Friday, June 19, 2015

Navigating Menomonie

My interests in sustainability arise from yearly trips to visit and live with my family in Guatemala. Scenic volcanoes, clear lakes, bustling cities, and loving relatives fill my memories as a young child, yet are juxtaposed against the more recent memories of air pollution, deforestation and toxic waterways. The accumulation of my experiences in Guatemala made visible the relationship between society, health and the environment, and fueled my interests in environmentalism and sustainability as a high school student. These interests transitioned into passions, and I became an anthropology major to engage in scholarly conversations between humans, culture, and the environment. Entering my fourth year as an anthropology student, I have been fortunate to engage in these conversations through many peer and academic opportunities that have solidified my enthusiasm in applying my passion and knowledge to environmental issues, and more recently the Red Cedar Basin.

I was overjoyed when accepted to the LAKES REU program; anticipation, nervousness and excitement persisted as summer quickly approached. I was familiar with cyanobacteria (Guatemala’s beautiful lakes are now contaminated with it) and with the combination of my interests of farming and food systems, acceptance to this program felt almost too good to be true. Envisioning working ‘in the field’ as an anthropologist excited me since engaging with the community as a student, a researcher and an individual has been an element of anthropological fieldwork I’ve always valued and longed to be a part of. I know my work environment in its entirety is invaluable, as the collaborative work to ensue with Eniola and Dr. Tina Lee will provide me with positive memories, the resources and the skills needed to pursue a career as an anthropologist.

I arrived in Menomonie with relatively little knowledge or expectations of the neighborhoods it encompassed. The welcoming environment and intimacy of the city's communities was a surprise and a sentiment not commonly experienced in Southern California, quickly forcing me out of my comfort zone and building onto my existing understanding of “community”.  More enjoyable was how noticeable the residential, political and academic communities that coexist in Menomonie intertwine with each other, providing a strong and profound sense of unity. As small as Menomonie may be, this beautiful city is filled to the brim with engaged, warm, and vibrant people extending into a large network of communities that I’m thrilled to navigate and become a part of.

As my appreciation for Menomonie develops, I can only hope that this experience further cultivates useful data and a continuing passion for environmental sustainability and research in anthropology. LAKES REU's interdisciplinary research with other students, advisors and communities not only integrates the civic and work environments of Menomonie into an exceptional research experience, but posits Menomonie and the Red Cedar Basin as a leading example of academic research and knowledge by addressing the complex social, political, and economic facets needed to achieve environmental sustainability. I am equally grateful as excited for this summer and look forward to the experiences, relationships, and successes to follow in the next eight weeks. 

No comments:

Post a Comment