Alumni Profiles

Hazel Stark '11

Graduate Student


Home state: Maine
Graduate program: Place-based education and field ecology, Teton Science Schools, WY
Senior project: Plants and People of New England: Our Contemporary Reliance on Traditional Knowledge
Internship: Anne McIntyre, Herbalist, Gloucestershire, UK

After spending a year as a Naturalist Intern at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School in Sonora, California, Hazel worked as an Island Caretaker for the Boothbay Region Land Trust and an Environmental Education Instructor for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Classroom program. She is currently a graduate student focusing on place-based education and field ecology at Teton Science Schools’ Graduate Program. She will complete her masters at an affiliated university. (Watch her senior project presentation.)

Why did you choose to attend COA, and what kept you here?
I loved the interdisciplinary nature of COA focused on the relationship between humans and the environment. I stayed because I was constantly supported to follow my passions and interests.

What was the most valuable skill you gained while at COA, and how does it influence your career today?
The most valuable skill I gained at COA was learning to look at an issue from all possible sides — science issues are not simply science issues, they are social, political, environmental, and economic issues as well. While I have followed my passions in science post-COA, I can never treat science as a discipline on its own and am always drawing as many connections as I can so that I can be the best global citizen I can be!

What was your favorite class at COA? Why?
I have two: Trees and Shrubs of MDI during my first year and Winter Ecology during my fourth year. Trees and Shrubs re-opened my eyes to my passion for botany and led me to pursue a plant-based trajectory for the rest of my time at COA. Winter Ecology, however, re-opened my eyes to my passion for all things natural history related, beyond plants, and my passion for life in winter. Realizing my penchant for these more general naturalist pursuits led me towards work in the environmental education field post-COA.

Please describe one of your most meaningful experiences at COA.
Being supported (financially and personally) to do my internship in the UK with a medical herbalist was an experience I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else and totally shaped my passions and goals for the future.

Why is a COA education still relevant — both in your own career and for current students?
I firmly believe that human ecology is the most important concept for everyone to understand in order to make this world a sustainable place for all life. No discipline or action ever stands on its own; the impacts are broader-reaching than we can ever imagine. Understanding that concept regardless of your career or academic path is vital.

Is there anything else you want to make sure others know about COA?
Absorb the interconnectedness of your classes and the splendor of the coast of Maine.