's the goal and the intention behind the community commitment to climate justice. We are going to try to kick it off this September with just an initial meeting and then really see how it evolves and develops over the year with probably another two meetings throughout the entire school year. But this is really a long-term initiative and project. And so this is just the beginning. We're really excited to see where that goes. So if anybody is interested in being at the table or wanting to have a say, let us know, and we can find it. To get you involved in all of these initiatives, really. So there's a lot going on and I'm going to try to summarize and feel free anybody to jump in and, and let me know if I'm missing some, some things, but I'm going to try to summarize a calendar of events if you will. And our hope is that we appear in Dwight. We haven't mentioned that yet, but you can find us on the second floor of Dwight hall, all of us. And we'll try to have a calendar I think out of the hallway, so far that's our, our goal, but events wise so far we are excited about collaborating on a mountain day photo contest and also providing some opportunities for staff around campus to get involved in mountain day. We don't know what it is. It's a surprise, but when that happens, we are excited to be involved. In September, we will be kicking off the community commitment to climate justice. And October, we have the place Alliance waterways project happening for almost the whole month of October. And then also right in the middle of October, we will be hosting a AASHE, which Raghu you mentioned, and that is open to students, staff, and faculty. So we really hope you take advantage of that opportunity. There will be more information coming out in different newsletters on how to do that. But again, check out our website and the grants link, and you can find out more than. And then as Raghusaid, who will be presenting at that conference. And then in this very beginning, December. So right after you come back from Thanksgiving break, we will be having our two day event exploring future possibilities. So excited about that. I think I captured it all. Yep.
[00:20:02] Jenica: I'll just say that the very beginning of the waterways planning project squeaks into the end of September. So we're nibbling away at the end of September too. And then many of the events are throughout.
[00:20:13] Olivia: Thank you for that. That's great. All right. Well, here is the exciting part. We're doing lightning rounds and I know this is the part that gets everybody a little nervous, but trust me. It's fun. So. Lightning round. I get to pick a question. I'm going to ask all three of you. This question, obviously the person who goes last is going to be the luckiest because they'll have a few seconds to think about it, but I'm going to start same order Jennica. Start with you. What is your favorite food?
[00:20:40] Jenica: Oh, favorite food. Oh my goodness. I don't know. I eat a lot of blueberries, so I'm just going to go with blueberries. I don't think I've met a blueberry that I don't like. I'm a fan.
[00:20:50] Olivia: I like to blueberries too. Raghu favorite food?
[00:20:57] Raghu: Lentils.
[00:20:57] Olivia: Jordan?
[00:20:58] Jordan: You're all so healthy chocolate. A hundred percent. Yeah, just chocolate.
[00:21:03] Jenica: Okay. Can I take my answer back? I can't live without coffee.
[00:21:07] Olivia: Well, you know, there's another question that would have been like, yeah. Is coffee, food?
[00:21:12] Jenica: I don't know. I mean, it's necessary for life, so I'm going to say yes.
[00:21:20] Olivia: that's right. Okay. I think the answer to that was all over the place. I'm going to ask this next, actually, because this is one that the students, I think like a lot, what is the most underrated fruit Jennica?
[00:21:32] Jenica: I feel like, at least for me, I underappreciated kiwis until 2021. I feel like I have rediscovered the kiwi.
[00:21:40] Olivia: Wow. That is interesting. They're full of vitamin C. It turns out. Yeah, I can see that. All right. Raghu?
[00:21:49] Raghu: Oranges.
[00:21:52] Olivia: They're definitely underrated. Yeah, that's a good one. All right. I like it. Jordan?
[00:21:58] Jordan: And not to piggyback off of Raghu, but I'm going to go with like the little darling clementines or whatever you want to call them. Sweeties, cuties. I think they have plenty of different variations, but those have saved me on more than one occasion. Those are the perfect, just to plug hiking snack. They're really good for getting out there and being out in the wild.
[00:22:19] Olivia: Good. I like that. Okay. Let me see. Maybe we'll end on this one. What is the best book you've read in the last few years? Yeah, Jordan saying, this is hard. This is a hard one.
[00:22:33] Jenica: I'm going to go with one that stuck in my brain, which actually was gifted to me from Olivia. So it's a book called The Homeplace and the author is Drew Lanham and it was essentially a black birders memoir of his life growing up in rural poor south and his career as an ornithologist.
