Shipping Up to Boston

by Heron Hetzler

After months of chills and snow and grey days, spring has come to the North Country.  The spring has also ushered in exams, presentations and final papers.  We are all feeling the stress of our workloads, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  For some it will be seeing family, for others it will be a vacation on the beach, but here at the Sustainability House it is the last two weeks of the semester and our upcoming trip that have our undivided anticipation.

We are shipping up to Boston. No, not the Dropkick Murphy’s song; we really are going to Boston. From May 1st to 15th the Sustainability crew will be visiting The Bean in hopes of broadening our understanding of sustainably; more specifically urban sustainability.

In preparation for this adventure, we recently had a very prestigious guest stay with us; Jeff Cook.  Jeff Cook is an alum of St. Lawrence who started the Environmental Careers Organization (ECO).  ECO’s goal is “to protect and enhance the environment through the development of professionals, the promotion of careers, and the inspiration of individual action.”  Basically, it helps aspiring young people break into the environmental field.

While Jeff was staying with us, he taught two classes in which we learned many skills that will be of use in our professional careers.  Although he specializes in environmental careers, all the advice he imparted could be used in any field.  We learned about the importance of networking, making connections with people and businesses and following through and writing thank you letters “like your mother taught you.” 

Thanks to Jeff Cook, we will put our newly acquired skills and techniques of networking to the test. As a group we will be visiting organizations such as the Emerald Necklace Conservatory, Artists for Humanity, and the Union of Concerned Scientists among many others. Individually and as a group we will be conducting informational interviews with members of the sustainability and environmental community in which we can employ our newfound skills.

For those who don’t know, an informational interview is not a job interview.  It involves asking questions of someone about the business he/she works for.  It is meant to help discover what a company or organization is really about and if it would be a good match for you.  By “setting ourselves up to win” (as in researching the organization, making clear our intentions, and asking thoughtful questions) we hope to not only learn the inter-workings of a great organization that practices urban sustainability, but also get a foot in the door with the very same group.  As Jeff Cook reminded us, the environmental field needs our passion and creativity to help the cause, but it just doesn’t know it. By taking the initiative, networking, and exemplifying our interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability we will do exactly that. What is more, this go getting could very well land us a job in the environmental or sustainability fields. A dream come true!

Jeff’s visit gave us hope for the future, both immediate and long term.  He told of his beginnings as a young college grad with absolutely no idea what he wanted to do, which made us feel a lot better about our own foggy futures.  We are now more prepared to meet the frightening prospect of walking up to professionals in the environmental field and introducing ourselves.  Most important of all, Jeff set us on track to navigate our way through the veritable rabbit warren of the Boston environmental/sustainability community.

Although most of us are by no means city slickers, we are really looking forward to our trip. We will be staying as a group in the new Hostel International and participating in many of exciting components of the city (i.e the T, the parks and historic sites, and testing our nerve in a fast pace urban city).  All eight of us, plus three faculty members, will be packed into our St. Lawrence van (which, as it turns out, is cheaper and emits less carbon dioxide than taking the train) and trundling down the road to Boston.


~Heron and Jake