Tell a kid they can change the world and they’ll believe you. While my childhood was far from limiting, it wasn’t until middle school that I had someone — outside of my family — stare right at me and tell me I could make a difference.  

I grew up in the Oregon countryside, spending most of my time exploring the woods or messing around in the garden. The 7th grade history teacher at my school— Steven Connelly, though we all just called him Connelly — was a colorful character. Since he couldn’t directly swear in front of us, his favorite expletive was “rassin-frassin-sassin,” going on for as long as his (feigned) indignation or until we all stopped giggled.

His real passion was the environment though so he started “Green Class” as an elective to teach about environmental problems and ways we could help. He talked to us as equals, and when he told us we all not only could but would change the world, I believed him. That faith was like magic. I knew right then that if I could help the planet in some way, I wasn’t going to be doing or studying anything else.  

Flash to university. It’s my final year in a multidisciplinary sustainability program yet rarely have I set my sights down the research path because I was so focused on the bigger picture. But big problems are made up of a million smaller components. You need creativity, resilience, and an open mind to study these things. So going into this course, ESYS 500, I’m looking forward to testing my mind and doing a type of research more outside of my comfort zone. We’ve got a room with people from different backgrounds, different interests, different ways of thinking, but we’re all studying one question. I know it will make me think from a perspective and a scale I’m not used to, and that’s exactly what I want.