Environmental Studies at UVM

Alex Weiss '15

ENVS major in the College of Arts and Sciences, concentraing in Food, Land, and Community, with a minor in either Food Systems or Geography

My name is Alex Weiss, I am a junior this year (fall 2013-spring 2014) at UVM. I was born and raised in Arlington, Mass., a small town just outside of Boston. I am majoring in environmental studies through UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences, and I have a declared concentration in “Food, Land, Community.” I am working to complete a minor in food systems through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, but am also considering a possible switch to a minor in Geography, as I am interested in patterns and trends in the flow of populations of people and goods, as well as movements of animal and plant populations in response to changing ecological conditions.

I have taken a variety of environmentally-related courses within and outside of Arts and Sciences. As a first year student I was accepted into a program known as the Integrated Study of Earth and the Environment (ISEE), through which I was enrolled in an intro. environmental geology class, and a history course that focused on human cultural evolution in relation to the ecology with which different populations of humans coevolved. The program was set up so that my hall-mates were my classmates, so making great friends and staying on top of course work worked well together. ISEE got me into the “Green House” dorm, and all GH residents take residential learning courses known as Ecology of Place and Ecological Citizenship, place-based interactive courses that get you environmentally and socially engaged in our campus community.

My sophomore year I began to really branch out and explore environmental courses, such as “Women, Health, and the Environment,” “Holistic Ecological Design Studio,” “Ecological Economics,” and a “Permaculture Design Practicum.” I was employed as an “Eco Rep” by the Office of Sustainability during my third and fourth semesters and I joined Students Stand Up, a campus activist group that advocates for the rights of students, teachers, and workers to organize themselves and be treated justly and respectfully. Over winter break that year I took a travel-study course, “Socially Engaged Ecological Design.” We went to an island in the Bahamas to work with a group of local high school students to build a hydroponic vegetable growing operation, and a chicken coop. Now, in my third year at UVM, I am enrolled in a Landscape Design course that focuses on restoration of pollinator habitat in rural and agricultural areas in order to maximize crop pollination and organically increase yields. I will also be an assistant teacher for the next phase of the Socially Engaged Ecological Design course, so I will be traveling back to the same Bahamian community, with a different group of UVM students, to continue our work with those high school students.

My passion of passions for the past few years has been intentional communities, and how they maintain their independent, collective economies through arts, agriculture, and other forms of commerce that enrich people’s lives and meet people’s needs. How they can stay sovereign communities without isolating themselves from inter-community commerce and the world around them is an issue of hope as well as great concern, especially in today’s age of globalized economics and chaotic climate and political conditions. I have been in contact with Twin Oaks Intentional Community in central Virginia, as well as the Rochester Folk Art Guild in New York. I am hoping to live at one or both communities for a time, and to use the experiences as a project for my senior thesis or internship. As I approach the end of my college career I reflect on the circuitous path my short life has already taken, and look forward to graduation and the life that will follow.