[00:22:56] Olivia: I really enjoyed it. Cool. Glad to hear it. Awesome. Thanks.
[00:23:02] Raghu: I've liked all books by Noam Chomsky, but the one that I most recently was Hegemony or Survival.
[00:23:09] Olivia: Oh, okay. Interesting. All right. I'm going to have to check it out. Thank you for that, Jordan. I know this is tough. You do a lot of reading. And how many books, how many books do you read a week?
[00:23:21] Jordan: More than there are days I would say is the best way to put it. It depends on the week, but for the podcast format, you can't see, but I am turning to my left where I have an entire wall of bookshelves and I'm trying to like desperately pull out the book from my brain that is sticking out and. This one's from a little bit of a callback, but from when I was doing my master's in English literature book nerd, a book that really, I would say changed my life actually has no words in it at all. And it's called The Arrival by Shaun Tan and it's a graphic novel that just, I didn't realize until reading it. And I'm going to use readings specifically that you can read images in such a way that it really does. A clear narrative story. And what's so wonderful about it is it's a story about a man who's immigrating away from his family to a new place to then bring his family with him later. And so when he arrives in this new place, he doesn't have language either because he's coming to a place that doesn't have language. And so it's really wonderful that the experience of the reader mirrors the experience of the main character, because there's no language whatsoever. So it's all through images and gorgeous images. Also. It's just beautiful. So I happened to see that because I recently purchased a copy. so it is on my shelf and is as dear to my heart.
[00:24:45] Olivia: So The Arrival. There you go, who knew this is really a podcast about books. That's great. That's awesome. Thanks. I like all three of those. I'm going to have to check the other two out, so, okay. I will cut the lightning round there. No more panic about the next question coming up. I'm going to just close with reminding people where they can find out more information about us and do some thank you's. But if anybody else thinks of something that I need to include, let me know. So just want to make sure people know that they can. Check out our website and get a lot of links for the information that we have there. But also our Instagram page is a place where we really promote a lot of our events and, where our students do a lot of education on our Instagram page, which is sustainable MHC. So you can find us there on Instagram. And we also have a Facebook page, which we promote events on that we are hosting. And then we have a Twitter account, which sometimes I am at and we'll promote various articles that I think are interesting. So check out our social media platforms, check out our website. And just want to remind everybody again, that we are going to be hosting AASHE this year. And we hope that you take advantage of attending that conference, which will be free of charge to staff, faculty, and students on our campus. There are other grant opportunities. We didn't really get into a lot of the grant opportunities that we have, but there are other grant opportunities for student professional development to attend other conferences. And that can be found on our website and for people to bring speakers to campus. And to engage in sustainability projects. So we did not get into that that much, but maybe we'll have to jump into that in another podcast and check out our future episodes. I think one coming up, we'll be highlighting Dining and some of the initiatives taking place in dining. So check out that and then don't forget Dwight. Second floor of Dwight. This is where we're at. Come say hi. I think with that I just wanted to thank you all for joining me today and talk to me about what we're excited about for this coming school year. And thank you to my guests here. I really appreciate you thrilling and telling us everything that you are excited about for this timing school year.
I also want to think Claire Bidigare-Curtis, who is our podcast editor. Sophia Hess, who was one of our students who've made our intro and outro music, Adrian Lou who made our podcast artwork and Jordan for all of your work behind the scenes to help make the podcast happen. Again, you can learn more about us on all of our social media pages and at our website. And we look forward to interacting with you and hopefully meeting you in person this year. So thanks for listening and we hope you'll join us again soon.
Episode 6: Dialogue with Dining (featuring Rich Perna)
Episode 6: Dialogue with Dining (ft. Rich Perna)
In this episode Jordan Lassonde, the Assistant Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and Adrienne Baxter, one of the MWCE’s Community and Sustainability Coordinators, talk with Rich Perna, the Executive Director of Auxiliary Services at Mount Holyoke College.
