Sustainable education

Since spending her junior year of high school studying and teaching in India, Katrina Alden ’17 has pursued a unique education in which she has been teacher almost as often as she has been a student.

Now she is getting the chance once again to educate others, and to learn from them, on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Malaysia.

Alden, a neuroscience major, went from teaching English conversation skills to Indian students at age 16 to providing classroom support for third graders in Seattle as a City Year volunteer, the year after she graduated from high school.

As a Wheaton student, she has spent two summers teaching English—as well as neuroanatomy, through art and theater—at a day camp in Istanbul, Turkey through the Robert College Summer Program. She also led classes in English and science at the Jigme Losel Primary School while studying abroad at Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan.

“There is something about watching young people learn, grow and become confident that has solidified my decision to teach professionally,” Alden wrote in her Fulbright application. “The Fulbright ETA to Malaysia is an opportunity for me to step outside my comfort zone and to experience a place through its youth and education system.”

Alden is hoping to incorporate her interests in agriculture and sustainability into her Fulbright experience, with plans to create a community garden that could be used for education as well as providing food.

Alden said she developed a love of and respect for the natural world growing up near a river and forest in Strafford, Vt. While teaching in India, she became fascinated by sustainable practices.

“The school we stayed at in India was very focused on being environmentally conscious. Smart systems were created to improve quality of living—things like greenhouses attached to the sides of buildings, which heated class and dorm rooms during the winter, and a set of parabolic mirrors that were adjusted during the day to point the sun rays at a pot of water, heating it for our afternoon tea,” Alden said. “These innovative practices made me really excited about the creative and practical ways in which we can work with the environment to survive, instead of against it.”

At Wheaton, Alden is president of ECCO House, an environmentally conscious residential theme house, and a founding member of the Sustainability Committee, which works with students, faculty and administrators to promote a culture of sustainability.

The summer after her junior year, Alden interned at D Acres Permaculture Farm and Homestead in Dorchester, N.H., where she lived in a tree house and learned about sustainable agriculture and livestock management.

As a senior, she led Wheaton’s outdoor orientation program for the incoming first-year class, helping to introduce new students to Wheaton and to one another through team building exercises on a ropes course.

She also serves as business manager of the student-run Lyon’s Den café.

Alden said she wants to combine her loves of working with children, neuroscience and the outdoors into one career.

“My dream is to create an integrative mental health clinic for children that brings together outdoor and agriculture therapy. This clinic could provide a space for children to connect with the natural environment and heal from trauma or get help with understanding more about themselves in relation to nature,” she said.

Alden is the second Wheaton student to receive a Fulbright so far this spring and one of the college’s more than 90 Fulbright recipients since 2000.