A Beckoning Back to Vermont
Despite being born in North Springfield, Vt., Sam Steria spent her adolescence traveling through some of the country’s pronounced desert landscapes. “Both of my parents were in the Air Force so we moved around a lot,” says Sam. These places included California, Arizona, and the dryer regions of Texas.
Sam realized during her high-school years, after returning to her native state at age eleven, that she was partial to smaller communities and, to some degree, the Vermont landscape itself, which stood in contrast to the barren surroundings of her childhood.
Before coming to GMC, Sam—pressured by the “without a college degree, you’ll get a bad job” doctrine—enrolled at University of Vermont (UVM), which seemed to be a fitting, yet safe choice. “I knew I wanted to stay in Vermont. Burlington is a nice city and I knew UVM would be a more affordable choice of colleges,” Sam says.
Even so, the large university environment soon proved to be unsuitable. “I’m not hugely social so it was harder to make friends… the professors were equally unapproachable,” she says. In short, there was no sense of community—something that prompted Sam to take a year off and reconsider her options.
“I knew it was kind of a risk because a lot of people don’t end up going back to school after ‘a year off’,” says the second-semester senior. In her case, a collegiate respite was instrumental in reaching clarity. “I realized that what I really wanted to do was work in the outdoors, even if it meant cleaning toilets in a park somewhere. At least the mountains wouldn’t be too far away.”
“I chose to go to GMC mostly as a revision on my idea for what I was going to college for,” Sam says. While there is something to be said for how a degree will stack up in the job market, Sam chose not to compromise her true passion and current major, nature resource management, in favor of a more lucrative alternative.
Sam now serves as a research assistant to Prof. Jim Graves (biology), where she gets to spend some time archiving the herbarium—or essentially “two file cabinets that reek of moth balls and house years worth of plant specimens,” as Sam describes it. “We’ve even got a couple from the 1950’s.” While a lot of plant analysis can be done digitally now, Steria reasons that “you can’t feel the smoothness of bark on a computer screen—you get a better feel for a plant by archiving them the old-fashioned way.”
Graduating at the end of the semester, Sam has bright hopes for her future. “As for a career, I would like to join the National Park Service and serve in the Peace Corps, where I could hopefully qualify for forestry,” says Sam. Last summer, she interned at Squam Lake, New Hampshire through the SCA (Student Conservation Association), where she spent her time greeting visitors and doing camp maintenance.
Additionally, Sam spent a couple of summers in the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, where she and a group of students camped together, doing trail work, discussing ethical issues, and engaging in team-building. Ultimately—following through with the pivotal revelation she experienced during her time between colleges—Sam is focused on becoming a true environmental steward and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Chad Skiles ‘12