New club carves niche in environmental science major

By Carly Cody
Originally published in the Daily Bruin

As Maanya Condamoor inched across a section of slanted rock and then pulled herself up a rope into a cave behind a trickling waterfall, fellow UCLA students standing sheltered from the spray of water encouraged her.

Condamoor, a fourth-year environmental science student, and the other students are members of Environmental Science Student Network – a new student group on campus that aims to connect environmentally conscious students with each other.

Although students from all majors are welcome to participate, the group consists primarily of environmental science students.

“This hike was a good way for us to bond as we helped each other get behind the waterfalls,” said Condamoor, who is internal vice president of the group.

Although the group was started in 2011, this is its first academic year as an official club.

Each quarter, the club hosts beach cleanups and hikes – like its most recent venture to Escondido Falls in Malibu, Calif. – to provide opportunities for students interested in environmental issues to get to know each other while promoting ways to give back to the environment through volunteer events.

Most of the club’s 20 regular members are interested in the outdoors as well as passionate about giving back to the environment and the planned hikes allow students who might not have a means of transportation to still participate, Condamoor said.

Cassie Trickett, a fourth-year environmental science student and current president of Environmental Science Student Network, said the group’s beginning stage consisted of brainstorming and an attempt to differentiate from other environmental groups on campus.

As an environmental science student, Trickett said it was difficult to meet other students that shared her major because the program is small and fairly new.

The environmental science major became an official option at UCLA in 2006 and as of now there are 256 students enrolled in the major, said Royce Dieckmann, students affairs officer for the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Many of the group’s members are involved with other environmentally conscious organizations on campus, such as Ecology, Economy, Equity, Condamoor said.

But Environmental Science Student Network is designed primarily to create a specific niche for environmental science students to network, she added.

“I wanted to translate the academic similarities we have into a social and networking opportunity,” she said.

Michelle Yu, a second-year environmental science student, joined the group fall quarter. She said she was intimidated by larger organizations on campus but Environmental Science Student Network provides a way for her to connect with other students with a variety of events.

The group also hosts alumni nights and networking events where representatives from organizations like the Student Conservation Association provide information about job and internship opportunities for students pursuing a career in environmental science, Trickett said.

In the future, Trickett said the group plans on strengthening its mentorship program in order to provide guidance from older environmental science students.

“A lot of students don’t realize the environmental science major is an option,” she said. “When I was a freshman, I would have appreciated advice from older students and a chance to meet other students within the major.”