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Why I Majored in Environmental Analysis

Chris Clark ’21

Before coming into Pomona, I was fairly sure I was going to major in biology because of my interest in ecology and conservation. I eventually decided to major in environmental analysis (EA) because the way the major is designed, I would have a lot more flexibility to take the classes I wanted, both biology and not. Through classes I have taken in both departments, I felt as though biology was learning to further human knowledge and understand the world around us - which I love and think is very valuable and important - whereas the in EA, we are learning to help people improve life on our planet, which aligned more with what I want to do after school.

This major and department are very interdisciplinary. Every EA class I have taken has had people of different foci: biology, politics and econ, architecture and sustainability, CS and almost anything else you can think of. I really value this because I feel like I learn so much not only from professors, but from my classmates, something I think is pretty unique to such an interdisciplinary major at a liberal arts school. 

For my Conservation Biology class, we have been working on individual grant proposals all semester, which is a lot of work, but also an extremely useful skill to have. Though we are not actually submitting them to any foundations, the opportunity to research and design an experiment about something I am interested in is very cool. I am writing about how to determine the most effective restoration techniques for Indonesian mangroves. In my Environmental Science class, we also wrote project proposals, and then actually carried out all of the research. Learning about grant writing in Con Bio really helped me to write a strong proposal and to have an idea of how to design good methodology. In this project my partner and I took water samples from the lake at the Bernard Field Station as well as on campus and analyzed them for microplastics. I think these two projects show the overlap between biology and EA, and allowed me to explore different areas of interest while learning valuable skills I can use in a potential conservation career. 

Makeda Bullock Floyd ’22

My decision to major in environmental analysis started the summer before my freshman year. I knew I loved helping people, especially through personal growth. I also recognized the incredible power of natural environments to foster growth, health and healing and envisioned a path of nature therapy through a psychology major. However, a series of camping trips with my family that summer gave me time to reflect and I realized a major directly grounded in the environment would be a better fit for me.

One of my favorite things about Pomona’s EA major is the freedom and flexibility it provides to really explore my interests. I think it’s hard to know what to expect when starting college and pursuing any major. It’s so common for interests to change as you start taking classes and learn what you like and don’t like in practice. The EA faculty are very accessible and encourage you to find a track and classes that call to you within the major. EA is very interdisciplinary, which despite being a cliche term in academia, has allowed me to explore many interests that I might not have been able to in other majors. It’s also a 5C major, which means the Claremont Colleges share resources and classes. This has allowed me to take classes in topics ranging from biology, to art, to environmental science, to sustainable design, to Indigenous environmental practices, and more with students from throughout the consortium.

Although my decision to major in EA hasn’t changed during my time at Pomona, my interests within the major have evolved. I’ve often found myself letting go of some interests and ideas, pursuing others, then coming back and being like, “Oh yeah, now I see that’s how that all fits together!” For instance, my interest in plants led me to learn about incorporating native plants in urban design, then I circled back to focus on the properties of the plants themselves, and learned more about the edible, medicinal, and cultural values of native plants. Similarly, my job at the Pomona College Organic Farm, and the student-led approach of Professor Char Miller’s Nature, Culture and Society class, led me to create a workshop at the farm with my classmates.

This then inspired my interest in environmental education and my Environment and Society track within the major. Thanks to Pomona’s RAISE program, I was able to further my plant knowledge and enviro ed skills by writing a guidebook for Windermere Ranch in Santa Barbara, in the summer of 2020. This continual shaping and fine-tuning of my worldview have been so valuable because so many of the “answers” in this field are outside of textbooks.

Some of the most personally meaningful work I’ve done as an EA major was with Tongva Elder Barbara Drake. Because she was such a prominent presence on the Claremont Colleges’ campuses, I was able to develop a close relationship with her. In my second semester at Pomona, I created an independent study class with Barbara that consisted of meetings with her and her friend Seth, who works at the Maloof Garden in Rancho Cucamonga. In my meetings with Seth, I worked in the Maloof garden, planting and tending to a variety of California native plants, as Seth taught me about them. In my meetings with Barbara, I learned about many plants and harvesting protocols that are important in Tongva culture. Barbara taught me to harvest and prepare Tongva basket weaving grasses, which we donated to local basket weavers. Barbara explained that this was an especially valuable project, as many of these grasses are not accessible to older weavers due to their location, the pesticides they are sprayed with, and the labor of harvesting. With the support of Professor Joe Parker and his (Re)Learning Love of the Land class, we were able to continue the basket weaving grass donations the following season.

Pomona’s EA Program and the guidance of mentors like Barbara Drake and Char Miller have given me the tools and perspective to maintain a holistic environmental view, no matter how broad or specialized a degree or career I pursue post-graduation. This is so valuable. Restoring the environment holistically cannot be done through any one lens. Indigenous perspectives are needed in science, academia, legislation, and our world as a whole. Policy decisions must be made with the intention to be sustainable and beneficial for many generations. New and silenced voices must be heard. In this, our relationships with each other are just as important as our relationships with the environment. My advice is to speak up, ask questions, and explore your interests even if they seem unrelated, because chances are your ideas are interconnected and needed.

Aurora Massari ’22

When I was a freshman at Pomona, I was torn between choosing to study international relations and environmental analysis (EA). Upon taking my freshman seminar “Governing Climate Change” and my first macroeconomics class, I realized the environmental analysis-economics track was right for me. I love how the EA headquarters is located at the Hive—a collaborative craft space with a hidden laboratory in the back. It is an interactive place with several art projects in progress. For me, this building sets the tone for the whole department: It is curious, innovative and hopeful.

Environmental analysis professors are preparing students for jobs that may not exist yet. Climate adaptation, technological innovation and environmental justice require pairing several qualitative and quantitative skills. In the core curriculum, students can explore the scientific and social aspects of the field, which encompass a wide variety of areas, from waste and resource management to biodiversity and international trade. I appreciate how the major is highly interdisciplinary, with several STEM, social science, and humanities specializations. Professors are very approachable and encourage us to use our diverse personal and academic perspectives in the classroom.

Faculty connect the curriculum with real-world phenomenon and explore their scientific and social implications. In my Environmental Science course and Ecology of Inland Waters class with Professor Marc Los Huertos, we did several data-centered projects. For example, we studied food waste in the Frary Dining Hall, partnering with the dining hall staff and Food Recovery Network. My group found that students who had a more plant-based diet appeared to waste less food and be more knowledgeable about the environmental implications of food waste. As a class, we also collected soil samples to measure lead concentrations in local parks. For other assignments, I’ve used publicly available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to analyze warming trends in Blagovescensk/Heihe and to complete flood frequency analyses of cities along the Mojave River. When the semester transitioned online last spring due to the pandemic, we were even able to borrow microscopes to classify invertebrates in freshwaters near our homes.

EA students frequently get to interact with students at the other colleges in the consortium through classes, seminars, and programs. I am particularly excited about EnviroLab Asia, where students take a semester-long course, jointly taught by professors at Pomona and Claremont McKenna, about country-specific environmental issues in preparation for a two-week research trip in the summer. Each year focuses on a different country in Asia, and students from several different majors are encouraged to participate. Once travel restrictions lift, I hope to join the team headed for China next summer!