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Geography Grad Brings Passion for the Planet to Everything She Does

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Jordyn Reiland


Jordyn Reiland writer

Emmy Radin’s study abroad and work experiences have made her a ‘well-respected voice’ and future environmental leader.

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Emmy Radin sits for a photo on the DU campus.

When deciding where to study abroad, Emmy Radin wanted to break out of the “classic experience” for most college students.

Instead of going to a popular study abroad destination like Europe, Radin landed on Ecuador—and it proved to be exactly the right choice.

“There’s so much ecological value in Central and South America, and the tropical climates are nothing like what we have in the U.S.,” says Radin, who will graduate with degrees in geography and Spanish with a minor in public policy.

Having studied Spanish since first grade growing up in Massachusetts, going to a place where people spoke the language was important for Radin. During her time in Ecuador, she volunteered as a teaching assistant at a public school and had the chance to design her own geography curriculum, which she taught to children once a week. She also lived in a forest restoration project for six weeks.

Radin shared the knowledge she gained as part of the University of Denver’s undergraduate research showcase this spring, with a project titled “Participative Citizenship in Mashpi, Ecuador: Meaningful and Sustainable Models for Education and Conservation.”

The goal of the ethnography was to show how quality education can be achieved with limited resources and minimal governmental support by promoting the integration of environmental education and participative citizenship—which she saw firsthand at the school.

“The results of this paper have ample potential to be diffused into other regions to improve education and exemplify how schools and communities with limited financial resources can make profound change,” Radin wrote in a short description of the research.

Radin’s interest in the environment has been long-standing, but it was DU’s geography department and its intentional connection between people and their relationships to the environment where they live that drew her to the program. One class that exemplified this for her was a mountain landscapes course taught by Teaching Professor Hillary Hamann.

Radin’s decision to attend DU was also connected to her love of the environment and nature. She was taken by the "beautiful and enchanting" greenery surrounding Mary Reed Hall and the fact that the university has its own arboretum.

“I could envision myself studying here, going into all these different buildings, really being able to know my campus and not feeling far away from people or the campus environment,” she says, adding at the time she was thrilled to learn about all the different trees.

In addition to studying abroad, Radin was president of the yoga club for two years and helped plan weekly visits by a local Hindu monk who taught ancient yoga practices and led discussions about mindfulness. The experience, she says, provided a “great opportunity to be a leader as a sophomore.”

“I think being given a platform to create a space for other people to come to is a huge responsibility, but it was also really, really cool.”

Radin also worked as a barista at Beans Coffee Shop, located in the Knoebel School of Hospitality.

“Emmy’s education, advocacy, work experiences and research in environmental, social, and sustainability issues allowed her to cultivate a well-respected voice at DU and will place her squarely in the group of future leaders who will collaborate on solving challenging global, social and environmental issues,” says Michael Kerwin, associate professor and director of the environmental science program.

Looking ahead, Radin plans to continue her work interning with Grow Local Colorado, where she plans to help develop produce plots in public parks across the city. The food is harvested from the plots and is then distributed to low- income, low-food access neighborhoods, she says.

Radin credits the professors she’s had and the other “incredible role models” she’s come across who have helped her grow into her own level of confidence during her time at DU.

“Coming into my senior year, it was hard to believe that I was a knowledgeable person who has done a lot of learning and work and was entitled to speak on issues and share my knowledge.”

But that changed as her time at DU went on, she says. “I think I’ve been able to overcome that because I’ve had a lot of incredible role models and professors and people who are so down to earth but incredibly knowledgeable.”

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