Class of 2017 (2018 e5)
My introduction to the environmental humanities happened quite by accident. I was looking for an elective for my minor in sustainability and registered for Professor Nadir’s class titled "The Modern Environmental Imagination," unsure what to expect. The course took me completely by surprise—in reading books as diverse as Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, I realized how cultural narratives influence our relationship with our immediate environment.
As an economics major I was used to thinking rationally about social problems. But this pushed me to think of situations where rationality doesn't apply and consider climate change from the perspective of different people, including those who don't believe in it, and to think about why—a subject rarely discussed in my science and economics classes. I also realized that I had always seen myself as separate from the environment, but as I got deeper into environmental literature and theory, this personal dichotomy between humans and nature, the city and countryside, fell away and I developed a more holistic view of nature.
This new understanding of the environment also influenced my creative pursuits. I'm from Mumbai, India, and before leaving for college I volunteered with Welfare of Stray Dogs, a nonprofit that looks after the well-being of street animals in Mumbai. This experience, combined with the environmental literature classes I was taking, got me thinking of writing a children's story with stray dogs as central characters, so I applied to the e5 (Experiential-Five) Program at the University of Rochester.
I spent my fifth year of college working on creating a narrative that will encourage children to think critically about their relationship to dogs and interrogate why they (often) prefer pure-breeds as pets. As I worked, I found that my exposure to environmental justice issues got me thinking about injustice even in the fictional world I was building and helped me create a more complicated and thoughtful body of work.
Toward the end of my undergraduate education, I was convinced I belonged in the humanities and decided to go to graduate school in the field of English literature. I am excited to announce that I will be starting a master's in English at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada, in fall 2018.
I am glad to have discovered my passion and hope to continue learning. I also intend to push the boundaries of environmental studies to appreciate the uniqueness of certain cultural practices (especially as it pertains to the environment) and understand just how much we stand to lose if we head toward a world where everything is standardized. I'm very thankful to the professors at Rochester for their support and I look forward to what this new journey will bring!