Then: Andrew East graduated in 2010 with a degree in natural resources. For his capstone, he surveyed small mammals to determine the prey availability and dynamics for northern shrikes in Ashland County. Through that project and several others in the natural resources department, he and others explored physiology, behavior, and land cover influence, and overall ecology of northern shrikes. He also studied the impacts of lakeshore usage as an intern at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. All of these experiences coalesced current work exploring interactions between humans and wildlife.
In between: Andrew earned his MS Environmental Science in 2016 from Towson University in Towson, Maryland.
Now: Andrew lives in Baltimore, Maryland and is a lab manager for an applied ecology and ecotoxicology lab at Towson University. There he oversees nine graduate and undergraduate students working on a variety of projects all connected by the common thread of understanding the influence of anthropogenically sourced chemicals on several levels of biological organization.
We asked Andrew to reflect on the impact of his Northland College education.
Breaking down the influence of Northland on my life is pretty messy but the essence of it comes out in my target style of leadership. Understanding how humans and the environment interact and how to manage those interactions was the key to several of my courses and key messages from several of my faculty and the essence of my capstone research. The training I didn’t anticipate activating has been my Outdoor Education courses—without that training on experiential teaching, my lab management would not be fostering successful scientists.
One of the unique things about working in a university research setting is that I just can’t shake the feeling that my teams are missing the passion and family feeling that I had at Northland. I’ve been on stellar crews, had outstanding lab mates, and productive collaborations, but seldom does the intensity and commonality meet my subconscious expectations.
Now in a leadership role, I find myself reaching for Northland moments to communicate and motivate co-workers and students.
I have definitely said out loud that “we’re going to spend the next eight hours looking for flowers and if you can’t keep up to wait in the car.” The words leave my mouth and I can hear Jim Meeker [former professor of biology] standing out in a swamp bemoaning students that couldn’t find the joy or energy to romp about all day searching out flowers.
But then I have my [recently-retired professor of outdoor education] Clayton Russell moment and I remember to teach inclusively and positively and I reel in the rest of the crew and we moderate my expectations to match reality. I have yet to knowingly act out my favorite example in such detail yet (I have a feeling my students may argue otherwise).
I have this vivid memory of Jim Paruk pacing animatedly between the desks while we were taking a test. He would stop, look over my shoulder, mutter some encouragement, pace on, watch my neighbor, and then keep pacing. Not because he was policing, but because he wanted folks to do well. His performance was intertwined in our performance and he showed how much he cared by barely managing to stay uninvolved.
These anecdotes all share the underlying theme of passion for a common goal. Encouraging a communal base of purpose and then executing that with passion and excitement is both functional for my daily goals and actions, but also something that I think our larger worldly community could benefit from, and I have Northlanders to thank for that.