Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An L&C Alum's Experience

It seems like only yesterday, but I graduated from L&C all the way back in 2007. I have been asked to share my experiences since graduation, so here goes:

At L&C I doubled majored in Political Science and Environmental Studies. After graduating, I lived and worked in Portland for a year while I applied to law school. During this year I lived in SW Portland and I worked for Portland General Electric
as a clerk, for L&C as a debate coach, and for Powerscore as an LSAT instructor.

2008, I moved to New York City to begin law school at Columbia University School of Law. New York is a lot different than Portland. It has some downsides like the crowds, trash, and how expensive everything is; but it is also a lot of fun! I’ve really enjoyed exploring the city and going to the great concerts, museums, events and speakers.

I spent my first year taking the traditional curriculum taught to all law students across the country: Constitutional Law, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Contracts and Property. During my first year I also did a lot of extracurriculars related to environmental law. I served on the board of the environmental law society and I coordinated Columbia's participation in the Focus the Nation events last semester. I also participated in the Environmental Law Moot Court.

After finishing my f
irst year, I spent summer 2009 back in Portland, working for the Portland Metropolitan Public Defender. Working for a public defender definitely gives you a different perspective than reading about criminal law in a case book. I found helping represent those who cannot afford lawyers to be both a challenging and rewarding job and I recommend it to anyone interested in the law.

I am now starting my second year of law school. I get to pick my classes this year, which is a big improvement from last year; I am taking Evidence, Tax, Environmental Law, and Protection of Natural Resources. I have been elected president of the environmental law society and will serve as a staff editor of the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.

Well, that’s about all I’ve done since graduating from L&C. I am looking forward to taking more interesting classes and beginning my career in the law!

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's a Big Sea Out There!

It all started the summer after freshman year when I got a salmon cannery job on Bristol Bay. Actually, it all started with my 10th grade history teacher, Mrs. Monahan. She was a powerhouse at my high school: brilliant, young, funny, and a great storyteller. She regaled us with tales of her 1980’s jaunt to the Northern slime-lines. Crazies making Jell-o out of seawater and guts, impossible work, incognito gangsters, and the ping-pong table that shared the break-room with a murdered corpse for 3 weeks, all set at the end of the world. She spawned the goldfish of an idea in my fishbowl head to one day test my mettle where the tundra meets the sea. I went, and hated it. I actually loved it, but what I loved I also hated. We compared the cannery to an abusive relationship; you couldn’t escape and always came back. I was hooked on the absurdities, the awesome open landscape, the fish gore, the beautiful souls I met, and the frantic cocktail of pace and sleep deprivation. Regardless, it was great for my photography and I returned for two more seasons to work in the plant and then aboard a tender.

This first summer proved to give a strong current to my ENVS career. I was a member of the first class to have complete freedom over the design of our concentrations, and I decided to pursue art. I was greatly encouraged in the alternative photo classes I took from Jacinda Russell. With her help I created mixed media, alternative, and installation pieces inspired by the theories, issues, and concerns brought up in my ENVS classes. At the same time, “my issue” topic for ENVS projects gravitated to marine fisheries.

Having successfully snagged a Mellon Situated Research Grant in my junior year, I traveled and lived abroad in Primorskii krai, in the Russian Far East. For 6 months I interviewed people involved in most aspects of fisheries (NGOs, Government Industrial and Scientific fishery orgs, Academia, Commercial fishing companies, etc.) conducting research for a thesis verbosely titled “Fractured Visuals. How Russian Images of Far Eastern Fisheries Encourage Predicated Ways of Seeing? An Adaptation of Center-Periphery Relations.” This was a departure from art, a sociological study of images as products that have been produced with inherent cultural values, meanings, and orientations.

With this background it seems too perfect that I stumbled into the “Project/Outreach Coordinator” Americorps position with the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, a non-profit established to create a forum, sense of unity, and represent the interests of the roughly 40 subsistence/commercial fishing villages along the Yukon River. It is the only river-wide, representational group open to all citizens. I will be organizing volunteer service and environmental education programs for high school youth based around salmon conservation and community development. The YRDFA's goal is to enable newer generations to become active community members and retain their local, cultural traditions. The happy byproduct is that I get to travel to remote and rural parts of Alaska that would otherwise be inaccessible.

As they say, it is a big sea out there. One full of fish, a lot of garbage, and some spectacular opportunities for those willing to risk it. You can’t stop swimming!

Evan Blankenship, ENVS 2009 alumnus