Kevin Johnson graduated from Holy Cross in 2019 with a double major in Economics and Environmental Studies. During the summer after his sophomore year, he volunteered at Association to Preserve Cape Cod, where he studied cyanobacteria and algal blooms in Cape Cod ponds. The next summer, he interned for the association and upon graduating, he took over a leadership position at APCC. I talked with Kevin about how Holy Cross prepared him for working in sustainability.
Q: How would you define the term “sustainability?” Has your understanding of what sustainability means changed throughout the course of your career?
Sustainability is, in my opinion, humans working in their communities from a global context. It’s important to envision the bigger picture, and in my work that has focused mostly on movement away from man-made solutions and chemical use to more sustainable and renewable biological solutions. It is important to see how sustainability fits into the grand scheme of things.
Q: How can students become involved in sustainable initiatives at school and in the workplace?
Become a part of on-campus groups, if you are looking to get involved with sustainability-geared clubs Eco-Action and HC Fossil Free are great options. Also, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone when it comes to classes can be hugely beneficial. I recommend Professor Hess’s philosophy classes that focus on environmental ethics if you’re generally more comfortable with science-heavy courses.
Q: What stereotypes about jobs in sustainability did you believe prior to working in the field?
I was under the impression that you needed to have much more experience than an undergraduate degree to work in the field as an active researcher. I’ve since learned that you don’t need to have a graduate degree, master’s, or PhD to work in sustainability and have good jobs.
Q: How do you see sustainability changing in the workplace in the next 5-10 years?
In the past several years, there has definitely been a shift in the general populations awareness surrounding sustainability and climate change. I see the next 5-10 years being a time where people who didn’t want to be involved in the past are more sympathetic to environmental initiatives now.
Interview paraphrased and blog post written by Anne Kiernan ’23.
Emma Powell ’20 describes her community organizing experience as a way to live the College’s value of ‘For and With Others.’
My name is Emma Powell. I’m from Haverhill, Massachusetts. I’m class of 2020. I’m a history and classics double major and my major involvements at Holy Cross were the Student Government Association, Eco-Action, and HC Fossil Free, which is the divestment campaign on campus.
So I think sort of that the common idea behind ‘for and with others’ is direct service, which of course is a huge component. But for me, I kind of gone towards my ‘for and with others’ values in a different way in terms of community organizing.
Specifically this year, it was sort of a catalyst for my environmental change that I did on campus. And I really believe that policy change and advocacy work is a huge part of living out your values and how you can do that in a community organizing setting. And there was a few things that we did that I think that really kind of highlight how we were able to get our campus and our institution to really care about environmental awareness.
The first thing would be the youth climate strike which happened at the beginning of the year in conjunction with the Chaplains’ Office. And it was the first time I seen a large scale show up for the environment on campus in a way like that and we all gathered on the Dinand steps and then joined Worcester community organizers who were also setting out goals for climate justice, things like that. And then the green fund is a fund that we passed this year that’s $30,000 worth of grant money for students to apply for environmental projects. I really really recommend incoming first years to look into how they can get a project funded through that because it was a lofty policy goal that we had and were finally able to pass it so that was something that was really great. And then we hired a sustainability director this year which is going to be great and I recommend reaching out to her to first years. And then Purple Goes Green week is something that we do every year and we were able to keep doing that amidst virtual learning.
So all of these things I think really show sort of ‘for and with others’ through policy and education that sometimes you neglect as part of that statement and I think it is a really important thing.