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S3 guest : Economics as pathway for Science? One student’s experience (by Cory Ventres-Pake)

describe the imagePerspectives worth sharing…
This week’s article was contributed by Cory Ventres-Pake, our first student guest blogger, who like many youth of today finds herself at a crossroads in life, reflecting on her contribution to society while nourishing her passions. Physics wizard in high school with math as a second language and a fire for environmental sciences, Cory’s science education path would have seemed fully traced. But exploring the world has shown her that no single discipline is the one and only answer for the future. Being able to see a topic through various glasses, through a variety of specializations, is the only way to develop a realistic picture needed to make a difference. Cory’s experiences and perspective is particularly striking to us. In times of concern about not having enough students pursuing pure sciences, if we provided more interdisciplinarity in our science teaching, would their needs be better met? Today’s youth—with their multi-tasking multi-thinking abilities—engage our world quite differently. They have a message for us—and we must listen to them more as we open the doors for their future . . . and ours.
This fall, I’ll enter my last year of college.  Having witnessed the scores of students who graduated ahead of me, I have come to expect that the upcoming year will be shaped by the classic question:  So, what are you planning on doing next?  

Anyone poised to transition from what they know – school – to whatever comes afterwards recognizes that this question carries more weight th
an the words let on:  it doesn’t just refer to summer, and by no means to Life-in-General’s “I hope to learn guitar” or “I think I’ll take up knitting”.  This time, the Questioners are inquiring about the elusive career.

When I entered college three years ago, I figured that I had a head start on my peers in this arena. A summer of volunteering abroad behind me, I had become convinced that working in international development was my personal mandate.  Making the decision was remarkably simple:  I tried it; I liked it; I was Partners in Health Latin American youth programgoing for it.  The journey, however, has been much bumpier than I imagined.

School is great, because three of every twelve months are reserved for doing something entirely un-school-like. I spent the summer after my freshman year of college wandering between rural Paraguayan villages coordinating development projects with community groups.  As a result, my perspective on the field expanded immensely, and I returned to campus with the belief that the most valuable contribution I could possibly offer would be to share a useful technology.

This discovery meant my academic pursuits would need a radical makeover to turn me into an engineer.  I took a semester off to contemplate this change, stumbling upon an engineering internship . . . which taught me what I took as the exact opposite: technological solutions rarely perform as lab tests might lead us to expect; too often we engineer solutions without taking social realities into account.

Geneve Economics Student 2012So where did this leave me?  Like so many of my peers, I was confused.  I spent this last school year ironing out the inconsistencies in these two seemingly conflicting lessons… until I realized that perhaps they are in complete harmony.  If what I now believe is true, interdisciplinarity, if not the answer, can bring us one step closer to addressing equally comprehensive problems.

What’s that, now?  You have a question?  Oh, of course – I’m quite practiced in the answer!  Ultimately, I am neither pursuing sociology nor the science degree that I originally envisioned.  Instead, I have opted for Economics as the unconventional compromise . . . as it will enable me to connect science to society in ways that will make a difference for our future.   

And after college? I’m hoping to learn to play guitar.      

- Cory Ventres-Pake

S3 blogs space science & society

About our Guest Blogger: 

Cory Ventres-Pake is spending this summer interning with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will return in September to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA, where she is a 21st Century Scholar, to complete her university degree in Economics. Her exposure to international development began at age 15 via a high school summer program in the Dominican Republic with Amigos de las Americas, an organization that provides youth volunteers to support community-based initiatives across Latin America. Her final year of secondary school was spent in Nasik, India as a Rotary Scholar and her development experience continued during university summer breaks as she interned with Socios en Salud (Parners in Health) in rural Peru and Paraguay . . . building relationships with local community leaders, sharing knowledge and coordinating resources to implement environmental improvements including reforestation and ‘hearth stove’ installations . . . which lead her to an engineering internship with the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon (producers of the famed ‘Stove Camp’). Cory spent this last academic year (2011-12) as an exchange student pursuing advanced development perspectives (and adding still more languages to her repertoire) at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. At age 21, still on the cusp of her career journey, Cory’s pursuit of interdisciplinarity portends the emergence of a new generation of change agents working on behalf of a better world.

Learn more:   

Amigos de las Americas               

Rotary International Youth Exchange

Socios En Salud! (Partners in Health)

Aprovecho Research Center        

Article:  "Engineers Hone Clean Energy Stoves for the World"

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