September 15, 2006 3:53 PM

Nothing better than a weekend with your professor in her pajamas

For a Conservation and Resources Studies major, one of the most interdisciplinary majors offered at Cal, there are few hoops you must jump through, but ESPM 100: Environmental Problem Solving is one of them. You want to be in CRS, you take ESPM 100. Non-negotiable.

Hopland 163 small.jpg

It’s funny how required things never seem like they’ll be much fun. Before I had even walked into 141 Gianinni for the first time, I had already made up my mind: just because the College of Natural Resources mandated that I learn how to environmental problem solve didn’t mean I had to enjoy myself. I secretly prayed I was too far down on the wait-list to get in the course, and not-so-secretly groaned when I discovered that one third of the class was to go on a compulsory field trip – counting for twenty percent of our grade – that weekend. Of course, fate was such that not only did I get into the class (even with a phenomenally large waitlist), but I was also selected for the field trip. I anticipated lots of dry lectures and awkward campfire silence.

Hopland 121 small.jpg

After the Hopland field trip, even I – the biggest cynic – had to admit I had judged wrongly the infinite wisdom of the god of CRS Major Requirements. Yes, this class and its compulsory field trip is mandatory for a reason – because, let’s face it, who wants to spend the weekend smelling like livestock? But (for three days, at least), we were environmental problem-solvers and seek out solutions we did. We drank milk at the family-owned Tresch Ranch, the second organic dairy in CA, admired the environmental marvel that is Fetzer Winery (which not only produces organic grapes using solar power but also uses artificial wetlands to process their waste), trekked across UC Hopland Ranger Station, and fed carrots to the endangered Navejo churro of a privately-owned sheep farm.

Hopland 112 small.jpg

And I can honestly say it was one of the best times I’ve had at Cal.

I learned more about sustainable agriculture simply by observing with my own two eyes than I could ever by reading textbook after textbook. I didn’t need anyone to tell me the benefits of organic milk or biomediated grapes; I could taste the difference in its thick cream, in its crisp sweetness.

Hopland 095 small.jpg

Looking back, it’s no coincidence that ESPM 100 is a required class for declared CRS juniors and seniors. More than an educational trip, those few days in Hopland reaffirmed my decision to pursue environmental policy and cemented my place as a full-fledged, Conservation and Resource Studies student. For me, it was a CRS rite of passage, a way of not only, for once, experiencing what I had been reading about for the last two years but also creating a sense of belonging and community in my major. (Because, really, how better to cure for awkwardness than to lock a bunch of similarly interested people in a ranger station for the weekend? Any formalities go out the window when you find yourself making communal eggs in a cramped kitchenette alongside CRS Chair Gordon Frankie or, later, brushing your teeth next to a pajama-clad, Professor Katherine Milton). Faces that I had only seen in classes soon had names, then quickly nicknames. We arrived as twenty-five strangers cramped uncomfortably in rented vans; we left as a community, with shared memories of laying out under the stars and inside jokes about ostrich and wild boar burgers.

And all I can do is thank the god of CRS Major Requirements.

Rola Abduljabar Rabah | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (1)

Comments (1)

I'm looking for a program that isn't highly focused on doing science and math. I enjoy science very much, however I would rather leave science and math work up to people who are brilliant in it. I'm also interested in a program that is proactive in formulating solutions, and creating and implementing new policies that decrease Environmental degradation. From you personally I would be appreciative to know how you like the program you are in. I would also love to know what are the things you get to learn about, what are the types things you get to do, and how hard is your work load. And what kind of work is done in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management. Thank you for your time and knowledge!

Posted by Amber Hancock | 2007-07-25

Post a Comment

Your Name:

Your Email Address:


You will NOT be allowed to include links to anything.