Outdoor Learning


For the past two summers, Joshua Cook '11 of Littleton, Mass., has furthered his pursuit of a career based in environmental studies by serving internships at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. The Boy Scouts of America's "High Adventure" base, Philmont encompasses more than 214 square miles of rugged wilderness.

In 2010, Cook (pictured above, on top of "The Tooth of Time," elevation 9,003 feet) worked with male youth aged 16 through 20 to build hiking trails in remote areas of the back country. Last summer, he worked as part of the invasive species team to control invasive species on the New Mexico "noxious weeds" list.

"As part of this, I mixed and loaded chemicals for application, operated a company vehicle and chainsaws, and provided for the education of other staff members and participants about invasive species," Cook explained.

In addition, he served an internship at an area Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that provides food for 50 local families. "Working on Square Roots Farm was a very enjoyable and informative experience because I was working with local community members to provide food for them."

He considers all three internships vital to his college experience.

"Being able to have a learning opportunity outside the standard classroom setting is something that can contribute highly to a student's education," Cook said.

According to Cook, the environmental studies program at MCLA does a good job at bringing a lot of different aspects of environmental areas together, which creates a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues.

"The environmental studies program is well balanced between policy and science," he said. "Many of the labs for the environmental studies classes are very enjoyable excursions to local businesses and organizations, which give a good perspective on the types of careers that fall under environmental studies."

In addition to the internships he served, Cook enhanced his environmental studies education by joining the campus's sustainability club, Environuts, which aims to increase the saliency of environmental issues on campus, and to advocate for sustainability on campus.

"Being a part of the Environuts meant that I was around like-minded students that wish to enact change in their community. Community activism is something that I feel is very important for students to be involved with," he said.

In the classroom, Cook especially enjoyed geology classes with Dr. Don Hyers, which he described as "always incredibly educational. My learning probably increased more in his classes than any other class that I took," he explained. "Additionally, classes with Professor Traister were always very enjoyable and I would recommend the introductory Environmental Studies class (ENVI 151) to any student that is even remotely interested in the environment."

Cook, who just wrapped up his bachelor's degree in December, is considering another internship at Philmore this summer before he continues his studies in graduate school.