Student Spotlight: Chris Coultas C’21

Chris Coultas  C’21                                    

What attracted you to Drew?

I loved the concept that the professors actually get to know you rather than you just being a name on a roster. I also loved the environment of Drew’s campus, it really surprised me that I grew up not far from campus but I never realized the hidden gem that was right in front of me.

Did you know what you wanted to major in when you started at Drew? Also, why did you choose Environmental Studies & Sustainability as a major?

No, as a freshman I had no idea what I wanted to major in. It wasn’t until Biology 150 where we took a tour of the Zuck Arboretum and did a natural lab experiment there. It was in that moment I realized my passion for the environment could be tied to a career. I have always been passionate about the environment. Growing up I loved hiking and exploring in nature, and being able to have that hands on experience in various courses was a huge plus. The enthusiasm and passion from the professors in the field of Environmental Studies is what truly sold me on my major.

Have you done any internships?

Throughout 2020 I was an intern with the Great Swamp Watershed Association in Morristown NJ. I was a part of their “stream team”, where I collected water quality samples across the Passaic River watershed. I also was a part of their land stewardship program, aiding in efforts to restore their conservation management area. Another fun aspect of the internship was working with schools across the watershed, teaching kids about the environment.

Can you talk a little bit about the Forest Restoration Project?

For the past three years, I’ve been the student director of the Forest Restoration Project on campus. I’ve been fortunate enough to work very closely with Dr. Sara Webb aiding in restoration efforts in the Zuck Arboretum and the Hepburn woods. Before COVID, we would have teams of student volunteers help remove various invasive species that overwhelm the native species populations that have been planted over the years. Next year if you’re on campus, look into helping out in the Drew Forest! It’s such a rewarding experience and a really great cause!

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

My journey at Drew would not have nearly been the same if it wasn’t for the incredible support from Dr. Lisa Jordan and Dr. Tammy Windfelder and Dr. Sara Webb. Dr. Jordan, my advisor, helped develop my interest in the field of Environmental Studies and showed me that something I have been passionate about my entire life could lead to a career. Dr. Windfelder has motivated me to pursue a future I am passionate about as well as encouraging me to explore all of the paths I could take in this field. Dr. Webb has been so supportive and helpful in planning for a future in the field of environmental studies as well as planning for life after Drew.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short, long, or nycTRECs?

I am so grateful to have participated in the ShortTREC to South Water Caye, Belize, as part of the Tropical Marine Ecology course in 2020 (shortly before the world shut down!) Collecting samples of seagrass beds and micro plastics along the shore line of South Water Caye was such an eye opening experience into our impact on the planet. This was an absolutely incredible experience that I will always remember. The Belize trip really highlighted my love for travel and exploration. Thank you Dr. Windfelder for leading such an amazing adventure that no one could ever forget!

What issue in the world means the most to you?

We can, and must, do better as a society to protect our planet. We only have one Earth and we need to start acting like it. Going forward, environmental policy in America needs to be include everyone. The leaders of this country need to recognize that communities of color and low income communities face disproportionate harm when it comes to environmental toxins and climate change. Every American deserves access to a clean and healthy environment.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew? 

One of my favorite memories of Drew was seeing President Joseph Biden and former Gov. Tom Kean speak in the Simon Forum. Meeting new people from around the world and making lifelong friendships is something that I will always cherish.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Take advantage of every opportunity Drew gives you. There are so many incredible resources and people at Drew that are so kind and caring and willing to help you. Don’t be afraid or intimated to talk to someone, even if they’re a stranger. The 4 years go by really fast, take every chance you get to enjoy them.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I will be continuing my education at Colorado State University under their Natural Resources Master’s program. I hope to continue my work in the field of ecological restoration and plan to inspire others, sharing with them my passion for the environment.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

I have a 4-year-old dog named Spot. I adopted him from Saint Hubert’s in Madison my freshman year and he’s been my study buddy ever since. I’m also an avid hiker. I hope to one-day hike all 54 14ers in Colorado as well as hike the Pacific Coast Trail.

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