About five months ago, I discovered Sterling College from halfway across the world on the Internet and knew right away this place had something unconventional but beautiful to offer me. Considering I had spent the majority of my life in tropical South India, there was some uncertainty about how well I would fit in this rural Vermont context. I’m a little over a month into my time here at Sterling, and I’m absolutely loving it here. I haven’t felt more comfortable, stimulated, and driven all at the same time anywhere else. Being here means to be constantly surrounded with people who have that same appreciation for the outdoors and are trying to understand nature through the lens of the scientific process. A friend with very similar interests and I are already drawing up plans for a high-production intensity hydroponics greenhouse.
Part of what appealed to me about one of the smallest accredited colleges in the United States was the unique educational philosophy that Sterling has crafted of “working hands, working minds.” I’ve been able to identify that experiential education seems to be, hands down, the quickest way for me to learn. The work program here is a real interesting setup, running parallel to the academic programs and applicable to every student here, regardless of financial aid. Sterling is one of only seven federally recognized work colleges in the US, and this designation is definitely one of the aspects that drew me to the college.
I couldn’t be more excited for my work program position! As “Sustainability Tracking Analyst,” I will be surveying many components of how the campus and academics here are sustainable for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) survey. Since the nature of the work I am doing with this position is very similar to what I’d like to be doing ten or twenty years from now, I see true value in developing that experience within a functioning, active system of which I am a member. Apart from this, I will also be working with fellow first-year student Wendy Vasquez to get Sterling as networked with sustainability labels and organizations as we can.
I firmly believe that Sterling can make it to the top of the all-college sustainability ranking, not only because of all of our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint including the eleven new solar trackers that will be installed this winter, which will make our electricity completely powered by on-campus renewables, but also because of how small we are. From the survey last year, we already made the gold rating with sixty-nine points and we’re aiming much higher this time. Our fantastic farm-to-plate supply chain and kitchen is already among the best in the country. It wouldn’t be a long shot for this campus to be recognized on national platforms once this survey can adequately represent all of the awesome initiatives here–Christian Feuerstein, the Director of Communications, and I are working toward making that happen.
Written by Rohit Fenn.