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Environmental Science

Matt Cochran

Matt Cochran '25

Why did you decide to study environmental science?

I wanted to study environmental science because I love learning about how much everything in the world connects. I want to work in a job where I get to think about and consider lots of different causes and effects happening in an ecosystem and try to come up with creative solutions.

What classes have been your favorite so far?  

I really enjoyed learning about how complex evolution is and the crazy interesting ways that populations behave in Biology 143. However, there will never be a class that tops one that I took last January called Theology & Ecology. The 16 of us in the class and Professor Jonathan Moo spent almost a month up in the Cascade Mountains learning about all of the nearby mountains and tree species and what the Bible can tell us about how to steward our land, while building a once-in-a-lifetime community and cross-country skiing almost every day.

Tell us about a unique experience or project you've worked on for your major.  

One unique experience has been getting to plan a research project with other students. We got to research, design and will execute our own research project involving moth biodiversity in the Costa Rican cloud forest.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in environmental science?

My advice would be to take every opportunity you can get and do lots of research! There are tons of internships, jobs and opportunities around if you push a bit for them. Also, get to know your professors because it makes all the time you spend with them more fun.

What's your dream job?  

I'm currently hoping to work in restoration ecology for alpine or estuary environments.

Who are three people who have made a difference for you at Whitworth?

My Whitworth three are:

  1. Jonathan Moo (professor of theology). Jonathan has been one of my favorite professors at Whitworth. He has caused me to rethink and grow in how I interact with the world. He has also been a great source of occasional guidance and support for me as well.
  2. August Albers. August was my first and only RA (resident assistant). He embodied all of the things that a Whitworth student is supposed to be and was a phenomenal introduction to Whitworth for me.
  3. Caleb McGever. Caleb has been one of my closest friends my entire time at Whitworth. The way he demonstrates care and support for everyone around him is impossible to not admire. That support and care has been one of the greatest parts of Whitworth for me.

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

I chose to attend Whitworth because it felt intentional. Intentional about the important ideas and discussions it makes you think about. Intentional about the practicality of your career and how to best prepare you for it. And intentional about creating a community that helps students grow academically and personally.

Tristy OsbonTristy Osbon '22

Why did you decide to study environmental science?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town in Central Oregon located only 20 minutes away from countless mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, so as a child my playground was this never-ending, wide open space in the great outdoors. This familiarity I have built with the natural world has planted a deep seed of passion in my heart for the environment. It wasn't until I took an environmental science class my senior year of high school that I realized, and was finally able to articulate, this deep passion for the environment. It instilled in me a desire to work to not only conserve the beautiful landscapes that surround us, but educate about them and advocate for them. Environmental science revealed a deeper way to understand the world that sustains our lives and millions of others in a way none of the other classes I had ever taken had. Together, these things convinced me to change my career goals to focus on the world of environmental science. Once I was here at Whitworth and had the privilege to meet Professors Jonathan Moo and Grant Casady, I knew I made the right decision in studying what I was most passionate about. I haven't looked back since. 

What are some of your favorite classes so far? 

My favorite environmental science classes I have taken so far are Redemption of Creation and Ecology & the Bible. These are both theologically centered environmental science classes. Redemption of Creation was the first course I ever took that challenged me to think about science and faith in light of one another and sit in the uncomfortableness that such a pairing might bring. Ecology & the Bible is a similar class spent isolated in the Cascade Mountains during Jan Term. The whole class spends the month at Tall Timber Ranch with no access to Wi-Fi or technology, which allowed me to be fully immersed in both God's creation and intentional community, free of distraction. I walked away from both of these classes with a deeper understanding of my faith, God, environmental science, and how all of them are truly compatible. These classes also provided me with the basic language to be able to articulate the compatibility of science and faith and only furthered my conviction that I as a Christian can have both a deep faith and care passionately about the environment. Both of these classes were informative experiences that are unique to Whitworth and something I don't think I would have ever had the chance to find anywhere else.

Tell us about a unique experience you've had or project you've worked on for your major. 

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to work with an organization called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. YECA is a national organization composed of college students across the country who come together and work to overcome the climate crisis. Being a part of this organization is not required for the environmental science major, but it has allowed me to grow as a leader, gain valuable experience, and find tangible ways to make change in the communities that I am a part of. For example, as a part of my fellowship I helped create Whitworth Environmental Action Coalition, which is an environmentally focused club here on campus that works toward developing sustainable habits and facing injustice through education, advocacy and empowerment. Along with this, over the course of the year I have been able to attend different trainings and webinars, hold interviews with leading climate scientists, and find a greater community of those who care about climate change, which ultimately has informed my major here on campus. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in environmental science? 

If you're thinking about studying environmental science, you should just go for it! The field is a lot broader than people realize and is interconnected to almost everything in our world. Within environmental science you can find areas of specific concentrations such as environmental justice, ecofeminism, advocacy, research and so much more. Due to this, and how it is a growing field with an increasing need for people to be within it, I think you will be surprised that you can find something that you both love and are passionate about within environmental science because it is so applicable in every field.  

My second piece of advice would be that Whitworth is an incredible place to enter into the environmental science field. You not only have the unique opportunity to study environmental science in a Christian context, but every professor in this department is incredibly knowledgeable and wants to know and help every individual student. Due to this, take your time with what you explore and find a good balance between school and other things that fill your time. 

What's your dream job?  

Currently, my dream job is to work within the ecological conservation world, but with an intersection of justice, education and advocacy. I don't know what this will look like exactly, but I want to hold a job where I am learning, advocating for justice, and making a change for both the natural world and humanity all across the globe. 

Who has been an important connection for you at Whitworth, and why? 

Both Dr. Grant Casady and Dr. Jonathan Moo have been important connections to me during my time at Whitworth. Both Grant and Jonathan are not only extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields, but they are truly dedicated to them and to teaching students about them. Due to this, they are beyond willing to help every student whether or not they know them well, creating personal relationships with students. For me, my experience at Whitworth has truly been shaped by them both as they stepped into my life as professors committed to helping me achieve my goals and also as mentors willing to extend their hand and help. 

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

I chose Whitworth because I knew that I would not be just another number to my professors here on campus but would be known personally due to both the small class sizes and how highly students talked about their professors. Whitworth felt like a place and community where everyone wants everyone to succeed, and the education of mind and heart is truly valued.

Learn more about Whitworth's Environmental Studies, B.A./Environmental Science, B.S. program

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