In urban studies, you wouldn’t think British Romanticism would be in there, but it’s changing my view of how we can change our spaces & use our environment. -Danya Smith
Major: currently American Studies but I have applied to do an independent major in urban studies with a concentration in cultural geography.
Environmental Humanities Classes taken: EN322: British Romanticism, Green Romanticism; AY365: Space, Place and Belonging
What led you to your choice of independent major?
I initially came into Colby thinking I was going to be a government major. Then in the spring of my freshman year I took Mapping Waterville with Ben Lisle, so that was my introductory course to urban studies. I never really knew there was an urban studies field, and I started looking up and found that similar schools, Trinity, Brown have urban studies programs. Then I looked at the independent major process and saw that there are a lot of people who specialize in urban studies. There are programs and groups that can make a comparable educational experience.
I’m really interest in cities and I hope to pursue grad school in urban planning or policy but within that what I’m really interested in is the environment and how can I look at the environment from different disciplines. The independent major is focusing on the city in an interdisciplinary way and focusing on research methods, such as data analysis and spacial analysis, GIS. I’d like to take a historical view of the city as well as an anthropological view and then look at ways I can research it and visualize the things I am thinking about.
How do you see environmental humanities playing into your major?
The class I’m taking now, British Romanticism: Green Romanticism, is focusing on British Romanticism in the rise of the industrial revolution. We’re reading Coleridge and Wordsworth and Keats. We think of them as nature poets, but they went to nature as a response to what was happening in the cities, so they’re not just writing about nature, they’re writing about consumption, they’re writing about capitalism, they’re writing about how western ideologies are transforming nature. In an urban studies major you wouldn’t think that that would be in there, but it is definitely changing my views of how we can change our spaces and how we use our environment.
I’m coming at it from a humanities perspective. I’m taking English classes, history classes, American Studies classes, etc. with a focus on cities and geography. I’m really interested in how people and culture intersect with places. So there’s a city side of that and in general how people have interacted with environments in the past, how we’re doing it now, and how we will in the future. A year ago I wouldn’t think of myself as an environmentalist, but I think I am thinking about cities and how we can make cities environmentally consciously.
Have you been involved in any interesting projects in your time at Colby?
Yes. After taking a class with Ben Lisle last year, we formed the Colby Urban Design Coop, sort of interested in community engagement and design. We’re interested in leveraging our resources as Colby students to do collaborative urban design projects in Waterville. So last year we helped out with a project where we developed a tool lending library in the South End of Waterville with a bunch of different organizations and this year we’re working on a park renovation in Chaplin Street so we’re thinking of ways of integrating art and design and community engagement with the residents around the area so we’re partnering with the housing authority and Waterville Parks and Rec.
We’re thinking of it sustainably as well. We’re thinking about a community garden, so we’re partnering with some ES students in the Colby Organic Gardening and Farming Association. The other day we just got a $750 grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund. We’re thinking of using a combination of external funding, internal funding and donations and stuff.
What do you think you’re going to be doing after Colby?
I hope to pursue graduate school in urban planning and urban policy, but I’m really interested in doing some of the things I’m doing now at Colby, like that project I just mentioned. I’m writing about political things for Outside Colby magazine and doing some sustainability research with the office of sustainability. So I’m kind of doing a lot of things, I’m interested in urban studies, and sustainability and writing. I kind of hope to combine those in graduate school with non-profit work or government work.