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Episode 6: Transcript
[00:00:00] Olivia: The Miller Worley Center for the Environment humbly acknowledges that the land on which we learn, work, and reside is the ancestral home of the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck, neighbored by the ancestral lands of the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North. Recognizing that the history of environmentalism has been fraught with injustices towards BIPOC communities, we work to honor and respect the history of the original inhabitants of this beautiful land as we also work to steward it. Hello and welcome to the Miller Worley Center for the Environment podcast. Our aim is to foster a more nuanced understanding of the complex environmental crises facing us and our planet as well as an increased awareness of the political, economic and social factors influencing them. On this show, we'll explore issues ranging from sustainability to environmental justice, cover what Mount Holyoke College is doing to address our environmental impact and highlight interesting people, events, opportunities, and resources that are relevant to our work.
[00:01:12] Jordan: Hello, and thank you for tuning in. My name is Jordan Lassonde and I use she/her pronouns. A Mount Holyoke alum, class of 2016 and the current assistant director for the Miller Worley center for the environment. And I am one of your co-hosts today.
[00:01:24] Adrienne: Hi, my name is Adrianne. I use they and she pronouns. I am a biology major and entrepreneurship minor at college, as well as a Community and sustainability coordinator at the Miller Worley center for the environment. I will also be one of your co-hosts. Today we will be welcoming our guests, Rich Perna of entrepreneur is the executive director of auxiliary services here at Mount Holyoke. He joined the Mount Holyoke community in September of 2017, overseeing the transition from residential to central dining. Thank you rich for joining us today.
[00:01:58] Rich: It's a pleasure being here. Thank you.
[00:02:01] Jordan: Wonderful. So I think we'll go ahead and get started with some questions and get right into it. And I know, the pandemic has obviously and necessarily brought many changes to campus operations. And I think we're really curious to know how did operations within dining change and specifically what challenges did you face?
[00:02:18] Rich: Yeah, this is a really good question. It was incredibly challenging working with all the CDC state or the health guidelines, and also interesting to see how everybody else was handling the opening during COVID. So with that being said, you know, we noticed a lot of schools were pivoting towards using mobile apps ordering their food ahead of time and be able to pick up their food at designated locations. I really wanted to work backwards and think about how can we keep the integrity of our program minus the self service and the takeout while exceeding the board of health guidelines and the CDC guidelines and keeping everybody safe, which I believe we're able to do. I really felt strongly that our, all of our stations needed to be intact. They needed to be opened while maintaining social distancing, adding stickers To the floor, having it be a one-way in one way out dining location. And again, Keeping the integrity of the program, especially around the religious and dietary restrictions. And I think that's really important. And I also think it's important where people do eat with their eyes a lot of times. So being able to see that food in person, we have a beautiful facility and the thought of taking that away and having students order ahead of time was really tough to swallow. So I think in the end, I think we really got it right. And students seem to be pretty happy with the approach.
[00:03:44] Jordan: Absolutely. Thank you. It's certainly from everything I've seen and heard has been working quite well, and it's really impressive, everything that you've been able to pull together in such a short time and when things are changing so quickly all the time as well. So that's really good.
[00:03:59] Rich: Thank you.
[00:03:59] Adrienne: And along that note, with the changing of operations, we heard that you were using reusable containers. So what led to the decision to establish a reusable container program as a part of the takeout dining and with that, what considerations did you have to account for while structuring that type of program? Is this in addition to keeping the integrity of my holiday dining?
[00:04:23] Rich: With the reusable containers in the room, in a bag for them to be able to transport, there were usable containers around. In addition to that, this, this was going to be an awful lot of money as well. This was much more of a sustainability initiative, but financially. This would have probably been upwards of $300,000 in additional costs just with paper. So not only would we be spending a lot more money if we had paper, but we'd have trash cans that were overflowing and it really wouldn't be responsible. So this was the most responsible approach. I think it's gone over really well. I don't know any other campuses that are currently doing it, but I have had other campuses contact me to find out what are we doing? How are we doing? And what can we learn from Mount Holyoke college? Because they are having a sustainability problem with not having reusable containers.
[00:05:16] Adrienne: Yeah. That's some really great information like that $1.4 million cost it would have been to use compostables every day and just have them thrown out versus the reusable container, which is significantly less, over 50% less money wasted going to dining. Another question that I have is. I know some students were concerned about the safety of the reusable containers. Can you alleviate some of those pressures with going out a little of detail of like how you clean the reasonable containers to make sure that definitely not contamination is present.
