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Office of Development
From the Environment in Pop Culture to Environmental Justice

Courtney Scheffler has been aware of the need for environmental justice for years. As a student at ESF, she gained the insights and tools necessary - and found her voice - to make it her life's mission.

Growing up in the Catskills, Scheffler was surrounded by nature - and isolation, poverty, and racism.

"Because the region is isolated, people are not necessarily exposed to other viewpoints and truths," Scheffler said. "Because other perspectives have trouble finding their way to the region, there is an erasure or misguided understanding of the world beyond the mountains."

To learn about the natural world, Scheffler watched Animal Planet and went for hikes. Eventually, she realized that television is not a complete representation of what environments are and can be "Animal Planet is entertainment, abstract, and removed," said Scheffler. "And because my high school was so rural, environmental concepts were not always embedded in my K-12 education. It wasn't until I got to ESF and started working at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary that I began to see the tremendous need for change and how individuals can be part of that change. There is a lot that people can do and be."

Scheffler chose ESF because of its commitment to the environment. Although she applied to other colleges, ESF was the only option on her short list that "fully focuses on the environment," she said.

"The opportunity to specialize and learn how to take responsibility for the environment has been impactful," said Scheffler. "There is always new knowledge and new perspectives to understand. The environment is a point of commonality for people. We can use it as a rallying cry - a way to unite us - to work together to improve our response to other social injustices that range from colonization and racism to government regulations and healthcare."

Scheffler expects to graduate in December and hopes to work for a few months before beginning graduate school in the Fall of 2021.

"I appreciate the interdisciplinary aspect of ESF's education," said Scheffler. "Now I think I want to specialize. I'm considering a graduate school focus on one of the sciences or urban planning."

Scheffler also expressed gratitude for the scholarships she holds at ESF, noting that this financial support made her ESF education possible. She holds two awards: a Presidential Scholarship that recognizes exceptional merit and the Robert D. and Virginia E. Hennigan Scholarship, established by the Hennigan family to support Environmental Studies undergraduate students in good academic standing with preference for students engaged in water resource and/or environmental policy studies or research.

"Much of my workload is made manageable, knowing I don't have to worry about loans or going into debt to receive the education I am passionate about. Because of the scholarship, I can learn and support my peers and community."