As a second-year master’s student in natural resources at the University of Vermont, Ashley Eaton is part of the “first batch,” or inaugural cohort, of the concentration in Leadership for Sustainability (MSLS) in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. The interdisciplinary MSLS curriculum, designed for emerging leaders in the field of sustainability, gave Ashley and the cohort of 12 students the opportunity to take place-based immersion courses in the ecologically rich and diverse locations of Washington, DC; the Bay Area of California; and Shelburne, Vermont. Through these place-based courses, MSLS students were able to directly connect with MSLS professional affiliates.
Ashley focused her studies on creating a water resource education practicum for undergraduate students that explores the field of environmental education and watershed science. Using the conceptual framework of reflective practice, the practicum will weave together the best educational practices and the most accurate scientific processes while examining dynamics of power and privilege in water quality and quantity issues.
“My coursework in the MSLS program immersed me in three core principles: embodied leadership, systems thinking, and challenging structures of domination and oppression,” Ashley shared. “These principles have reshaped both my professional and academic pursuits.”
She believes one of the strongest leverage points to catalyze change is through strengthening educational programming and educator skillsets.
“Threats to water quality and quantity are more imminent than ever, directing our focus to robust and comprehensive education that conveys the value of water stewardship to our students,” said Ashley. “In order to prepare for the water quality challenges of tomorrow, we need to expose our youth to sustainable and innovative alternatives that challenge current untenable water resource practices. Fostering critical thinking and a fundamental understanding of the ecology of place is yet another opportunity for students to engage in emerging water research.”
Ashley received her BS degree from the University of Vermont (UVM) in elementary education with a concentration in environmental sciences in 2013. After directing education programming for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Winooski Valley Park District she found herself back in the classroom at Champlain Valley High School (CVU HS) in Hinesburg, Vermont working in alternative education. While at CVU HS, Ashley developed and implemented a place-based environmental science curriculum.
In 2015, Ashley joined the Lake Champlain Sea Grant team at UVM; she is currently working as the Interim Watershed and Lake Education Coordinator. Lake Champlain Sea Grant is dedicated to improving the understanding and management of Lake Champlain, Lake George, and associated watersheds for long-term environmental health and sustainable economic development. Part of a national network of 35 projects and programs at coastal and Great Lakes colleges coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lake Champlain Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh.
In her role as Interim Watershed and Lake Education Coordinator, Ashley oversees the UVM Watershed Alliance educational programming and mentors undergraduate students interested in watershed science and environmental education. Throughout the academic year these students intern as Watershed Educators for Lake Champlain Sea Grant and facilitate Watershed Alliance educational programs. Ashley also manages professional development workshops for K-12 teachers and designs watershed curricula that connects K-12 students with the science of their local waterways.
As a Vermonter, Ashley is always looking for new ways to enjoy her beloved Green Mountain State, whether it is urban homesteading in Winooski or earning her turns in the Notch. She is an active outdoor enthusiast, an avid ski racer in the Green Mountain Adventure Racing Association with her fiancé Kit, and captain of the Burlington Women’s Rugby Club.