Alumni Profiles

Mitch Klein

Class of 2020

Mitch Klein working in a garden.Like many, I stumbled upon environmental humanities by accident. In my sophomore year I knew I wanted to minor in English and that I liked zombie movies, so I signed up for Environmental Apocalypse and the Anthropocene. That class completely changed my outlook on life and the world. I had to deconstruct the idea that simply recycling and voting were going to stop the climate crisis. I learned about systemic injustices, slow violence, and how large companies are able to continue with environmental destruction by distracting us with the false idea that our individual choices will have a big enough impact to stop them. But it wasn’t all negative. I also learned about the power of survivance and local movements, and I did get to watch a few zombie movies.

Taking that class spurred many changes in my life that I will forever be grateful for. First, I changed my major more than a few times, but eventually landed on creating my own major in environmental humanities with a focus in public health. I also decided to get involved in the Rochester community, starting with an internship at Writers & Books. In my Junior year I signed up for the Citation in Community Engaged Scholarship, which I completed in conjunction with my Urban Fellows internship at Green Visions. Environmental humanities also helped me realize that people are not meant to be empty robots who just crank out schoolwork for good grades. I started to do extracurriculars not because they would make me a better grad school applicant, but rather because what is life without art and music? I spent more time in ensembles playing the trumpet and picked up the piano as well. I also started connecting more with my Japanese heritage, since I realized that I could learn from the traditional practices of my Japanese, Taiwanese, and German ancestors.

Mitch Klein playing the piano as a child.After graduating I was planning on spending a year or more in Japan teaching English with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has delayed that trip until at least summer of 2021, but I have been extremely fortunate to continue my involvement with the Rochester community by joining the 2020-2021 Rochester Youth Year cohort. I have been placed with the Gandhi Institute, which is a perfect fit because of my passion for urban gardens. I have also been finding fulfillment by trying my own hand at gardening and composting at home, as well as learning the organ at a local church. I do not have a clear path past my job in Japan next year, but I would like to find a way to combine my love for classical music and my passion for food justice in my career, as well as always be connected with whatever community I live in.

A headhsot of Mitch Klein.