“Why Geography” Series Presents: Kendra Held ’22

Posted on October 20th, 2021 by

1. Why did you choose to major in Geography?

Overall I would say that I stumbled into geography classes by chance as an undecided first year student and each semester since then I have increasingly identified with the geography major and community. I had such a diverse array of interests coming into college and I’m grateful that the geography major allows me to explore so many intersecting issues with a systems lens.

I took ‘Causes of Global Climate Change’ with Jeff LaFrenierre on a whim during my first semester at GAC. In this class I was challenged to describe the physical processes of climate change alongside peers who soon became close friends. This class launched me into Environment and Society, where Anna Versluis helped us navigate many approaches to answering the questions we have about the well documented conflict between society and our environment. Geography classes have always been my favorite classes to take and I admire many geography alumni. I really enjoy the geography professors because they all are talented, compassionate, hardworking and generous in their own unique ways. I look up to this community and am grateful to be a part of it.

2. To what extent your geography education has already transformed how you view and act on the world?

I have noticed that in classes based in other disciplines I consistently apply and express my own geography lens. A phrase that Tiffany Grobelski imposed on me in Energy Geography was “Where are the people?” I often ask myself and others this question because it brings a human geography lens back to any technical situation. My geography education has reshaped my worldview because it has enhanced my understanding of social justice issues and frameworks for change. The interdisciplinary nature of geography has helped me understand and approach problems more holistically. It also allows me to see myself as a catalyst for change.

3. Beyond coursework, what other experiences have enriched your geography education?

Working with the Environmental Action Coalition and advocating for institutional climate action through Groundswell provided me with opportunities to act on challenges in our campus community. I use a geography lens to zoom in on local issues and zoom out to connect them to global and systemic issues.

Working as a sustainability intern I get to connect technical issues like waste or transportation with the human element: hardworking staff and earnest students who want to make our community better. This hands-on experience has taught me that change can be slow, but persistence and building partnerships go a long way in speeding things up.

I’m studying at Uppsala University in Sweden right now (What?! I can’t believe it either!) and am taking several sustainability classes with international students from all over the globe. I love hearing their perspectives in our discussions and getting to learn more about the initiatives they are working on back home.

On top of that, just living in Uppsala has been a fantastic opportunity to observe or “read” a new landscape. I love getting around by bike and observing the infrastructure and culture in this bike-friendly city.

4. What will make the world a better place and where do you see yourself in five years?

I think believing in our own agency to make change in our home communities would go far in restoring a sense of empowerment. Many people, myself included, get overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility to fix everything when we learn about the massive challenges our global community is facing. While I think systemic change is imperative, I also think that working on a local scale in the meantime can help us develop skills to be braver, more empathetic, wiser leaders.

In five years I’m going to be almost 27…whoa! By that time I want to have traveled some more and done some community development work, maybe through the Peace Corps or Americorps. I also want to have chosen a new place to call home while I pursue a masters degree in something along the lines of social justice, environmental sustainability and public health.


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