Published: Oct. 20, 2020 By

This is the first installment of a new article series on the MENV website, called “Humans of MENV”. In these articles, we will feature stories from multiple students that touch on their personal experiences in the program. Each round of "Humans of MENV” will have a narrative theme—this first installment is about students’ experiences with moving to Boulder from out of state, and what brought them here in the first place.

Peter Olivares, Environmental and Natural Resources Policy

Peter Olivares Portrait"I moved here from Long Island, New York. I was a clinical research coordinator in a hospital there for three years, focusing on orthopedics and neurosurgery. I initially got into the environment because I took an environmental policy course as an elective during my senior year in college. I fell in love with it immediately, but I was about to graduate as a public health major. I got offered a healthcare position right after graduation, which I accepted—but I always kept my interests in environmental policy in the back of my mind. I happened to have a close friend who graduated from the first cohort of the MENV program, and after two years of working in healthcare, I reached out to her to ask for more details about it. The professional, interdisciplinary focus of the program appealed to me because I was not looking for a research-oriented program. I knew I wanted to formulate and implement policy at the government level, and this program seemed like a good fit.

Colorado has always appealed to me—with it’s alpine lakes, the 14ers, and all of the outdoor recreation. New York really is a concrete jungle where there isn’t much green space, and Long Island is so densely populated that people are practically on top of each other in the streets. I knew I wanted to move out of there, it was just timing. I had visited here once before, and I could see myself coming back.

Back in the hospital, I liked my job because I was good at it and I had a great team around me. But in my free time at work, I would be reading climate policy articles and listening to environmental podcasts. I knew that my mindset was very different than the full-on healthcare professionals that I worked around. It’s different being here now, where everyone is on the same page as me and I can have so many elaborate conversations about what I’m interested in—it feels much more comfortable now.

All told, my experience since coming here has been exactly what I expected it to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. I was really nervous about the Zoom experience, and I was really really nervous that building community would not be possible through Zoom. But my professors and classmates have been way more engaging than I expected. Not to mention, I have great roommates, love all the recreation, and life in general here is really great. So, actually, I take it back—this experience hasn’t been what I expected—it’s been better than I expected.”

Olivia Brown, Sustainable Food Systems

Olivia Brown Portrait"I moved to Boulder from Leesburg, Virginia. Before I came to MENV, I spent a year working in food security through AmeriCorps, and after that I spent some time working for a local organic market. I had been to Boulder only once before. It was right after I graduated college, when I came to visit a friend who I’d met while studying abroad. She had just graduated from CU, and I met up with her for a road trip around Colorado and Utah. While we were in Boulder, I absolutely fell in love with it.

When it came to picking a graduate program, I was mainly looking for a degree with a food concentration. There aren’t very many food-specific graduate programs around the U.S.—or even internationally, for that matter. I found the Sustainable Food Systems specialization listed on MENV’s website, and I loved how holistic it was in the way that it approached food systems. The support that the program offered in the professional space was also nice, and I was really interested in the Capstone. The program—coupled with the fact that I knew I really liked the environment in Boulder—made me sure that this was where I wanted to be.

I took my time coming out here by turning the move into a cross-country road trip, visiting family and friends all along the way to Boulder. At one point during the drive, I used HipCamp (an app like Air BnB, but for camping) to find a place to stop and camp, ended up on a beautiful 100-acre organic farm. It was overgrown with wildflowers and there were butterflies everywhere. The hosts were kind and let me use their kitchen, and there was even a little lake there for me to take out a paddle boat. After that, nearing the end of the trip, I got to stay with a friend who works at The Land Institute (an agriculture and environment research group). I got to see their property and camp there too. It was amazing to have those experiences in connection with the environment and food as I made my way here.

Once I got to Boulder, I found that building community during these times is definitely different. Trying to meet people can be hard when you are behind screens all day on Zoom or wearing masks while trying to connect in person. I’ve been trying to get to know people here by exploring what I’m interested in, then finding people that have similar interests both in and out of the program. I hike a lot, take walks, and I’ve been really getting into climbing too—something that quite a few people in the program like to do. Overall, I’m ready to create community here, and while I’ve only been here for two months and adjusting takes time, I think I’ll be here for quite a while.”

Natalia Carminelli, Urban Resilience and Sustainability

Natalia Carminelli Portrait“I moved to Boulder from Raleigh, North Carolina. I had just graduated in June from North Carolina State University with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. I started looking for jobs towards the end of senior year, but none of the jobs I was seeing in my field were interesting to me, so I looked into graduate programs instead. One of my professors told me about the MENV program, so I looked into it. When I did, I felt like I’d finally come across a path that interested me and sounded like something that I might want to do. With everything going on in the world this year, I thought that there was no better time to give it a shot than now.

I had never been to Boulder before, but I wasn’t too worried about that. I knew that I would like it because of the mountain access and the city’s reputation for being so outdoorsy. That’s one of the reasons that I specifically chose to do a program in Boulder—and Colorado in general. Now that I’ve moved here, it’s been everything that I expected it to be and more. I’ve found it easy to create community through the program since most of us share common interests, especially in being outside and active. Most people in the program were also just as eager to meet people as I was—despite the circumstances—and that eagerness helped too. I think it was because most of us came from out of state and didn’t really know anyone coming to Boulder, so we were all more willing to go out of our way to find ways to meet and start building community.

I’ve also really enjoyed my classes since the program started. Graduate school in general has been a lot more involved. In this program especially, they don’t want you to just read something and memorize it for a test. They want you to learn something so that you know how to apply it in your future career.

While I’ve liked my classes, my daily life also can’t just be all about school. I need to take breaks, see friends, and get outside. Being in Boulder makes that so easy. It takes less than ten minutes to get to nearly every park or trail in town. And on the weekends when there’s more time, you can take a longer drive and in less than an hour you’ll be in the mountains. The location is just fantastic—but overall, it’s the people that I’ve gotten to meet and spend time with that have made my MENV experience so far. I’m excited to spend the rest of the year with them, and while it’s too early for me to know where I’ll end up after the program, I could definitely see myself staying in Colorado for a few years now.”

Brian Yudkin, Renewable and Sustainable Energy

Brian Yudkin Portrait"I moved here from Berkeley, California. I was living there for the last two years, working at UC Berkeley as a lab technician conducting environmental research on soils. At one point, I started to look at graduate programs because I felt like I was spending a lot of time researching environmental issues that we already know a lot about. I wanted to shift to something more hands-on and innovative for my career. I applied to a few programs, but MENV was the first one that I found that really got me excited to go back to school. It was my number one choice to come here from the start.

I chose MENV for both the program and for the place. I had been to Boulder once before to visit a friend, and after that trip I had a feeling I might want to live here someday. It was mostly because I’m very outdoorsy, and the outdoor access here is pretty unreal. I like backpacking and climbing, and it’s pretty hard to beat living a ten-minute drive from places like Boulder Canyon.

Over the last few years, I’ve been pretty transient. I’ve lived in three different places since graduating college in 2017, but I sort of have this feeling now that I’d like to stay in Boulder—or greater Colorado—for the long term. I think the people is a part of it. I’m starting to find community here through the program and all the outdoor activities I do. It’s been nice considering that it’s been such a crazy year. A lot of us got here without knowing anyone, and we were excited to meet so many people with similar interests. It’s really easy to find people that are like-minded in this program and in Boulder, and that’s definitely enhanced my experience so far.”