[00:05:51] Rich: Of course. And I can absolutely appreciate that too. So when we buy things in the restaurant world or, college food service environment, we have to purchase things that are NSF approved. So that's through the national sanitation foundation. In addition to that, we're required by the board of health to put everything through high temperature dish machine. So this dish machine has several cycles that it goes through. It goes through a rinse. It goes through a wash cycle. Then it goes through, a sanitizing cycle and then a high heat cycle that gets upwards of 180 to 200 degrees. So when everything does come out, it is fully cleaned and sanitized.
[00:06:30] Adrienne: Great. Thank you. A few of my friends were talking about reusable containers and they just kind of wanted to know more about that. So thank you for giving some more insight about it.
[00:06:40] Rich: Sure. And the, you know, the other reason why it's a good question too, is the other question that has been asked is why can't we use our own containers and that's not something the board of health would allow. So that's why we have to make sure that we purchase these NSF approved containers, that the board of health approved. And it goes through a sanitizing process that they're comfortable with.
[00:07:02] Adrienne: Yeah. Sounds like you and your team put in a lot of work to make sure, to ensure the safety of students. I think we're all really appreciative of that.
[00:07:10] Rich: Good.
[00:07:11] Adrienne: And then another question still about the reusable containers is it sounds like reusable containers are great for sustainability. We also know that you are doing really well in the local and sustainable purchasing goals for the dining hall. And you have smashed a goal for reaching 20% in 2020. How else are you prioritizing sustainability within the dining hall and what effects has the pandemic had in the dining is a local and sustainable purchasing goals?
[00:07:41] Rich: I really love this question. One, I think our restaurants in general, in higher education dining services, our industry has been decimated and it would be very easy to give up on sustainability initiatives, put those things aside and rebuild slowly over the years. But when we've worked so hard the last four years or so to increase our sustainable local spend from roughly 7% to now we're actually at 24% where we sit today. So we continue to make up a lot of rounds. I think the number is actually a little bit higher than that now, but I'm not ready to share that number because I want to make sure that it's validated before we do that. So, that's pretty exciting. So, you know, our energy, our passion towards sustainability during this pandemic has actually only strengthened. It is so important, more than ever to source as much local as you possibly can. As you can see a lot of the grocery stores in the, in the beginning of this pandemic ran out of an awful lot of products. So for growing more things that are locally and we have a much better connection to our farmers, we have a much better way of bringing that product directly to this campus. And if we're able to produce a lot of that stuff, that's in-house and utilize the seasons when things are abundant and even be able to freeze them I think the better off that we will be. So the only negative impact would just be less volume because we have a smaller community at this time. But in terms of percentages, things are actually increasing and the passion is there.
[00:09:20] Adrienne: Great. I am really excited to hear that number has increased to 24% and is only going up by there. Yeah. I have heard that a lot of restaurants or even just companies in general have pushed aside their sustainability programs. So I admire that you and your team are holding on to that. And really trying to be an example to the world, especially the world colleges, USA colleges that, you know, sustainability can still be a part of. Our society, regardless of if there's a pandemic or not, it is imperative to how we can make the world maintainable and sustainable. And another question that I have based off of feedback that you just gave us is how can other colleges go about like a similar route that you have? So maintaining sustainability initiatives and really utilizing the resources that they have around them. And not have to go the route of the $1.4 million of compostable.
[00:10:24] Rich: I actually love that question. I know exactly where you're going with it. And I can tell you right now that, and we all know this life throws us lemons, right. And to be able to make lemonade out of those lemons, I think is incredibly important. And again, we all work hard. We all work really hard at what we do, so let's not back down. You know, these are temporary obstacles. We're not going to live in this moment for years and years. At least I hope so to be able to say, Hey, you know what? We've worked really hard. It's taken hundreds of hundreds of hours for all of our staff to be able to get to this point. Let's keep moving forward. So what are the obstacles? How do we get around them? And let's keep doing what we do. And that's really been our model. Since it started, this pandemic is food sustainability. We want the quality to be there. We want the sustainability to be there. And all this hard work that everybody's doing, we just want to keep moving forward. It's my advice to any institution would be always do the right thing. No matter what, just do the right thing and then figure out what does it take to get there. So if you're not already doing the right thing, even during a pandemic, well, how do you get to that point where you are doing the right thing? And I think if you constantly do that, you're going to have happy students. You're going to have a happy community. You're going to have a great sustainability initiative that's on campus. And that's what we keep doing. So we're, these have been hands down the most stressful times in my life. Has it been 30 years? I think I've been in this industry for about 30 years, maybe a little more actually about 30 years. That's actually hard to believe it's been really, really hard, but we can still move forward and we can still make great decisions and we get better every day. And we'll, we'll be better after this pandemic too. I believe that.
