I had been considering a larger research state school, but I chose Antioch because the other university felt very impersonal in comparison. I would have been handed a research topic for my thesis on the way in the door, finding myself lost in the weeds of a project that began before I started and continue after I left. Plus, Antioch has a wider breadth than the standard graduate school. It doesn’t try to box you in and have you fit into a predetermined agenda. It really lets you go in the direction you want. It offers small groups, lots of interaction with professors, and there’s a really good community.
Given the flexible nature of the program, in my first year I chose to commute back and forth for my Thursday and Friday classes. Then I began work as the coordinator for the Social Justice and Sustainability team on Wednesdays. I would drive to Keene from Western Massachusetts and meet all these wonderful people. Then I’d go home Friday night. It was tough to be torn between two communities. I wanted to expand on the interactions I was having with the Antioch community, learn from them, have fun together, and do all the things you do with wonderful people when you meet them. Here you just open your ears and eyes and there are people in every department doing incredible stuff!
Antioch is rigorous and challenging, not only the workload but also thinking about issues in a way you hadn’t before. We are in the worst situation as a planet and as a global community than we’ve ever been in. People here are thinking about these issues deeply. You can’t just be a scientist. You can’t just be an advocate. You can’t only focus on the social justice realm of things. They are all interconnected. At Antioch you develop a holistic way of thinking. My interest is agro-ecology, and the issue of how we can grow organic food in ways that can actually benefit the ecosystem at large.
The work has developed my literacy around this issue and my leadership ability. You develop these skills here, rather than just talking about how they matter. I have tactics and strategies on how to do things, skills in actively listening and leaving space for others that I wasn’t working on before. They are part of the strong values that are the undercurrent of everything we do – social justice, sustainability, advocacy, literacy, being able to communicate to the public, working together.
Friends who have gone to other master’s programs come out feeling like they just have a piece of paper and are no closer to what they wanted to contribute to their niche. I feel like the piece of paper here is the least of it. The professors are just as happy for you to work on a project that they’ve never thought about or never heard of as they are for you to work on something that they are involved with. So for me that’s allowed me to plug into their projects when that’s a direction that I want to learn from.
The alumni network is incredible. It’s the oldest Environmental Studies degree in the country and there are a lot of internships that come through those connections and are turning into jobs all the time. The degree gets looked at and I think it has the clout and value it does because we’re not churning out people whose only language is science. We know how to interact with the public and advocate with policy and science on the ground. We have the wider, longer view, and not just the tunnel vision focus.