Student Spotlight: Environmental Engineer Paul Vickers ‘19


Ever seen a giant carrot running around campus? Don’t worry, the sleep deprivation hasn’t gotten to you yet. That’s just vegetable and sustainability enthusiast, Paul Vickers ’19. Paul is one busy fellow. In addition to his rigorous academic schedule and keeping caught up with Game of Thrones, Paul is involved in a host of clubs and organizations on campus. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about school, sustainability and balancing it all out.

Question. Tell us about your background! Where you are from and how did you choose Dartmouth?

Vickers: I’m from Portland, Oregon. When it was time for me to look for colleges I only had one requirement: my parents could not drive to my new school. Going to school across the country always seemed like an amazing adventure to me. At the time, there was a chance I would play football in college, and I actually found Dartmouth through a football recruiting trip where a coach at one of the camps I attended was a Dartmouth assistant who told me to check out the school. The moment I arrived on campus I fell in love. Dartmouth was the only school I could call home, and one ED application later, my college admissions process was over and I was on my way to Hanover. 

Q. What are you studying here at Dartmouth? How do those studies relate to sustainability?

V. I am an Engineering Sciences major modified with Environmental Studies, and I might end up with a biology minor. These studies are intimately connected to sustainability. I’ve had the privilege of taking amazing ecology focused biology classes and am currently enrolled in an Introduction to Environmental Engineering course (ENGS 37) which focuses on engineering solutions to real environmental problems. My interest in sustainability really has lead to my choice of studies.

Q. Why did you become involved with the Sustainability Office?

V. I joined ECO my first week on campus, but after not getting into the ECO-Reps program, stepped away and focused my time on Growing Change. Growing Change is the most independent of the green groups. It is actually under the Dartmouth Center for Service. We focus on farm-to-table and food system education by using a garden we’ve created outside of Dothan Brook Elementary School. We teach weekly lessons to the fourth grade class and run a few after school programs a term involving other areas of the school. I currently serve as recruitment chair. I rejoined ECO last spring and served as the treasurer. Through ECO I was able to be on the ECO Croo over orientation this term and have taken over duties as co-president of the club. I have not had the opportunity to work as an intern with the Sustainability office yet.

Q. Recently Dartmouth announced the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. What are your thoughts on this? What do you think are the implications for the future of sustainability at Dartmouth and beyond? 

V. I am optimistically excited about the institute. I am very curious as to what impact it will have on student life now and in the future. Looking to the future, I would love to see the institute help Dartmouth transition off of number 6 fuel oil and use the resources of Thayer engineering school to help Dartmouth become a leader in the design and implementation of renewable energy.

Q. What else are you involved in on campus?

V. Besides being active in the sustainability community, I am one of Dartmouth’s Chairs for IvyQ (a conference focus on queer and LGBT+ identity and its intersection with higher education), a facilitator of Rocky’s D-LAB program, and a member of The Tabard.

Q. How do you incorporate sustainability into your daily life? What else can Dartmouth students do to be more sustainable?

V. One of the challenges I’ve taken on for myself is to try to eliminate my use of single-use plastic utensils and cups. My backpack always has my stylish lime-green spork and my golden Starbucks iced-coffee mug. I think this is one of the simple changes all Dartmouth students are capable of making. This isn’t making a huge difference nor am I perfect about doing it, but my high school environmental science teacher always said “Doing nothing does nothing, so doing something will always be better then nothing,” and I see this small behavioral change as a small way I can make my life just a little bit more sustainable.

Q. Favorite thing about Dartmouth? What do you do for fun?

V. My favorite thing about Dartmouth is the people. I love running around Occum with friends, sitting at KAF or Dirt Cowboy chatting for hours, and exploring the greater Upper Valley area.

Q. Favorite class you’ve taken so far? Recommendation for future students interested in sustainability?

V. My favorite class has easily been Biology 16: Ecology with Professor Matt Ayers. I loved him as a professor, and found the class incredibly engaging. The lab was also getting outside every other week and practicing doing actual field work. From digging for earthworms at the farm to capturing benthic invertebrates in nearby streams, lab was always the highlight of my week. Although the class isn’t focused on sustainability or conservation, I would highly recommend the class to sustainability minded students as it provides a great backbone of hard science knowledge for more social science ENVS classes and a good base for more technically advanced Bio and ENGS classes.

Q. What, in your opinion, is the best thing we can all do to encourage universal environmental sustainability?

V. The best thing we can do is get people to care by ruining the illusion of infinity when it comes to resources use. I think one of the biggest problems with people not caring about sustainability is an out of sight out of mind approach to the issue. I wish every single person had to deliver their own trash to the dump, or spend a weekend cleaning a local beach or river bank. I hope that some of the initiatives such as waste sorts and displays that ECO and other groups do on campus help students who otherwise don’t care about sustainability to notice how big of an impact they have on the Earth.

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