[00:12:14] Adrienne: Great.
[00:12:14] Jordan: I think that's great advice and a great question to add Adrianne as well. I think you are doing all of that great work all the time. And I'm excited that we get to talk about it. So, you know, prior to the pandemic dining was addressing food waste using a program, I believe called lean path. And I was curious, are you still using this program and how does take out dining change your approach to post-consumer waste?
[00:12:37] Rich: Yeah, we're definitely, we're still using lean path and food waste has been front and center for us. It ties into sustainability. So we continue to use this tracking system. That's an educational tool that we report back to all of our staff. It's a non penalty system, strictly educational. So I could say, you know, at the end of a meal service that Jordan, you had about six and a half pounds where the food waste today. We believe three pounds of this could have been diverted. Here are a few ideas for you to think about moving forward. So all of our pre-consumer food waste does go into our dehydrating system, which shrinks it by about 90% and then goes into the compost for it to be picked up. So we continued to use this tracking system to do better and better. We believe we're actually at a point where we can't do much better. We don't think we can do much better on the pre-consumer waste because we've been using it now for quite some time. Within a year and a half, two year timeframe, and the staff loves it. It has become part of our culture which is really good. The bummer is we were going to share with the community the post-consumer waste pre COVID. So if you can imagine for a moment that you're leaving the dining commons, there's an LCD screen, that's on the board and it shows you how many pounds per day we are wasting and food posts. Okay. So that'd be really educational to be able to say how much electricity that is, how much water that is, how many people that could feed, et cetera, et cetera. It's a little bit of a guilt board, but it's really meant to be educational. And we've seen the impact with our staff by saying, Hey, you know, you could use those parsley stems. You could use part of the kale, like the stems that is a bit Coarse. There's ways to utilize that we can dehydrate it. And we can serve it. We can put it through a juicer. We could take our dented fruits that was once going into compost and we can send those to the bake shop and they could make a chef's special bakery, apple cobbler of some kind, or maybe it's apple and peach. So we can actually do a lot of fun, exciting things, and it gives our staff actually more flexibility. To do more and to be creative. So we share the analytics with our staff on a very regular basis, and it has become a great part of our culture. Really incredible to hear all the different ways that you use it of not just keeping track of the actual, like weight difference or, you know, not the numbers, but also making use of a whole, like you said, that parsley or kale making use of everything that you can.
[00:15:20] Jordan: And I think that's really incredible to hear.
[00:15:23] Rich: Oh, you're welcome. And you know what? I left out. I probably should've said when you're ordering actually a lot of local products from our local farms. It's not uncommon for us to get things that are not perfect and that's perfectly fine. It's beautiful. It's beautiful produce it's beautiful fruits and vegetables. And to be able to incorporate that product in a different way, it's a lot of fun to include infused water. Some of the best infused waters that we've had are, are just creating something that we're trying to divert in terms of waste.
[00:15:54] Jordan: That's awesome. I love the infused water at the dining comments. That was always like my go-to when I went for lunch was let me try the infused water instead of a soda or something else. So that's cool to see that it's used that way.
[00:16:06] Rich: Yeah. Absolutely.
[00:16:08] Adrienne: I also like the infused water, the ones that you make with like strawberries and like. Oranges and things like that. Definitely a go to, so the next question that we have is, so the pandemic has certainly posed many challenges, but has also offered up the opportunities to be more creative and thoughtful about your engagement with the community. And one of those things is your Instagram. I really love your Instagram. We as a team really love your Instagram. It has like a beautiful visual aesthetics with like the cupcakes and the brownies and the sushi. And I just love like the plating of it all. Who is running your social media page? And how else are you trying to engage with the community?
