Life At Ripon – Kaitlyn Welzen ’15

Chapter 2: Practical Applications of Classroom Lessons

[Editor’s Note: Kaitlyn Welzen ’15, Rachel Detrie ’15, and Clarence Sanon ’15 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their senior year experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life At Ripon!]

Now that it is October, there are (hopefully) only seven months left of my undergraduate career. This semester so far for me has been about applying what I learn in class to my life; I don’t just want to consider the consumption habits of Americans (as I explain below), I want use that knowledge to examine and change my own habits. I think that is what my college experience has been all about thus far: learning to do something practical with knowledge.

I am currently taking Professor Jackie Clark’s sociology class, “Consumer Culture.” For one assignment, we examined the possessions in our dorm rooms. It amazed me to see just how much I own and I was even more amazed when I realized that I have more possessions in my parents’ house. My thoughts are also focused on the environment, especially during the environmental studies senior seminar class with Professor Diane Beres.

In both of those classes I question how I live my own life and how I should change my life to live more ethically. One of those ethical questions for me is: “What should I eat?” I live in the campus apartments, so I cook most of my own meals, but as a college student, I am caught between not wanting to spend too much money on food and not wanting to eat highly-processed food all day. At the same time, I keep busy enough that most of the time I need “quick” food. I feel like this challenge isn’t likely to go away in the future, but since I have started thinking about my eating habits these past few weeks, I have done my best to eat more local foods.

As the sustainability intern for Sodexo, I have been working with local farmers to incorporate local produce into the weekly menus in the Commons. Through talking with these food producers, I realize their passion for food and notice how amazing the locally grown food tastes. I also now read packaging labels to determine how food is produced and what it contains. This change has resulted, in part, from the health and wellness focus on campus and also from the shift in the dining areas on campus.

When I am not contemplating food, I am working with it in the hoop house on campus. I have had the privilege and responsibility to build a hoop house on the lower part of campus this past year to use for growing produce. The structure is finally finished being built, and I was thrilled to speak at its grand opening and dedication ceremony this past Thursday. The hoop house has been a major project for me over these past few months, both finishing the building process and starting to plant and harvest produce to serve in the Commons. During this process, I have heard great feedback about the hoop house initiative and its impact on bringing local food to the attention of students and faculty.

I am looking forward to graduation, to going out into the world and changing it in some small way. Environmental activism seems like a promising path at the moment, but I will see where life ends up leading me as May nears.

Kaitlyn Welzen ’15

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