When Lauren Goulet ’22, from Pittsford, NY, was looking for a four-year college where she could complete her bachelor’s degree, she decided on SUNY Geneseo even though at the time it didn’t offer the sustainability studies program she was seeking.
“What drew me to Geneseo and helped make my decision for me was the faculty and staff,” says Goulet, who completed her studies in December 2022. “When I would send emails or call asking questions and trying to better understand what my experience would look like, the faculty and staff were so responsive and sincere. They would ask me follow-up questions. They wanted to know more and help more, whereas some of the other institutions felt a lot more robotic.”
Since Goulet was working on her associate’s degree at Monroe Community College, she sought a program that would allow her to study sustainability from the “three pillars of the economic, environmental, and social perspectives.”
“As a nontraditional student who had already worked in the field before coming back for my bachelor’s degree, I knew what kind of skills I wanted to develop,” Goulet says. “I knew where I was at in my career and where I wanted to be. The coursework is so important, but equally as important, and sometimes more important, is getting to create your own kind of personalized, practical experience.”
She enrolled at Geneseo in Fall 2020 as a sociology major with an environmental studies minor. A work-study job in the college’s Office of Sustainability offered her practical experience in community engagement, project management, team coordination, online resource management, regenerative agriculture, food security, composting, intersectional sustainability, and climate action.
In May 2022, Goulet was named a co-recipient of the John A. ’87 and MaryGrace ’84 Gleason Ambassadorship in Student Affairs. During the ambassadorship, she and her co-recipient created a yield-producing food forest in the campus eGarden.
“Food systems are the area that I’m most interested in, so it really was an opportunity to not just take a look at gardening, but also food production and local organic practice,” says Goulet. “Food production is important from an environmental sustainability perspective, but also from a social sustainability perspective of food sovereignty—giving power back to the people who understand what it takes to grow your own food.”
“I think those skills are valuable for me as a person but also as a professional going into the food systems field,” she added.
In 2021, the College introduced a sustainability studies major and Goulet became one of the program’s first students. She is currently working as the sustainability design challenge project manager in the Office of Sustainability.
“Geneseo is fabulous academically, and the sustainability studies major is interdisciplinary, so students can really customize what they want to learn,” says Goulet. “Do they want to focus on development and economics on social justice issues? Do they want to focus on environmental and science issues, or do they want to find a way to combine them all together? It’s so moldable. I can’t say enough good about the sustainability studies major. I’m so lucky I showed up at Geneseo when I did.”