Alumni Profiles

Leah Schwartz holding a bunch of kale.
Enjoying local produce after volunteering at the Rochester Public

Leah Schwartz

Class of 2017

The summer after my sophomore year I had the opportunity to intern as an Urban Fellow at the Rochester Public Market, an institution with one of the largest SNAP token programs in the nation. As I was preparing to register for classes, a course titled "Food, Media, & Literature" taught by Professor Nadir caught my eye. This course not only allowed me to expand upon the ideas about our food system that I had gained through my Urban Fellows experience, but also challenged my innate assumptions about health and behavior. While I deeply appreciated the theoretical knowledge that I gained through environmental humanities, I was also very much influenced by the experiential aspect of these courses that provided real world applications in the greater Rochester community. As students we were not just sitting in a classroom, but visiting innovative organizations such as Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and gardening at the Gandhi Institute.

El Camino Trail, "The Rug".
“The Rug” by WALL/THERAPY. El Camino Trail.
Conkey Corner Park Mural by Shawn Dunwoody.
Conkey Corner Park Mural by Shawn Dunwoody.

Upon graduation I was not ready to leave Rochester. I ultimately decided to do a year of service with Rochester Youth Year, an AmeriCorps program for recent graduates run by the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. I was matched with Genesee Land Trust, a non-profit that preserves and protects natural lands and waterways and connects people to nature. My primary responsibility with GLT surrounded programming at the El Camino Trail, a 2.2 mile walking and biking trail in Rochester's northeast quadrant. Following my year of service I spent six months working various part time jobs, including a freelance position as a researcher for the Environmental Humanities Program.

I am now working as a Development Associate for an organization based in New York City called Hazon- a Jewish lab for sustainability that focuses on outdoor food, farming, and environmental education. One of the most compelling aspects of the Environmental Humanities track is that the courses often involve introspection about one's personal relationship with the environment. As an EHU student I realized that many of my ideas about the natural world are based in Jewish thought and values. The discipline therefore allowed me to explore the connection between spirituality and the environment- a topic that one might not necessarily get to delve in to when studying environmental science. I even wrote my final paper for "Environmental Literature" about religion and climate change. I don't think I would be where I am today without the experiences that I received both as a student and later on as an employee for the EHU department.

Leah and other Food Media Literature students meeting rescued animals at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, in spring 2016.
Leah and other Food Media Literature students meeting rescued animals at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, in spring 2016.