Alumni demonstrate invigorating environmental careers

Alumni demonstrate invigorating environmental careers
Senior environmental studies and journalism double major Ana McCabe.

There are numerous fields within environmental studies that can lead to a career one is passionate about. An environmental studies major gives students the potential to pursue careers in a broad range of disciplines.

Rob Green, an Augustana University alumnus with bachelor’s degrees in English, journalism and philosophy and a master’s degree in environmental studies, became interested in environmental issues his senior year at Augustana. Green took a study abroad trip to Guatemala, where he saw habitat loss, poaching and the disenfranchisement of indigenous communities. These issues made him more aware of environmental issues more broadly.

“I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the experience set the trajectory for the way the rest of my professional life has unfolded,” Green said. “From that point, I started thinking about how I could connect my strengths to the issues I felt called toward. It didn’t take long to pick up a camera to start documenting what I saw in an attempt to bring more people into the conversation about our relationships to the landscapes we call home.”

Green is now a conservation photographer and filmmaker. He has worked as a National Geographic explorer and as an emerging member of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

While the environmental studies program at Augustana offers students the opportunity to create a distinct path towards a specified career choice, graduate schools can also help students dial-in on an even more specific focus area.

Green earned his master’s from the University of Montana in Missoula with a focus in natural resource conflict resolution. He was drawn to the university for its esteemed environmental program and the surrounding natural environment.

“When you start to realize just how complex some of these conservation problems are, you realize that your role is to simply add momentum to the waves that have been created by the hard work of so many who’ve come before you,” Green said. “I’ve stopped trying to ‘fix’ things and instead focused my work on bringing more stakeholders to the table in an effort to solve problems in more communal and enduring ways.”

Graduate school propelled Green to greater heights in his passion and career. However, graduate schools are not the only option for finding careers in environmental studies.

Mia Werger, an alumna from Augustana University with degrees in biology and environmental studies, now works for the Ecdysis Foundation. This nonprofit research lab studies the impact agriculture has on the environment and how agriculture can be used to solve environmental and social problems. Werger assists in research projects around the country as well as on their own regenerative farm near Brookings, South Dakota.

“Once you meet people who are working on the problem you’re interested in, they can often point you towards great opportunities for learning and working,” Werger said. “I got my current job by reaching out to an organization that I admired and had already established a little bit of a relationship with.”

Both Green and Werger see the importance of careers focused on current environmental issues.

Whether in Brookings, South Dakota, or Missoula, Montana, environmental issues are a global concern. There are opportunities in every community to work on environmental matters at hand.

“If we cannot meaningfully address the conservation issues of our time, the ecosystems we rely on will eventually collapse, and every other industry, sector or issue will suffer as a result,” Green said. “It might seem like a dark vision, but more than anything it’s an invitation to become more deeply engaged in solutions that will benefit all those who come after us.”

As Green and Werger’s work has shown, majoring in environmental studies will make a positive impact on the current and future state of our world.