After months of hard work, I’m so excited to confirm that I’ll be going back to New Zealand this summer to do research that will hopefully be for my thesis!! It definitely wasn’t an easy process, but I think one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I basically re-vamped my whole concentration. Now I’m realizing it totally relates to what I need to achieve in ENVS 330, and I’ve basically already reached the goals I set at the beginning of the semester!
During one of my meetings about my concentration/SAAB research with Jessica, I told her that I felt a bit stagnant in my work with place-based education. I still love it, but I was having a hard time finding anything wrong with it, or changing it in any way. She told me that many times students with education concentrations would have a similar problem, because education in itself is somewhat instrumental: it’s usually one of the solutions. Who’s really going to say, “Hmmm I really think the problem here is that people are too educated”?
The new project I’m doing research on is somewhat related to place-based education in that it strives to clarify an aspect of sense of place, but it’s not necessarily directly connected to the education component. I’m going to study utopian and dystopian senses of place in Lyttelton, New Zealand. Lyttelton is unique in that it experienced a devastating earthquake in 2011, but it also has a very prominent community organization called Project Lyttelton that practices utopian ideals, with one prominent one being the utilization of social capital. I’ll be administering surveys to analyze whether people group together more because of utopian or dystopian senses of place. I think this is an important question to ask because in order to create resilient communities, we need networks of people — usually people get excited about utopias, but in basically every conversation I had in Lyttelton last fall, somehow the earthquake came up in one way or another.
I’m also excited about the possibility of doing this research to inform communities about how to come together before a disaster strikes and create strong networks that will be resilient to change. Since Liz will be my thesis advisor, I’m excited to work with her and get some of her knowledge about natural disasters. This possibility is really exciting for me because it’s so different from place-based education but still somewhat related! I’m also from an earthquake prone area, so it’s of even more personal relevance. I’m looking forward to all these possibilities!