Who majors in sustainability studies at Goshen College? Meet José Chiquito Galvan, class of 2020.
José first encountered Goshen College through his biology teachers at Goshen High School. Both of his teachers his junior and senior year were Goshen College graduates and his class sometimes made trips to the college to use its equipment. He also participated in a high school experience that was held at the college’s marine biology station in the Florida Keys.
When he first arrived at Goshen College, José was debating between three majors: social work, environmental science and political science. Then he realized that a sustainability major would do “an amazing job of incorporating all of that.” This realization turned José into one of Goshen College’s first sustainability studies majors. He’s also pursuing a second major in sociology.
“I love science, but hard science was not what I wanted to do.”
“I love science, but hard science was not what I wanted to do,”José says. While natural systems fascinate him–from food webs down to the molecular level–José knew he wanted work that had a people component.
Merry Lea’s Sustainability Leadership Semester is strongly recommended for sustainability majors, and Jose signed up for it at the first opportunity. For José, the semester’s weeklong canoe trip through the Elkhart River Watershed was a great place to think about the ways that people and the natural world interact. The design of the Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, Mich., particularly impressed him.
“It was a happy medium between having a space for people and their education and also having open spaces of woodland and prairie that were wild. There was so much peace there too,” he observed.
One of the courses that Sustainability Leadership students take is entitled, Faith, Ethics and Eco-justice. Again, the lens José brings to the topic focuses on the interface between human beings and the natural world. Here, he encountered faith perspectives that see human beings as part of nature, not over and above it, controlling it. “This course has given me language for ideas that had been floating in my mind already–and a deeper understanding of them,”José says.
The course has also expanded his idea of who God is. “I’m moving from thinking of God as this omnipresence that is detached from our experience on earth to a being or force that is part of everything we know and is actually incorporated into our experiences,” he adds.
When José thinks about the future, he can imagine himself working for a nonprofit organization that aims to restore the environment and people’s relationship to it. Since he is bilingual, he thinks he may find his place working with issues of racism and injustice in Latino communities. “I’m open to wherever life takes me!” he grins.