For the third installment of Geography "In the Real World"-- where we showcase the accomplishment of GWU's Geography, Environmental Studies, and GIS students as they take their geographic education into real world work/study experiences-- we interviewed junior Environmental Studies and Geography double major Lucy Hummer, Canvasser for the Clean Water Action, Spring 2018.
How did you first get involved in the geography department at GW? How are you involved now?
I became involved with the geography department as an Environmental Studies major when I came to GW as a freshman! I actually applied to GW as a Biology major, but switched to Environmental Studies before my freshman year even began, because I realized that is where my passion lies. I see environmental issues as one of, if not the most, pressing challenges that the world is facing today. I am super inspired by all of the research and work that is being done throughout the Geography department at GW to work towards dealing with these massive challenges.
And, after taking the Introduction to Cartography and GIS class required for the Environmental Studies major, I determined that I wanted to major in geography as well. So now I'm involved as a double major within the department!
What position did you hold in the field of geography?
I got involved with the environmental nonprofit Clean Water Action in January of this year. CWA is a national organization, so they work on a large variety of campaigns on the local, state and federal level. The office that I worked out of is the national headquarters, so I got to see how a massive non-profit organization operates at large.
When I started, the field team was extremely small. I canvassed for the organization a few times a week with about three other people for all of my Spring semester. As a canvasser I helped to educated and empower the Maryland, Virginia and DC community about the environmental issues that were affecting them. This involved sponsoring political pro-environment candidates, creating persuasive narratives, and fundraising as well. The three campaigns that I personally canvassed on, for the most part, were off-shore oil drilling, the resignation of Scott Pruitt, and in July working to get strong environmental candidates elected to local office in Maryland.
I want to work in the nonprofit sector post-grad and more specifically in water resources management, so the work was fun and felt super meaningful. Around May, I became a trainer, so I got to work with prospective canvassers every day.
What valuable skills did you learn during your experiences, and how have they shaped your thinking?
I learned how to clearly articulate the importance of environmental issues in an accessible way, so that people who have little or no background knowledge can understand the issues and feel motivated to do something about it. Beyond this, I am generally am quite an introverted person. Going out into neighborhoods and talking to dozens of strangers every night really took me out of my comfort zone. I learned a lot about how to be professional and show my personality in important situations!
How did your previous experience in geographic education at GW prepare you for this opportunity?
I was extremely lucky to have my background from the GW geography department in doing this job. Going in, a lot of the folks who I was training to canvass had little or no background knowledge about water resources. Having been aware of many of the issues we were canvassing on was incredibly helpful, and I felt as though I was one step ahead. Beyond this, people at doors always tend to ask tricky questions, and I benefitted greatly from being able to access the information that I learned in my geography classes as a reference to help me on the spot.
Have you completed a geography-oriented internship? Job? Study abroad? Ad-hoc field work? Independent research? Let us know! We are interviewing current (and past) GW Geography students who have taken their geography knowledge into the “real world.” If you are interested in sharing your experience, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org