January 28, 2010 12:58 PM

Welcome back!

You may, or may not, have noticed that I went on hiatus at the end of last summer. Things just got to hectic for me but I realized that I enjoy contributing to this blog because someone out there, hopefully, finds what I have to say helpful...or at the very least entertaining.

So just to catch up...

Last semester I took ESPM 108A (Trees Taxonomy), ESPM 161 (Environmental Philosophy and Ethics), and ED 193 (Environmental Education).
Let's start with ESPM 108A. I took the course because I wanted to learn how to identify trees. I always thought it was cool how some people could see a bird and just name it off the top of their head. I wanted to be able to do that with trees. This class definitely taught me how to identify trees and shrubs, only CA natives though. I spent a lot of time in botanical gardens, both UC and Tilden, with a book of dichotomous keys examining everything from leaf growth, structure, deciduous vs. evergreen, color, thickness, length, crown shape, etc. It was very informative and now I think I'm extra cool because I can yell out their Latin names when I see a tree I recognize. This course also teaches you about the evolution of gymnosperms and angiosperms, a portion I wasn't particularly interested in but its part of the material you are graded on. You also go on a 1 day trip to the Sierra Nevadas to check out tree distributions along elevations. It's a fun snow day for sure.
ESPM 161 was by far intellectually and morally stimulating! It really made me question the implications of humans on nature and nature on humans and men on women and "modern" men vs. indigenous men. That's just to name a few but there are some really fascinating topics and you develop your own ethic by the end of the course. The only down, or maybe up, side to this is that Carolyn Merchant was not present all semester because of medical reasons. As a replacement, she had a really impressive line up of guest speakers come in, some of them were Cal professors, some were visiting scholars, others are good colleagues of hers. Whatever their relation, I really had a wide sampling of environmental education in that one class. I highly recommend this course for anyone who wants to think about the deeper relationships that exist.
ED 193 is also a course I highly recommend. Top of my list in fact! It's a discussion-based course in which democracy is completely oriented in the pedagogy and overall classroom setting. The class democratically decides what topics are discussed, what activities are done, field trips, film showings, etc. The only things that are required are 2 reflective papers (one on environmental education in your life and the other on a review of a local environmental organization), 1 semester long group project in which you identify an environmental problem and implement a solution, and a weekend long field trip to Mendocino. Bonding is essential to the success of the class and is one of the first things that is established. Never have I gotten so close to my classmates. You really form good, no, great friendships in this course and you learn a great deal about the environment, yourself, and democracy.

In addition to coursework, I took on 2 units for ESPM 199 (independent study) in which I formulated the proposal for the research I will be doing for my Senior Thesis (ESPM 195) this semester. On top of that, I got a Research Assistantship in Robb Willer's Sociology Lab and got SOC 195 credit and SOC 292 graduate work credit. I'm really glad I got this RA opportunity because I learned and got experience in the academic research world. I was curious to know what it takes to do all the research that is required of you as a University professor and this was an excellent way to find out. I also worked with a lot of grad students and I learned what it means to be a grad student. They all recommended against going to grad school right after finishing undergrad. They say you are more focused if you do other things like work or travel. I believe them.

I'll have to continue this another time but if you have any questions about any of these courses or RAships or whatever, just ask :)


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