Environmental Science Student Address 2012
By Tor Zipkin
Imagine a huge canvas. This canvas has never been bare, it has always had a painting on it. As a child the painting was complete. It looked as if it came out of a picture book or movie. It could have been an outdoor scene at a lake with a tire swing, or in a rocket floating in space. As you grew older the picture on the canvas would naturally change, landscapes would change, the themes would be different, and it would always be morphing into something new. Nothing was constant. Yet, as you grew older the picture would begin to fade away, and it would be up to you to create your own painting. Eventually you will be given a bare canvas with nothing on it and what gets painted depends 100% on you. While this may not happen immediately after college, this canvas will inevitably be given to all of us and choice is the paint you use.
What then do you do with this canvas? How does this relate to environmental science?
Fellows students, proud parents, distinguished faculty, it is my honor to speak with you today about a culminating senior year of college and why it is so special. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed my Friday mornings fall quarter to begin our capstone senior projects. What we discussed in class was not only interesting, it was the first time I saw applied environmental science. It was a great way to bond and relate to your fellow classmates, making new friends that would last a lifetime. These Friday classes meant a lot too me for they embodied what it means to have the best possible senior year. We had a great teacher, a class was full of laughter, and saw people doing what they loved, providing us with both confidence and comfort. This was only the first quarter with 2 more to come. Its safe to say we had no idea what was next to come and what it would ultimately do and mean to us.
The next part of the class is what makes our major so special and so unique. For those that don’t know, Senior year environmental majors work on real environmental issues for clients all throughout the Los Angeles area. You get put into a group with people you don’t know and undertake something long-term, something many had never done before. Most of college is an individual effort. You write your own essays about your own ideas, how well you do on your own tests depends on how much you studied. Getting put into a group with others for such a large project meant you would have to collaborate, make compromises, and expand on ideas that were not your own. Having to work in the group dynamic to achieve something bigger is special for it is what we will be doing in the years to come. It is the best representation and introduction to the real world.
When you work with others you are given the opportunity to learn about yourself. Winter quarter was hard because we were formulating our initial proposals to address our respective clients questions. We were not given much and had little direction, it was up to the group to create a viable experiment or study. In my group, it was taking really long to decide what tree measurements should be taken to indicate differences between samples. It was constant back and forth and constant re-examination. My frustration got the best of me and in my mind it was time to make a decision. We all push what we think should be done, however no longer was I only pushing. I made it clear what measurements we should take, why they were the right measurements, and why the others weren’t. I was being critical and at times close-minded, yet to me this was justified in the name of a productive and efficient group. This is how you grow. About a week later my advisor gave me the perspective of the group. There was nothing wrong with my ideas or work ethic, but I had to work on my communication skills. Me lacking these important skills made it un-enjoyable for others and in turn led to counter productivity. I had to make a personal change. I became more flexible and understanding, I worked on not being so forceful when conveying my ideas. Not only did this help the group, it helped me as well.
The opportunity to work in a group like we did in 180 is special because of the skills it teaches us. Beyond college, no matter where you go or what you do, life is a team effort. Working together with others to achieve a larger goal is how progress is made. Our senior project was the best glimpse of what is to come and how tasks and projects are completed in our future years. The ability to incorporate yourself into a group is the ability to be successful. Alumni day was great because it showed me the importance of 180 and what it gives us. Daniel Mombassa is a environ alumni who works at the Menlo Park Google campus. Daniel is a community manager and he told us what Google liked about him was experience he had working on his senior research project. To Google, Daniel was the right person because they knew he had experience navigating the group dynamic. The 180 senior projects are so helpful to us as students because they give us a head start. 180 gives us what employers are looking for when hiring new employees and ask themselves “can this person not only contribute to the group, but can they work together with them to create an entity that is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Back to the canvas:
Our senior 180 projects are so great because in multiple ways they help us navigate the daunting task of painting an elaborate picture from scratch. This year we were given relatively bare canvases and it was up to create something complete. We were not told what to do, just do. We had little guidance and little to work with other than ourselves, yet we manage to create paintings others will appreciate. We gained important skills that are needed when painting a picture and we learned about ourselves to ensure the best possible picture. When we are now given a canvas with absolutely nothing on it, we will be more prepared to create something out of nothing.
I have so far talked about what our major does for the individual, but what about the individuals themselves? Meeting new people brings happiness and when they share similar interests life is good. We seniors have had such a monumental year not only because of what we accomplished but also because of those we met along the way. The environmental science major is small and you grow close with would not have known otherwise. It is a platform to meet an amazing array of individuals with amazing talents and ways of living life. American cars restorers, fraternity presidents, concert directors, big wave surfers, club founders, slackliners, and bike enthusiasts only make up of few of these incredible individuals, all with their own hobbies, endeavors, and styles. You find people to talk to, be about environmental issues and beyond. The IOES class of 2012 made my college experience infinitely more enjoyable, for there is no way to quantify what happens here. This is a special mixture of people, a blend of intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians. They are who defines environmental science.
In conclusion let us revisit this canvas. This time about the painting we helped create together, the painting we call environmental science, the IOES. How rewarding is it to say you contributed to something so young yet so developed, how we as a class have bettered an already beautiful painting. We started this year off with a painting that was looking good: A meadow with tall grass flowing in the wind, a rock wall in the background, a setting sun. Yet it is not done, Bob Ross is still going. He reaches for his brush and starts applying a deep green in a seemingly random manor. “Delicate touch” he says “delicate touch”. It takes a second, but when you step back, out of nowhere you see a gorgeous forest. We have added to the IOES in the same manor. Something so small and unpredictable, yet when looking at the final product, we realize how much it has contributed to an amazing painting.
Now ask yourself what did you get out of being an environmental science major? Reflect on what this year meant to you. Now ask yourself what can we give to future environmental seniors to make their experience last a lifetime? As those who have had this exciting experience, what can we do to construct something just as satisfying for others. We should take what we learned from the IOES and spread it outwards. We should continue being the special people we are because we’re environmental science majors. We should let the world know what it means to have this honor and opportunity.
Thank you all. Congratulations Environmental Science Class of 2012!
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012