Feature: Miller Worley Center for the Environment

 Photo courtesy of Talia Michaud ’20   Talia Michaud ’20 tending to plants during an internship at the Mount Holyoke College Botanical Gardens.

Photo courtesy of Talia Michaud ’20

Talia Michaud ’20 tending to plants during an internship at the Mount Holyoke College Botanical Gardens.

BY TESS REMICK ’21

Since 1837, Mount Holyoke College has provided resources to students interested in science and engineering, fields in which women make up less than a third of the population, according to the Miller Worley Center website. Nearly 30 percent of Mount Holyoke students major in STEM fields; this is significantly higher than the number of women who study these subjects at comparable coeducational institutions.

To encourage an interest in the natural environment, the Miller Worley Center for the Environment opened in 1998 and has since provided Mount Holyoke students with resources relating to sustainability and hands-on internship opportunities.

“The Center holds the mission of fostering environmental leadership in the student body by enabling students to make connections that help them understand the concept of ‘environment’ more broadly in their work, community and lives,” said Carey Lang ’15, Assistant Director of the Miller Worley Center.

The Center offers 16 internships developed exclusively for Mount Holyoke students. Talia Michaud ’20 participated in one of these internships last summer.

“I spent 8 weeks working for the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden,” said Michaud. “I found out about this opportunity through a meeting with a Miller Worley Center advisor. At the time, I wasn’t planning to apply to the Botanic Garden, given my lack of experience in horticulture, but the advisor encouraged me to apply after I expressed interest in plant biology and ecology, as well as sustainable agriculture.”

These internships at established nonprofit organizations are individually arranged with sponsors to provide students with connections beyond those offered by typical internship programs. Another student, Theo Claire ’20, interned with the Elwha River Restoration Project, working with both the Olympic National Park and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on the revegetation of the Elwha River. Claire was able to live in Port Angeles, WA for 10 weeks with funding provided by Lynk UAF and supported by the Miller Worley Center for the Environment.

“It was the best ten weeks of my life, and I’m honored to have been a part of the Elwha River Restoration Project,” said Claire. In addition to internships, the Center also offers environmental grants to faculty and students engaged in teaching and research initiatives with an environmental focus. Four different grants offer funding for student travel and workshops, faculty-student research, faculty curriculum development and campus sustainability. The Center also focuses on the “Living Laboratory” that is the Mount Holyoke campus itself. The campus features a variety of different landscapes for students to get hands-on experience in the field of environmental science. In addition, there are several staff-operated, solar-powered weather monitoring stations located throughout campus that record data on wind, solar and weather conditions. The Miller Worley Center aims to help students obtain the experience they need to succeed in the field.

“A lesser-known resource we provide is the environmental grants for students to support mentored research and attend academic events and conferences,” said Lang. “Recently, we fully funded two students to attend the HBCU Climate Change Conference in New Orleans.”

The Miller Worley Center will also assist in reaching Mount Holyoke’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2037. “To achieve this goal, the College will implement a strategy of investing in energy efficiency and conservation, retrofitting historic buildings and transitioning to carbon neutral heating and electricity sources, with a progress assessment every five years,” said Lang.

Michaud also has advice for those interested in pursuing an internship in the future: “I would advise students wanting to pursue an internship through the Miller Worley Center for the Environment to consult with the advisor about their particular interests and get started quickly on applications to avoid unnecessary stress,” said Michaud. “That’s how I found out about and secured my internship and that’s why I’m now at the Semester in Environmental Science program at the Marine Biological Laboratory.”

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