Student Profile

Nicole Corneau '17

How have you been challenged and inspired?

The most challenging thing I’ve done at St. Mike’s was taking Macroeconomics this year for my Environmental Studies major. At the same time, I am so glad I took it. At first, I wondered how it was even relevant to environmental studies, but once I took the class I realized it was relevant to everything. Even in my Education major, we’d talk about how certain communities stay in poverty. I thought it was going to be very focused on just finances, but it talked about politics and so on. It was such a hard class, I had to get a tutor and everything, but it showed me how the world works, so I’m glad I took it.

My freshman year I got hurt, and was on crutches in the winter; that’s probably the worst thing that’s happened to me here. At the same time, that was when I was really happy to go here, because people were just so nice to me. People I didn’t even know would come up to me and say “can I get your backpack for you?” One kid I didn’t even know, who was a senior, came up to me and said, “I just had surgery, I have these really comfy pillows you can put on your crutches, what’s your mailbox number?” and he left me a note. Stuff like that was when I realized I’m glad I went to a small, friendly school.

Who has been the most influential to your college experience, and how?

I think my advisor and the faculty advisor who I’m working with on my project. My advisor is Valerie Bang-Jensen, and she’s an awesome person. She really pushes us, and she expects a lot of us, which is good. She doesn’t baby us; she’ll show us, this is what you need to get done if you’re really serious about doing this. Professor Jonathan Silverman, the class I took with him was Teaching Social Studies and the Arts. At first that was so hard for me, because I’m not an artist, and I was so worried about that class because it was so new to me. Even his style of teaching was very laid-back, not setting deadlines, which is the opposite of how I do things, but it pushed me a lot and he was really understanding about kids who were apprehensive to try new things. By the end of the class I was doing all of these art activities, and incorporating them into my lessons. He showed us, you are an artist, everyone’s creative. I hope I can now show that to kids; that’s why he’s so great. As my faculty advisor for my project, he’ll push me to not get so caught up in the details, look at the bigger picture, and maybe to try a new creative way of doing this. He’s really pushed me to think outside the box.

Why did you want to do summer research at St. Michael’s? What are you researching?

It wasn’t even my idea. I had done a project in my class about nature deficit disorder, and getting kids outside. There aren’t a lot of people here who are Elementary Education and Environmental Science double majors so Professor Silverman approached me about the possibility of combining those two areas of study for a project. So, now I’m looking at how public schools in Vermont incorporate getting kids outside with hands on learning and environmental education, and how we teach kids about the environment in an accessible way. I started doing all this research about how well-meaning environmental education can be a real abstraction for fourth graders, telling them that there’s not enough water in California, or talking about the rainforest. So much of that is also focused on foreign countries, and it’s not real to kids. Even as a 20 year old in environmental studies, I feel so overwhelmed—there’re all these problems across the globe, how could I ever possibly have an impact? And that was as an adult so a lot of environmental education now is focused on place-based education and hands on learning. If a class can take care of one watershed in their own community all five years of elementary school, that’s way more accessible for them. Rather than explicit teaching about the environment, they’re growing up with a respect for nature. I’m looking at how, not only does getting kids outside in schools help the earth for the future, but it also impacts the child. I’m studying how getting kids outside is the most effective way to get them to value stewardship and at the same time how it’s really helpful for their learning.

What would you say makes you unique?

For me and what I’m studying, it’s been cool to bring two worlds together. The people I know in Environmental Studies are so different than the people sitting in one of my education classes. I can grapple with the science, but I can also get the social and humanities-focused things. Within this summer research project, it’s given me an opportunity to take the science world and make it more accessible to people. One of the reasons I chose Education as opposed to just Environmental Studies is that the science culture is so rigid and it’s a tough field. I think there need to be more people in science who are willing to make it more accessible to people who aren’t science-minded people. That’s one thing that I’ve realized: I can do the science, but I’m also really good at working with people and making it more accessible.

What is the mark you want to make on the world?

I was originally studying environmental policy, which involves some big scale changes, but with education I’ve realized that you can affect so many people in such a direct way. I feel as if I owe it to the world because I’ve had such a good education.  My parents have worked hard to send me to St. Mike’s and my private high school, and I feel that now in turn I want to give that to other kids.

What do you feel is the value of a St. Michael’s education?

I think St. Mike’s teaches you how to be a good citizen of the world. There are so many things here I’ve learned that I never thought would apply to my life. Even taking Macroeconomics—I think everyone should have to take it. When I watch the news I can say, so that’s what’s going on. I think all of the classes here have a focus on how you can help the world. And they try to make you well rounded.

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