[00:16:48] Rich: Yeah, Heather, our pastry chef deserves all the props around Instagram. She's a tremendous pastry chef, as you probably already know, just from some of our pastry stuff, but she's an incredible and talented marketing person as well. Not very common. You get that combination of talented pastry chef in towns and in terms of marketing. So yeah, she came to me one day and asked if it would be okay to start an Instagram page. And I said, go for it. Do anything you want. I trust you. And she's done an amazing job. I think we have close to 1,200 followers at this time and a pretty, pretty short amount of time, but I will say in terms of engaging when we opened up in the fall semester, there was this real sense of loneliness. I think for everybody that's on this campus and we really wanted to reach out and create more engagement than ever before for our staff, as well as our students. So actually tonight we're doing a cooking class for seniors and they're in the great room. They're gonna have a great time. So that is one of the ways we've created some engagement. We haven't been able to do those things in the past because the semesters are just incredibly busy and it's really hard to find time to do cooking classes. We did about four live stream cooking classes in the fall that went over really well. So that was another way to create some community engagement and then pop up events. I'm sure you've seen the pop-up events that we do little surprises along the way, whether it is late night or we're doing something with handing out different smoothies or doing a sushi pop-up something that is unexpected. Again, having our students come to this space is a space of community and it's a space that Seems that students really enjoy coming to, we see a lot of conversations happening and I can imagine being a student in college at this time, that has to be pretty difficult. So when it comes to the dining commons, we really wanted to kick up the engagement as much as possible.
[00:18:46] Adrienne: I'm so jealous that the seniors gets to go to a cooking class. I want to drop in. But yeah, I'm glad that you team is still holding pop-up events. Those were really fun when you just randomly walked into dining and all of a sudden you see a Boba tea machine, or there's like this new flavor of like tea that's out. It's always great. It's always a fun surprise.
[00:19:06] Rich: Good to hear that we'll make sure we do a cooking class for your class at some point.
[00:19:11] Adrienne: I think we would all highly appreciate it.
[00:19:13] Jordan: I'm jealous. I didn't get cooking classes when I was a student, but that's all right. It's so exciting to see, you know, all of the changes in dining and all of the great things that you've been doing. And I think we take for granted what we call it, the dining commons. And as you're talking about community, yeah. Specific place. It is. It's one of the places on campus that every single person has in common. And I think it's really wonderful that you recognize that community and, and your place within it. And I think you do absolutely incredible work and I'm always so excited to hear about all of the things that you're doing. And so I'm wondering, is there anything that you're particularly proud of or is there anything exciting in the works that we can be looking forward to?
[00:19:54] Rich: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, I think that's pretty easy to answer. I have to say that I'm truly proud of the entire team. And I really mean that it takes every single staff member to contribute to the end result. There isn't one staff member that is more important than the other, really have to do this work together. And it's not simple. So putting everyone together and having a really good team is just most important as well as the students. I have to thank the students for their patience. And their feedback too. You know, we really take our lead from student feedback. And what is created here today has a lot to do with student feedback. So we enjoy that .In addition, I really need to say that the administration has just done a phenomenal job supporting the dining staff, and it's not like that on every campus. And that means a lot. It goes a long way and they've been very, very supportive of dining services. So again, we can't do this work without everybody's support. And to answer your last question, there is. You can look forward to our dining locations to become greener. Over the years, we have a plan. We want to continue to make them greener. We have a certification, a green restaurant certification. We're at a level one. So we are working hard at changing that level one to something else. So that's a surprise. That's coming soon. Something for you to look forward to, but we do want to level up and just continue to get better.
[00:21:18] Jordan: So great. I'm always amazed by everything that people are doing and yeah. I'm glad that we're able to have these conversations so we can talk about it and, really share that with everyone. And I think that wraps up our remaining conversation for today. It was wonderful to hear all of that great work that's going on. And we we'd like to include these like lightning round questions at the end of our interviews for just a little fun and remedy. So I will transition into those and start off with our first question, which seems, I think pretty appropriate for this conversation. If you have 15 minutes to make a meal, what are you going to make?
[00:21:53] Rich: I love that question. Probably five days a week, I have 15 minutes to make that meal with having two young children and working around what everybody likes. I would say, you know, often times pasta is a base because it seems like everybody in the family likes that. So oftentimes pasta as a base. So that is my go-to. That is my background to having family from Italy. I would use that as the base. One of my favorite meals would be salmon. Love, love to have salmon. It is something that you can do quickly and you can marinate it quickly. And it has amazing flavor love putting that on the grill, along with just about anything on the room.
[00:22:33] Jordan: I'm hungry now. I want pasta.
