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Sustainability Studies Major Plans for a Green Future

Story By:
Laurie O'Hara | Writer/Editor
Sustainability Studies Major Julia Ansemlo
Photo taken at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH, with physical distancing in place.

When Julia Anselmo ’21 did her college search, she was looking for a school that was affordable, not too big, not too far from her home in Clinton, CT, and had a “good vibe” with a strong environmental studies program. Keene State checked all her boxes. When the new sustainability studies major was announced in her junior year, Julia became one of the first students at Keene State to declare it one of her two majors, the other being environmental studies.

As Julia describes it, “Environmental studies can focus on natural studies or social studies. You can look at how the environment affects humans and how humans affect the environment. Sustainability studies is more about thinking about the future. It’s about finding solutions and creating positive social change to create a more sustainable world. So, it’s a really integrated major as it can have a role is so many different areas of study.”

Getting to take classes within other academic programs has been a highlight of her experience. “I took an architecture course called Building Science because I was interested in urban planning and green systems design,” said Julia. “That class really expanded my interest so I took a geography course called Planning for Sustainability and learned about green roofs and other green planning concepts. It’s exciting to take classes in other departments that count towards my major. It really underscores that sustainability can be talked about in every major and it’s important to make those connections.”

Green roofs piqued Julia’s interest so much that it’s one of the focuses of her yearlong junior and senior seminar project. “I’m designing a green roof for one of the buildings on campus and a water harvesting demonstration, too. It’s something I’m really interested in so I’m using the opportunity to design something I’m really proud of,” said Julia.

When Julia isn’t in class, she participates in the college’s Eco-Rep program, which is a group of students employed by the Sustainability Office who help educate students on eco-friendly practices. “My favorite thing about the Eco-Reps is that if someone has an idea, we can do our best to implement it and make it happen. Some of my ideas have been put into action and it’s a great feeling that I want others to have, too,” said Julia.

As she looks ahead towards plans post-graduation, Julia’s open to new adventures. “I’m really interested in green design and planning. Since I’ve lived in the northeast my whole life and sustainability is a growing field, I’d like to move somewhere in the US where it’s really seen as important and necessary,” she said.

Her advice for other students? “If you’re coming into college and unsure of a major, start with sustainability studies because it gives you the chance to take a wide range of classes,” said Julia. “I also think even a sustainability studies minor is a good complement to any major. As a society, we need to start moving towards a more sustainable future, so the more people that know about it, the better. I’m excited to be one of the first sustainability studies majors and I’m looking forward to seeing how the program grows in the upcoming years.”

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