Sustaining a Reflective Existence
As any college student can tell you, working through an average week of classes is exhausting. For Shannon Saulsbury, a junior born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa, classes are only the beginning of her responsibilities.
She is motivated by her passion for social sustainability to work with her community of peers and work toward social justice in a myriad of ways. “If we would all treat each other better, we’d have significantly fewer world problems,” she said.
In reviewing Shannon’s journey to Green Mountain College, it is difficult to determine whether Shannon discovered GMC, or GMC discovered Shannon.
“They called me on the phone one day,” she said. “They probably got the number through one of those college websites online.” It is tempting to cite a phenomenon of destiny, now that Shannon has flourished and found her intellectual niche.
Shannon juggles a double major: philosophy, and a self-design major that she titles social, environmental and economic systems. Her upbringing in Iowa, a hotspot for industrial agriculture, and work with GMC’s farm-intensive program carved her nascent questions about food into a full-blown focus.
“Growing up in Iowa and having your entire life affected by the industrial-agriculture system is a good setup for wanting to ask questions about it,” she said.
Her self-design major also allows Shannon to pinpoint and study what matters most to her.
“My major fits in well with the progressive program. The specificity of what I am studying allows me to explore a variety of topics, and my classes fit my interests rather than just major requirements,” she said.
More than anything else, Shannon is recognized as an enthusiastic leader. She is part of PRANTS (People Really Are Not Their Sex), which is a group promoting “gender and sexuality outreach and education for everyone, because it applies to everyone;” a co-director of the Student Campus Greening Fund; a member of campus sustainability council; an operations manager at the student-run coffee house; an undergraduate research assistant; and a student ambassador for the admissions office and a tour guide. Last but not least, she lives on the sustainability floor where members commit themselves to sustainable lifestyle choices and cook their own meals.
For her senior thesis and progressive program project, she plans to study food ethics and the environmental, social, and economic dynamics of food. “For my philosophy thesis, I want to explore the motivations behind food choices that people make, and raise questions about those motivations and their implications. What I write will be substantiated by my research on the economics, cultural relevance, and environmental ramifications of our food schoices; the the two projects go hand in hand,” she said.
Shannon plans to attend graduate school, but she is not entirely sure when yet. In whichever direction her life leads, though, she will undoubtedly be a thoughtful member of her community and a proponent for positive change.
“I just want to be an active member of my community; whether that means working in a nonprofit, being an academic, raking some peoples’ yards or opening a soup kitchen,” she said.
By Tim Halteman ‘15