[00:22:38] Adrienne: I also love salmon. So that's a great addition to your meal. Next question is if you can make any documentary. What would the topic being?
[00:22:49] Rich: That's a tough question. I always go back to my roots. I think in my grandparents, I really got started in this career. Maybe a backup a little bit. My love for food. My appreciation for foods because of my grandparents, my grandparents came over from Italy and they did not have much money at all. And they grew bread, pretty much everything, everything came out of their garden and a documentary would be about my grandparents and how they really made or grew a majority of their food. They did an awful lot of canning and we'd go mushroom picking and dandelion picking. And we would do so many things around food and even go to the ocean and catch fish. Yeah. Mussels and clams and things like that. And it was always, it just never could just be a little bit, it always had to be cooler spot of a product, and then to bring it home, it was this, it was this journey. And I feel like it would be an appropriate documentary for this time, because I feel like food has really come full circle. So thinking back to when my grandparents grew up to where we are now, we're really looking for a lot more transparency around food. We want clean labels. We don't want a lot of ingredients. You know, we got away from that for a long time with all the fast food chains. And I think now more than ever, people are more conscious about what they're eating, where it's coming from. So that would be my documentary.
[00:24:18] Jordan: That sounds great. So maybe we don't have so much free time right now, but what are you reading right now? If you, if you have the time To read.
[00:24:25] Rich: Sure. So Michael Simon's "playing with fire" and I have a Kamado oven, an outdoor oven. And, one of the things he does within this book, it's really mastering or coming up with other options for grilling smoking. If you've never seen a Kamado, like a green egg or Kamado Joe highly recommended having a lot of fun with it. Some of the best pizzas I've ever had in my life were coming off of a Kamado.
[00:24:51] Jordan: Seriously, I'm so hungry. I want to go eat food.
[00:24:58] Rich: Haha get dinner early today.
[00:25:00] Jordan: Exactly.
[00:25:01] Adrienne: Then the next question that we have is what podcasts are you listening to right now?
[00:25:06] Rich: Well, this has nothing to do with food whatsoever. It's all triathlon related. I'm a triathlete. I love competing and racing. Last year, we got robbed, unfortunately, of doing and competing in any races. So I continue to look into different trainings in nutrition. Nutrition is huge when it comes to triathlon racing. So I want to continue to get better at competing and eating the right foods and drinking correctly as a triathlete.
[00:25:38] Jordan: Awesome. All right. So our last question is our fun question that we've, I think asked every podcast guests so far, what do you think is the most underrated fruit?
[00:25:48] Rich: I want to go with mangoes. They have an awful lot of vitamin C, which people actually don't realize oftentimes. And they're absolutely delicious. They're one of the, I just think they're one of the best fruits that are out there.
[00:26:01] Jordan: I would agree with you. I feel a little bit better about the mango popsicles I have in my freezer right now.
[00:26:07] Adrienne: I know some of my friends like mango, but I personally do not like mangoes. That's definitely a good fruit to bring up.
[00:26:15] Rich: What is your favorite fruit?
[00:26:17] Adrienne: I guess my favorite fruit would have to probably be like strawberries because I just love the sweetness of it. And you get them every time.
[00:26:24] Rich: Strawberry season's coming soon.
[00:26:26] Adrienne: Excitement. And so all done with your questions. And so we're going to lean into our closing and our outro. We would just like to highlight that if anyone wants to see more of what dining is doing right now, you can go onto their Instagram live where the great Heather is posting all of these pictures and beautiful videos of their food at Mt. Holyoke.
[00:26:51] Rich: And I should say, Heather does not do it alone. Our whole management team takes videos and expenditures and gets that forwarded off to her.
[00:27:00] Jordan: We know it takes a village and it certainly takes a village on our end as well. So we'd like to thank our guest, Rich Perna, for being here today. Our editor, Claire Bidigare-Curtis, Sophia Hess, who made our fantastic intro and outro music, Adrianne Wu who put together our podcast artwork and really all of the staff at the Miller Worley center for the environment for their hard work and making this podcast come to life. So to learn more about the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and connect with us on social media, check out the links in the episode description, where we'll also have links to everything we referenced in today's episode, including The MHC Dining Instagram at Mount Holyoke dining. Thank you for listening. And we hope you'll join us again soon.