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Amy McEwen ’12

Amy McEwen was with a group of her fellow Environmental Studies students outside class one day talking about what they should do for their capstone projects the following semester.

"We were identifying issues Keene State was having," she said. "Food waste in the dining commons was a topic that came up."

She found out several tons of food waste from the dining commons were brought to the landfill each week. "I thought, ‘Why not build a composting facility?’ " she said.

That’s exactly what she did. She figured out the perfecting composting recipe by grinding food waste from the Zorn Dining Commons - following breakfast, lunch and dinner for two weeks - in a blender. She looked at case studies, did the financial and statistical analysis using nonprofit Stonewall Farm in Keene as a model and wrote a proposal. The farm took some of the composted material from the Zorn Dining Commons and mixed it with their manure.

Throughout her project, which was an independent study she completed during her final semester, she worked with stakeholders on-campus and in the community and presented her research along the way. Her final report was titled "Diverting Food Waste From Landfills: A Stonewall Farm and KSC Initiative."

The method she wrote for composting food waste on-camps she handed down to a group of Environmental Studies students she mentored during her project. Her method is in practice at the Zorn Dining Commons today.

McEwen, who completed an internship with the Department of Homeland Security, will begin her master’s in Public Health next year. She plans to implement the sustainability practice she implemented at Keene State College studying animal diseases and working with farmers to protect the livelihood of agriculture.

"I would be able to use this kind of thinking and approach to solving problems not only in Environmental Studies but in any other field," she said. "I developed and maintained relationships with people at all different levels in the community. We had to work together to come up with a solution."

Alicia Morrison ’12

Former biology major Alicia Morrison knew she wanted to write about environmental issues as a career but it wasn’t until she took a Keene State College internship as a park ranger her junior year at Otter Brook Lake in Keene for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that her future came into full focus.

The internship, which started out as a summer position, lasted through the end of her senior year. Part of her responsibilities included creating interpretive programs highlighting topics from water safety to birding. Her experiences there led her to change her major to Environmental Studies.

She also worked as a field scientist at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

During her senior year, she took an Advanced GIS course which helped her outline her senior capstone project, which was working on the City of Keene’s master plan. Her partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department included creating a stewardship plan for Shadow Lake Park, which she presented at the 2012 Academic Excellence Conference.

"The best part was working with the community," she said. "I met with town officials and community members and presented my ideas. It was very real."

She is currently working on master plans working as a park ranger for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers at both Townshend, Vt. and Ball Mountain Lake in Jamaica, Vt. Ball Mountain Lake is a joint project with two dams and two lakes. "I use the real-life experience I got doing my capstone," she said.

She credits her academic advisor, Professor Renate Gebauer, for pointing her in her current direction. She was Gebauer’s work-study lab assistant. "We gathered soil samples and ground them and organized them, we worked in the lab – I did so many different things," she said. "I left Keene State well-rounded. It gave me the experience behind a lot of things I do at work."