Student puts Environmental Studies knowledge to use in Alaska

Victoria Jones ’13 made good use of her liberal arts education this summer. 

An Environmental Studies major, she decided to work at a nature camp 10 miles outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and the experience was nothing short of an adventure.

Jones learned about the opportunity with the Alaska Center for the Environment’s Trailside Discovery program while researching internships online. Many students use their summer to gain experience in their field of interest, and about 40 percent graduate from the College having completed at least one internship.

Because Jones plans to study arctic botany at the graduate level, hopefully at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the decision to go made sense.

As an environmental educator, Jones was responsible for organizing nature-based activities for her rotating groups of 8- and 9-year-old campers. The program is designed around an outdoor classroom philosophy, so they played games and went hiking as they learned. Occasionally, a moose would block their trail, forcing them to find an alternate route, or a black bear would interrupt a game.

“Everywhere is wilderness,” Jones said.

Her inspiration to live in Alaska from May through mid-August partially came from her American Nature Writing class, which “makes you want to go out into the wilderness,” she said.

She stayed with a host family and mountain biked to and from work every day, singing to herself to calm her worries about possibly running into a bear while en route.

The stress of keeping her students safe during the day, in fact, was the most difficult part of the job. For example, they could be watching salmon in a stream – and so could a grizzly bear, she said.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan native hopes to return next summer, calling the experience “rejuvenating.”

“Being outside every day really does something do you,” she said. “I definitely want to go back.”