Learning Community Leads to Major Fellowship
For Economics and environmental studies major Thomas Gumbley ’16 one thing led to another.
First, he went to the Everglades for his Swamp Walks and Roadside Shrines Learning Community (LC) last winter, which opened his eyes to environmental justice inequalities and sparked his interest in the field.
“I got to canoe in the mangroves, wade out in the water to a cypress dome, meet members of the Miccosukee tribe and learn about the struggle of low-income workers in Immokalee, which is the center of the region’s agriculture industry,” says Gumbley of his course in the Everglades.
“I thought about how these workers had no other choice but to continue working in the fields, exposing themselves to the long-term health risks of pesticides in order to support their families,” he explains. Seeing this conflict influenced Gumbley in his career choice.
Upon Gumbley’s return from the LC, he was then encouraged by Dean of Academic Achievement Craig Almeida and Environmental Studies Program Director Susan Mooney ’82 to apply for a Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowship for Undergraduate Environmental Study from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
With Almeida and Mooney guiding him through the competitive application process, Gumbley secured the $50,000 fellowship. The GRO Fellowship’s objective is to encourage undergraduates to continue their education beyond the baccalaureate level and pursue careers that address environmental problems. Gumbley is the first Stonehill student to receive this fellowship, which will support his final two years at the College and includes an internship with an EPA-funded research project.
“Tom’s receipt of the EPA GRO Fellowship is a tremendous accomplishment and a wonderful acknowledgment of what he’s done, the potential for what he is capable of and likely to achieve,” notes Almeida.
Combining his love for the environment with economics, Gumbley plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, focusing on environmental economics.
“My life goal is to be able to use the field of economics to help troubled areas that are regarded as ‘environmental justice communities,’” he says. “I’d like to study the effect of environmental regulations and laws to ensure that all communities, regardless of racial demographics, number of immigrants or average income, have access to clean water, land and air and are protected from environmental pollution.”
Cave Clean Up
As Part of a popular public tour last semester, Ellen Edgerton ’17 [right, in pink] and Susan Wall from the Center for Writing and Academic Achievement explored the historic area called Stone House Hill, from which Stonehill takes its name.
Located on the southeast side of campus near the Easton-Brockton line, the area has long been neglected but is undergoing a restoration thanks to retired Associate Academic Dean Richard Grant, Assistant Archivist Jonathan Green ’10, Drew
Fitzgibbon ’16, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Nathaniel DesRosiers ’15 and Assistant to the Director of Academic Development Stephanie DesRosiers.
With others, they are removing trash, overgrowth and graffiti, with the goal of preserving the site and making it more accessible. The area is a series of rock formations created as glaciers receded during the last Ice Age. The formation pictured above is in the shape of a tent, creating a sheltered area resembling a cave. Legend suggests that during Metacom’s War (1675-1676), Wampanoag leader King Philip used this rocky enclosure as a camp, but no evidence exists to substantiate this claim.
Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
Most of us believe everything happens for a reason. Whether it’s “God’s will,” “karma” or “fate,” we want to believe that an overarching purpose undergirds everything, that nothing in the world—especially a disaster or tragedy—is a random, meaningless event.
This question was on the table at Stonehill during the “Abraham’s Dice” conference in November. Eleven major scholars, including holders of prestigious chairs at Oxford and Cambridge universities and the University of Basel, shared their research and thoughts.
Cambridge cosmologist John Barrow opened the conference with a keynote address, “Is the Universe Complex or Simple?” Barrow noted that very simple laws of physics—like the law of gravity—produce complicated outcomes. An ordered collection of pencils standing upright will fall into a messy pile, even though the gravitational force making them fall is simple and symmetric.
Peter Harrison, from the University of Queensland in Australia and former holder of the chair of science & religion at Oxford, highlighted the problems that Charles Darwin created for Christianity with the theory of evolution. Darwin argued—as
evolutionists still do—that genuine randomness was at the heart of evolution. This was a problem for both science, which believed nature followed orderly laws, and Christianity, which believed God had created all life purposefully.
Bestselling author Jennifer Michael Hecht pointed out that the Judeo-Christian tradition has been wrestling with questions of divine purpose for millennia. Although the Bible generally affirms that God blesses the righteous in an orderly way, the story of Job is a powerful counterexample. Job was “upright” and followed God’s law faithfully. But he experienced the most terrible disasters, from the loss of his health to the death of his children. The achingly beautiful but tragic story of Job pushes back against the idea that “everything happens for a reason.”
The conference—which enjoyed a high level of student engagement—was supported by a $200,000 grant that the John Templeton Foundation had awarded to Karl Giberson, Stonehill’s scholar-in-residence in science & religion.
Best Buddies Students from Stonehill’s Best Buddies chapter volunteer at the House of Possibilities, which is dedicated to bringing to life the full potential of children and adults with developmental disabilities.
[L to R: Left, Danny Federico, Tiara Sarjeant, Samuel Brammer ’16 and Matt Wrick. Middle, Stephen Bennett, Marissa Moniz ’16, Joseph Baron and Ravi Dhameja ’15. Right, Morgan Pillar ’15 and Alexandra McDonald.]
To view more photos, click here.
An avid coffee drinker, Trisha Donadio ’17 believes that “going
to class without coffee is sad, a fate that no one should have to
endure.” Her drawing, which appeared in the student publication
Rolling Stonehill last semester, captures that sentiment.
A criminology major with a “visual brain,” Donadio enjoys
drawing and finds “art playful, a way of showcasing what’s
in your head.”
Three Life Lessons from the Sea
Alexis Johnson ’16 spent seven weeks on a 134-foot research vessel off the coast of New Zealand as part of SEA Semester: A Global Ocean, a study abroad program offered by the Sea Education Association that allows students to explore the science of the ocean as well as the human relationship with the sea and its history and politics.
The mathematics and environmental science double major learned a lot about the sea but possibly even more about herself. Johnson shares three life lessons from her ocean experience:
Lesson 1: “I know it’s a cliché, but the biggest lesson I learned was that life is short—too short to not spend every second absolutely loving what you are doing. I have learned that I love being at sea; I love exploring and researching the oceans. I have realized that I need to do what I love. This is why I will be returning to sea after graduation and will possibly pursue a career in oceanography.”
Lesson 2: “I embraced so many experiences—seeing the sun rise while on dawn watch, looking at the stars in the sky while on mid watch, watching dolphins play in the bioluminescence at the hull of the ship. It always seemed like the whole world would stop in these breathtaking moments.”
Lesson 3: “It’s easy to get caught up in finding a job or going to graduate school after graduation, but any study abroad experience will really make you take a step back and realize that there is so much out there and so little time. We will have so many years in our future to spend working and settling down, why rush that? Now is the time to explore the world and discover who you are.”
Shipmates: Alexis Johnson ’16 [left], with pal Heather Piekarz, a junior at Hamilton College, aboard the S.S.V. Robert C. Seamans, a 134-foot steel-hulled, brigantine-rigged sailboat.