Chelsea Hafer (C‘22)

Environmental Justice (Environmental Studies & Sociology)

After a few semesters of frustration and searching for an outlet to study what truly interested me – the intersection of people and the environment – I finally settled on a cross between environmental studies and sociology in my major of Environmental Justice through the Interdisciplinary Studies program. My undergraduate degree included a semester living on an organic farm in Mexico, where I worked with local communities and learned firsthand what food justice solutions can look like. Although the garden may not be a typical Georgetown classroom, this experience ultimately shaped the research questions that I pursued in my thesis, and I returned to Mexico a year later to conduct case studies at Miguel Colorado, one of the communities I had worked in, where I looked at the ways that agricultural practices shape the resilience and cohesion of alternative communities.

The freedom to chart my own course of study was daunting; I had complete control of the classes I took and the questions I was researching, in hopes that it all came together in some coherent way before I graduated. With the guidance of my faculty advisors, who became incredible mentors and close friends over my time as an IDST student, I was able to discern which questions really mattered to me, and they were always able to point me in the right direction when I got lost.

My research in IDST went through countless iterations, but the final version of my thesis was something that filled a pretty prominent gap in existing research, in my eyes, and was truly interdisciplinary in its combination of human and environmental elements. Completing this huge academic undertaking was inspiring, because it showed me that an undergraduate, who two years ago had only a vague idea of what she wanted to study, could create something truly meaningful: an ethnographic case study of the impacts of agriculture in alternative communities, which I plan to build into a book in the next few years. IDST gave me confidence that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to, even if that thing doesn’t exist yet.