Environmental Studies at UVM

Claire Wiggin '16 - ENVS Peer Mentor

ENVS major in Rubenstein School with a double minor in Ecological Agriculture and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

College/School: Rubenstein School of Environment and Nature Resources
ENVS Concentration: Food, Land, and Community
Minors: Ecological Agriculture; Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies
Hometown: Fairfield, Connecticut
Email: cwiggin@uvm.edu

Why did you choose UVM and a major in ENVS?

Claire on a mountainI originally came to the UVM as a Sociology major, but after taking an interesting, albeit demanding, Environmental Anthropology class with Professor Luis Vivanco, I discerned a major in Environmental Studies in the Rubenstein School.  I felt as though the interdisciplinary nature of ENVS was a nice complement to my varied interests in people and the land.  When choosing a concentration, I turned to formative experiences like helping to build and eventually intern at an urban farm back home.  Unifying my love of food and community, I declared a concentration in Food, Land, and Community.  I am most passionate about environmental justice, specifically urban food access.  As an ENVS major, I have had the opportunity to explore the wider systematic implications of urban food inequity and I hope to apply that knowledge to a career in urban agriculture.

How are you pursuing your degree by way of high-impact learning activities?Claire at ACRE Farm

I have had the opportunity to cultivate a variety of interests that intersect with my major through campus organizations, research opportunities provided by the Environmental Program, and my thesis project: a Students-Teaching-Students Course called “Envisioning a Just Food System.”  On campus, I have most recently been involved in the agriculture club, Agriculture Community for Resources and Education (ACRE).  We acquired a small plot of land at Rock Point in the northern section of Burlington.  Summer 2015, I helped co-manage the first season growing diversified vegetables and flowers.  On a micro-scale, that experience helped me to conceptualize the tireless work of farmers.
     In terms of studying abroad, with the guidance of my advisor, I designed a semester-long comparative research project examining the role of women in the small-scale, sustainable agriculture sector.  I used a Participatory Action Research (PAR) model to understand the work of five female farmers in the United States, Finland, Sweden, England, and Italy.  It was a deeply impactful experience and reaffirmed my interest in ecological agriculture.
     For my ENVS capstone experience, I am co-facilitating with two inspiring ENVS majors, Olivia Burt ‘16 and Leila Rezvani ’16 a Students-Teaching-Students (STS) course with 15 students in it. The analysis our course research aims to critically assess the current food movement and collectively determine how the food movement could be more inclusive and act as a vehicle for positive social change.

What are your plans for your future beyond college, personally and professionally?

As I round out the final semester of my college career my plans are still relatively unknown.  What I can say is that I look forward to staying on the East Coast, pursuing work related to urban agriculture, urban food access, or environmental justice, and hopefully getting to enjoy some time outside.  I have really loved the academic experience at university and I plan to pursue a graduate degree.  Through teaching assistantships and facilitating an STS course, I have discovered an interest in education and I hope to incorporate that into my work. As someone who is deeply place-based, in the far future I can see myself working to carve a niche somewhere and putting down roots for a while.