The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sustainability Spotlight: Returning the Gift

from left to right: backcountry skiing with the UMass Outing Club; friends abroad; hiking in the Chilean Andes; participating in an Earth Day trash sort with the UMass Sustainability Department

How bittersweet it is to approach a particular end, to think of the people, places, and moments that have filled an experience with joy, tinges of anguish, and overwhelming awe, and to let it go in the midst of both uncertainty and hope for what is to come. I would say, “How distinctly human,” but I also like to think that we may not differ so significantly from other beings in the way that we exist in the world. 

As my time as an undergrad at UMass comes to a close, I am grateful to be able to quietly celebrate a handful of what these four years have brought into my life: 

  • avenues for pursuing my interests and acquiring new ones, both in and outside of the classroom, at UMass and beyond; 
  • professional experiences that have built upon my academic work in food systems, environmental education, journalism, and spatial data analytics
  • the chance to participate in research pertaining to sustainable seafood under the direction of one of my closest mentors;
  • opportunities to learn from and work with an array of conscientious, passionate professors and staff members, and to serve as a teaching assistant for some of my favorite instructors; 
  • and, finally, a collection of bright, inspiring, and endlessly kind friends from the U.S. and abroad who share a zest for life and a lifetime of learning. 

I am excited to engage in a more hands-on way with food systems this summer and into the fall while working with Warner Farm, a tenth-generation family farm located in Sunderland, Massachusetts. There, I will be bringing CSA shares to members across the state while learning more about their methods of agricultural production and the role they play in the regional food economy. 

In the meantime, I am working with the Sunderland Farm Collaborative to distribute food from local farms, dairies, bakeries, and other producers within the western Massachusetts community. In December of this year, I will be heading to Cape Horn, Chile, to conduct sustainability research with professors from the University of North Texas and the Universidad de Magallanes before returning to UMass to start a one-year Master's in Geographic Information Sciences and Technology program. 

I am overwhelmingly appreciative of the connections that I have made with such open-minded, open-hearted individuals throughout the past four years; it is these interactions, both fleeting and lasting, that give me hope for our collective future, even in a time where darkness overshadows light. It is my goal and responsibility to apply the knowledge and experience gained from these opportunities, at UMass and into the future, to continue to address deeply-rooted inequities pertaining to urban development, foodsheds and food apartheid, climate resilience, and other issues found at the intersection of sustainability and social justice. 

I will end here (or perhaps simply begin a new chapter) with an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer: 

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”