MAJOR FIELD OF STUDY
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER PATH
I’ve only held two jobs since graduating from Salisbury. The first was with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I was a manager of their Port Isobel Island Education Center at Tangier Island, Virginia from 2003-2005. Tangier Island is a community of roughly 600 people, most of whom fish, crab, or oyster. It is one of the last remaining villages of its kind, an important contributor to our state’s seafood economy, and an ecological gem of the southern Chesapeake. It is actually quite accessible from Salisbury—just head south on Rt 13 until you see signs for 413/Crisfield, and take 413 to the end, where you hit the Tangier Sound. There’s a dock there with ferry boats that will take you the rest of the way to Tangier Island: 45 minutes from shore, in the middle of the Bay. Out there, I led outdoor and environmental education field trips between March and December, mostly for middle school students from Maryland, Virginia, DC, and Pennsylvania. We’d host about 4,000 kids a year, diving in saltwater marshes, scraping underwater grasses for blue crabs, and canoeing in the guts of low-lying islands. I realized I loved teaching about the relationship between people and the environment, but I wanted to go deeper with my students. Middle-schoolers had so much energy, but you could only take them so far when thinking about things like ecology, culture, history, and politics. I made the decision to become a college professor, which necessitated a journey to a Ph.D. I graduated with my doctorate in 2013 and that fall took my second job since Salisbury—Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Bucknell University.
MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU LEARNED WHILE ATTENDING SALISBURY UNIVERSITY
What an impossible question! It is also a trick question because any answer might leave me offending many of the great teachers I had on campus. That said, I have thought about this question many times before, especially as I’ve become a professor myself and have sought to build learning experiences in my classroom that stick with my students. I can remember one class in particular, “The Self,” taught by Dr. Tony Whall in the Honors program. This class challenged students to ask difficult, crucial questions about what makes for a life well-lived. We read Henry David Thoreau, who quickly became one of my favorite authors. Thoreau continues to be a source of meaning for me. Observing that many people live lives of “quiet desperation,” Thoreau tells us to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life” and see if we can learn what it has to teach.
WHAT CAMPUS ACTIVITIES/ORGANIZATIONS WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH?
I am so glad for the opportunities to get involved at Salisbury. I went on the Algonquin Orientation program (one of the better decisions of my life) and returned twice as a peer leader. I was a member of WXSU (at the time, known as WSUR) for all four years of my college experience. I was a Resident Assistant in Choptank Hall my senior year. I helped start Active Children’s Education (ACE), which I believe is still going strong on campus, thanks to many amazing leaders who continued to build that program after I left. I was also in several on campus bands and participated in Open Mic nights and other similar performances.
BEST COLLEGE MEMORY
Another impossible question! I can’t choose one. Two that stick out: The first is wearing a duck suit every Friday during my Junior year, spring semester. I’d come back from class, get the suit on, and stand between Fulton Hall and St. Martin’s Hall. My goal was to startle people out of their daily grind, to have them look up and see the world in front of them, while also bringing a smile to their faces. I would offer free hugs. I’d also wish people nice things like “Have a Nice Day” or “Rock your test!.” On Valentine’s Day that year I wrote out a couple dozen cards and handed those out, too. The other best memory is delivering the commencement speech on graduation day. It was such an honor. I must have practiced that speech several dozen times in the 48 hours leading up to that moment. As much as I appreciated the chance to address my peers and professors, I cherished the front-row seat: I got to watch many of my dear friends receive their diplomas.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE SALISBURY UNIVERSITY?
I chose Salisbury to save money. My goal was to go to medical school, so I was staring down nearly a decade of tuition expenses at the time. I had two options, really: Providence College (out of state, private) or Salisbury (in state, public). From that perspective, it was a no-brainer. I had visited both places and liked them both well enough. I was also a bit stung that I wasn’t accepted by two other schools—Brown University and Bucknell University. I think that deserves a #karma.
IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE SALISBURY UNIVERSITY IN THREE WORDS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE AND WHY?
Lobster. Fest. Commons. Since readers are all alumni, I don’t think I really need to add further justification. You would go early, get your lobster ticket, stack your tray, and feast on the bounty of the sea. Sometimes you’d pray for another lobster ticket to magically appear. Other times, one was all you needed. I almost answered Late Night @ Commons, where you could eat breakfast at midnight during finals week, but there was always this element of stress and exhaustion involved. With seafood night, the only thing to worry about was how long to bask in the glory of butter-induced food coma.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT AND WHY?
Acadia National Park is one of my favorite vacation spots. Words really don’t do it justice, so I feel embarrassed even trying to explain my choice here. Suffice it so say that the sunrise or sunset view from the top of Cadillac Mountain takes me to a higher place. And, after my father died in the fall of 2014, we sprinkled some of his ashes right there at the top of that mountain. So, in a very real way, for me and my immediate family, Acadia is both an escape into spectacular nature and a return home.
I’m very proud to have just published a book. It is called Unfreezing the Arctic: Science, Colonialism, and the Transformation of Inuit Lands (University of Chicago Press, 2016). The idea of the book is in the title: first, the Arctic is warming, quickly. The North American Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the global average since the 1970s. But, more importantly, in order to respond attentively to climate change there, we need to “unfreeze” how we think about the place. It is not frozen in time, removed from modern history, or a pristine wilderness. Since the middle of the 1800s, the Inuit communities and natural resources of the Arctic have been intimately connected to industrial society, we can see that most clearly when we look at the history of science and exploration there. To write the book, I spent twenty months living in a small town in Canada’s Arctic and visited more than 15 archives in Canada and the United States. It is odd to look on the shelf in my office and see a book with my name on it, or to pick it up and read words I wrote. I’m happy to say that all author royalties from the book go to two organizations: Alaska Youth for Environmental Action and the On the Land program at East Three School in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. For me, writing this was never about making money, but making a difference.
WHAT IS SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Many people don’t know that my siblings and I are the first generation in my family to go to college. I had incredible support from my parents, as well as many wonderful peers and mentors on campus at Salisbury, to help me navigate the new world of college life. I’m now a mentor at Bucknell for first-generation college students, to help pay forward the kindnesses extended to me.
I love music (playing/listening), travel, sports (playing/watching), trying new foods, spending time with my family and friends, carving out date nights with my wife Ariana, and figuring out with her how to raise two children (Everett, 4; Whitley, 1).