I arrived at Oberlin with a broadly uninformed view of what I could expect to gain from my experiences here. I explored my options by enrolling in a random sampling of courses I thought might spark some interest and lead me to discover the career of my dreams. I was content to think I had found a pleasant combination of great academics, fun people, and a welcoming soccer team. It wasn’t until my second semester that a twist of fate would launch me into a frenzy of environmental projects and studies coordinated by two professors who I have grown to love and admire.
By the second semester of my first year at Oberlin, I had begun to develop an interest in psychology, which I mentioned to my close friend, Noel Myers. He asked if I was interested in environmental studies, and invited me to an informal meeting with a professor I had never met. That professor was Cindy Frantz, an environmentally minded social psychologist, and that 15-minute meeting was the beginning of a series of events that led me to declare my majors in psychology and environmental studies.
From the moment I stepped into Cindy’s office as an eager freshman hoping to hear about her research, I was caught up in a whirlwind of efforts coordinated by the Great Lakes Research Team. The project was fascinating. The group, consisting of highly motivated professors and students, was working to develop systems that provide real-time feedback to occupants of buildings about their electricity and water usage. The hope is that by providing immediately relevant and psychologically impactful information about resource usage, we can actually influence the day-to-day decisions that people make about their energy and resource consumption.
I was hooked right away. Noel and I started by managing a psychological study that measured how people’s attitudes towards their environment and their community are impacted by the feedback technology. The following semester, I enrolled in a seminar with environmental studies professor John Petersen, which focused on the development and implementation of a new platform for providing real-time feedback to the broader community. By the spring of my sophomore year, we had contacted local business owners, librarians, and school administrators, and planned in the implementation of the new technology in high-traffic areas. In March, our class traveled to Ball State University to present on our work at the Greening of the Campus Conference. We all had a blast, learned a ton, and then returned to campus where we received a grant to install the new monitoring system in a local public elementary school.
Now here I am in Oberlin the summer before my junior year living with none other than Noel Myers while we continue our work with Cindy and John. I’m still astounded by the discipline and efficiency of my peers and mentors. It’s incredible to be engaging with people from whom I am constantly learning, and to be taking academic courses that seem so relevant to my work and the world in general. Oberlin brings all these rare types of people and ideas together, and the results are consistently impossible to predict.