The Value of Collaboration

I emailed Nicole (BS in Environmental Science and Ecology, December 2012), who had moved to New England after graduating, to ask how the job hunt was going.  Her reply:

“I haven’t gotten a paid job in environmental science yet, but I interviewed for a field ecology internship last week and am interviewing for a position with a water quality/engineering company next week. …  On a positive note, I… was appointed to the Conservation Commission for the town of Rockport, where I’m currently living.  Although the Conservation Commission is volunteer work, I am a voting member that helps advise the Board of Directors.  I’m hoping to take over responsibility for the conservation easement program that the town currently has as the responsible member is retiring.  Hopefully by the time I come back for graduation I will be in a paid position as well!”

Nicole probably will be employed by May, as she will show the Rockport Conservation Commission what she can do, will cultivate professional contacts, and some savvy environmental science employer will feel fortunate to add her to the team. 

Nicole discovered the benefits of community activism as a forum for developing professional contacts when Coleen Shade required that her Environmental Planning and Public Policy students attend at least three community meetings on environmental policy issues.

Com activism collage

A few current environmental science community activism options at Lake Tahoe

Kolina (BS in Biology, May 2013) has told me more than once how glad she is to be attending SNC because fellow pre-med students and other science majors work together to solve physics and chemistry homework problems, memorize human bone and muscle names, figure out how to get Arc-GIS to display data the way they want, and choose the best statistical tool for testing how well their Desert and Montane Ecosystems field data supports or refutes their hypothesis. She hears stories from friends at other colleges and universities about cutthroat competition for grades among pre-med students and contrasts this with her situation, where she and her peers trust each other and depend on one another to achieve more together than any one student can achieve alone.

Jim helps Kolina proof her essay

Jim helps Kolina proof her essay

A LEED platinum rating isn’t all about saving energy, but also about making the environment within a commercial building healthier for the people who work there.  The space in the second floor hallway where the science students hang and study together was designed to promote unstructured collaboration.  Its open feeling with natural lighting from the TCES skylight, a whiteboard, table, comfortable chairs, and printer earned LEED points for the TCES.  The students didn’t need a class assignment to learn the value of using this space.  The unspoken lesson, that professional collaboration pays off, will continue to support them long after they graduate.