Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Dustyn Montgomery is HECUA’s student blogger for the Environmental Sustainability: Ecology, Policy, and Social Transformation program this fall. Dustyn is a student from The University of St. Thomas majoring in Justice and Peace Studies. Read on for his final post!
This semester was everything I needed it to be and more. I think back to my first day of class back in September, riding my bike through Minneapolis on my way to meet my new friends and learning community. I had very few expectations going into this experience, except for that I knew that it was going to be one of the best experiences I have had thus far in my undergraduate career. Up to this point, much of my educational experience had been directed under studying justice and peace related theory and practice. Yet, although I knew that what I was learning nourished my spirit, there was a deep desire to look further into the connection that justice and peace studies has with the environment.
From the circle discussions held in class in North Minneapolis, to the field experiences at Lily Springs farm, to the Herc incinerator, to visiting Line 3 and 4 in the Fond Du Lac nation, and the experience gained through my internship at Environmental Initiative, this semester was everything I needed and more. I was able to enter into a new reality of learning. A type of learning that fostered love, growth and healing, not papers, tests, and online assignments. This program emphasized learning in circle through conversation rather than in rows and lectures. The Environmental Sustainability program not only equipped me with a plethora of knowledge regarding topics and issues of environmental justice and the impacts of climate change on communities globally, but it equipped me with a network of like-minded individuals. In this program, the learning that we shared as a learning community felt for the first time in my undergraduate career like something that was tangible and could legitimately lead to real life work and action for our world.
I believe HECUA is offers programs that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. For me, the best part of being a part of a HECUA program was feeling as though I was a part of something bigger than myself. This program was not just something I showed up to each week and then left not giving what I had learned or experienced a second thought, but this was a program that allowed my mind to constantly be thinking, questioning, and dreaming into all that it could be. The experiential learning component of HECUA was the first time that I felt that all the information I was learning actually applied to real life situations. But, beyond all the new experiences I had this semester at HECUA, it was the relationships that I built with my peers that made my time in something truly special, relationships that will continue to last long past our time here.