Environmental Studies at UVM

Emily McCarthy '19

Emily McCarthy '19

Areas of Interest: 

ENVS major in the Rubenstein School, with a concentration in Sustainability in Food Systems.

UVM College/School: Rubenstein School 
for the Environment and Natural Resources
ENVS Concentration: Sustainability in Food Systems
Hometown: Melrose, Massachusetts
E-mail: emccart6@uvm.edu

Why did you choose to come to UVM and major in ENVS?

During my college application process, I knew one thing for certain; I wanted a school that had a community beyond campus boundaries. So many schools that I toured had fences surrounding their campuses and were closed off from their surroundings. When I first visited UVM, I fell in love with how its campus is the exact opposite. As a prospective student, I was told that the UVM classroom knows no bounds. After 12 years of learning in rows of desks, I was more than ready to have class in the backcountry and get my hands dirty.

While I was certain about UVM, I entered my first year completely unsure of my major. I knew that I wanted to set myself up for a career that would couple community engagement with the outdoors. The ENVS major does so perfectly, allowing students to explore the cultural narratives of greater environmental issues. Towards the end of my first year, I found myself asking questions like, Where does my food come from? and Why do I eat the way I do? As I looked more into the ENVS major, I discovered that the major not only had individual courses, but an entire concentrations — Food, Land, and Community and Sustainability Studies — that could help me answer these questions.

How are you pursuing your degree by way of high-impact learning activities?

So far, in my UVM experience, my course load has had a huge impact on my four-year plan. The first ENVS class I took, ENVS 002, pushed me to address problems holistically, acknowledging all parts of a system. I have been able to carry this lesson, and many more, to different parts of my academic adventure, other courses and future plans alike. Taking ENVS 002 directed me towards other classes I have gained incredible experience from, including Complexity in Food Systems. This course has solidified my interest in pursuing a career in food systems management. I have also built incredibly helpful relationships with UVM professors, who have given me valuable insight on not only my undergrad experience, but also my career path.

Aside from academic courses, fall semester of my sophomore year I joined Ingrid Nelson’s research project, Campus Green and Gold. While working with Professor Nelson, I looked at the rising popularity of the Wellness Environment as a smaller community within the UVM population. In addition, through this project, I was able to attend a “zero waste” conference at the University of New Hampshire, where I met other students with a passion for food sustainability on higher education campuses.

This summer, I plan on taking part in the UVM Summer Farm Practicum. Starting in May, I’m going to be learning farm management and soil science skills at the Intervale Center. This experience will help me network within the local agricultural community.

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

As much as I would like to say I have a concrete idea of what I want to do beyond college, I can’t! Nevertheless, I have solid ideas of where my interests lie, which include community engagement and eradication of food deserts. Regardless of where I move after college, whether it’s to the other side of Burlington or across the Atlantic, I know I want to be working alongside members of my community. Ideally, I would work with an organization like the World PEAS Food Hub out of Lowell, Massachusetts, bridging the gap between consumers and their food sources. I hope that the work I do makes effective change, specifically in strengthening community-wide food security.