Published: Dec. 21, 2020 By

four female hikers in the forest

As fall semester comes to a close, MENV's fifth cohort has been reflecting on what the past few months have meant to them. Many of our first-year students made significant life changes amidst a year of unprecendented challenges to participate in the program. Despite a start to their graduate experience that was far from the norm, many have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to explore their passion and cultivate community together, among other things. This week, we asked a few first-year students to share some of the highs and lows from their first semester in MENV. Here are their responses:


Carson Noel, Sustainable Food Systems

"I came into the MENV program in the Urban Resilience and Sustainability specialization, with only a vague idea of my career interests. Now, at the end of the first semester, I am head-over-heels for sustainability in food systems. I didn't even know what the concept of 'regenerative agriculture' meant before August, and now it's all I ever talk about (sorry Mom and Dad...). Not only did this semester inspire new career interests, it also connected me with some incredible humans and loving friends. I didn't know life could be so good!"


Cole Dickerson, Sustainable Food Systems

"There’s a fairly consistent daily discussion in class of the challenges faced in the world, and just when I’m about to give in to the idea that I’m too small to fix anything, someone in our cohort picks me back up. It’s incredible to be around such an optimistic and engaging group of people, and as I look back on my first semester, I feel pretty lucky to work and play with these new friends. Some of the highlights included great conversations on morning runs, the impromptu early frost harvest fest, and finding out that quite a lot of people think the Shrek 2 soundtrack is one of the best."


Sean McArdle, Renewable and Sustainable Energy

“This year has been filled with challenges, but the MENV program demonstrated persistence and exceeded all my expectations during the first semester. Faculty have created a robust curriculum where students can apply their unique skillsets to solving real-world problems across various industries. In addition to the classroom setting, Boulder and the Front Range offer an endless landscape for those seeking their next outdoor adventure. It's been awesome!”


Willow Urquidi, Renewable and Sustainable Energy

"My first semester of the MENV program was challenging, but rewarding. In these first few months, I’ve connected with new friends in creative ways, found mentorship in my professors, and mastered Zoom. I am lucky to also live with two awesome fellow MENVers and that we get to continue to explore all that Colorado has to offer. Looking forward to the next semester!"


Jimmy Howe, Urban Resilience and Sustainability

"It’s hard to think my cohort and I have only been in school for a semester—in the decade that has been 2020, so much happened over the course of a few months. From an unknown learning environment to masked-up trail runs or belays, virtual final projects, and realizing I actually haven’t met many of my new friends in person to recognize them around town, this semester was a challenge in adaptation. But it is also what made the semester so valuable for me. Meeting so many committed and determined peers inspired me to make the most of the fall, practice my virtual communication, and look forward to the better days to come!"


Jena van Gerwin, Urban Resilience and Sustainability

"Starting graduate school in a new city and state is already a big change. But throw in a global pandemic that inhibits you from in-person interactions, and it makes it all the more intimidating. As one can probably imagine, spending a majority of the day set up in your home and on a computer can be tough for someone who is outdoors-oriented and studying the environment. However, like anything, you can totally make it work! I’m lucky that prior to moving here, I found roommates who are also in the program who I get a long with very well. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet a few other people in the program in person and even pick up new hobbies such as climbing, which I particularly enjoy! Online learning can be somewhat difficult, but I don’t think it has stopped me at all from making real, lasting connections."


Victoria Tadewald, Environmental and Natural Resources Policy

"Although the semester didn’t go quite as planned, the MENV program has truly exceeded my expectations. Every one of my professors made themselves available to answer any and all of my questions, and went above and beyond with their teaching (even given the virtual platform). I’ve also been super impressed with the community that we have been able to build despite being remote. I feel like I have really been able to connect with my classmates, and I cannot wait for when we actually get to hang out in person. I’m thrilled to finally be around people who share my love for the environment!"