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All the Things
If a liberal arts education is defined by gaining broad experience across multiple topic areas and opportunities, Samina Soin-Voshell ’21 could be writing the definitive book at Washington College. A double major in biology and environmental science, she is also an active participant in theater, dance, and this past summer landed an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates), fully funded by the National Science Foundation, at UMass Boston.
“That’s what I love, having the opportunity to be involved in so many different things and take classes you want to take just because you want to take them. It’s one of the reasons I came here,” she says.
She started as a biology major but quickly realized that her passion lay more in environmental science. She chose to double major though she readily admits, “It’s a lot of labs!” In Environmental Science and Studies, “the department is really supportive. I have not met a professor in that department who is not someone I would sit down and have a conversation with, or feel comfortable stopping by their office during office hours about something random. I’ve emailed them and said, ‘Hey, I need advice on this thing’ and everybody is super responsive and supportive which is really fantastic.”
During fall of her sophomore year, she enrolled in the Center for Environment & Society’s Chesapeake Semester, which she calls “one of the best things I’ve done.” Having grown up in Annapolis, and with family in the farming community on the Eastern Shore, she knew the Bay well already, but the intense, multidisciplinary focus of Chesapeake Semester put it in a whole new light.
“I am a pretty hard-science person, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed the social science and the history of the Bay, whether that was the natural history and the formation of the Bay and why it flows the way it does, to the use by Native Americans and early settlers…We did a whole section on food and industry and agriculture especially on the Eastern Shore, and so learning about all of that from both an in-class perspective and getting to talk to farmers and watermen and hear it from their perspective was really cool. And then I went talked to my grandpa and I was like, ‘So what are your thoughts on these things we’ve been talking about?’ and had a fantastic conversation with him.”
The comparative study of Chesapeake Semester also came up last summer when she was in Boston for her REU. Her principal investigator was researching how to make seawalls more conducive for aquatic life. Complementing her PI’s work, Samina studied marine biofouling on different concrete substrates.
“There would be moments where it was like, oh, so this is how this ecosystem parallels what I learned about at home,” she says.
Active in dance and theater long before college, Samina quickly got involved with theater productions at WC in her freshman year. She has taken an acting class, acted in several plays, and after taking a theatrical design class, this semester she’s assistant costume designer on a faculty production with a visiting professional costume designer.
She’s also a peer mentor, a biology teaching assistant, and a tutor in The Writing Center. All of those experiences have her thinking about the role of environmental education. She’s looking forward to taking the Environmental Field Experience course, in which students can shadow environmental and outdoor educators at nearly a dozen partner organizations to give them a feel for what being an environmental educator might be like as a career. Next summer, she hopes to get an internship closer to home, perhaps with a focus on outdoor education.