Shannon Westlake is a self-described “tree hugger” — going back to her childhood growing up in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

Today, Shannon is one of the many women in sustainability, interested in the connections between habitat management, species preservation, and healthy food. And she's cultivating her interest and her knowledge at Green Mountain College in the Master of Science in Environmental Studies (MSES).

Here's a look at Shannon's participation in the MSES program, her thoughts on GMC's applied learning model, and her interest in connecting humans to nature.

Explore our resource page — A Guide for Aspiring Female Leaders in  Sustainability

When Shannon began her search for graduate programs in biology and environmental studies, she read about the MSES program at Green mountain College and realized she could continue her education online without giving up her job: "The favorite thing for me about the GMC program is the bioregional approach. I did my thesis work in the area where I grew up, but the project gave me a whole new understanding of the place I’d called home for 26 years.”

Shannon explains that much of the food we eat — about one-third of our food plants — depend on bees, butterflies, bats, and other pollinators:“Having a healthy ecosystem means fostering plants that support local pollinators. For instance, monarch butterfly larva feed on milkweed plants exclusively, so we planted milkweed to encourage this pollinator species.”

Shannon operated as a sort of interdisciplinary cross-pollinator herself, helping children and local citizens understand the connection between vibrant habitat, species protection, and nutrition:“I don’t have a green thumb so all of this was a learning experience for me. But I fell in love with the idea of connecting humans to nature and conservation.”

Introducing GMC's M.S. in Environmental Studies:

GMC's premier online Master of Science in Environmental Studies (MSES) program is the only one of its kind in the nation, designed to help working professionals develop expertise in environmental issues and put that learning to work in their own communities.

Unlike other graduate programs, the GMC master’s degree combines the best of online learning with intensive locally applied experience.

We call it a bioregional approach to distance education. Students choose between three concentrations — conservation biology, writing and communication, and self-design — and graduate as experts in the workings of their own bioregions. Rather than learning about environmental studies solely through examples in a textbook, students in each of our courses use their local ecosystems as laboratories in which to experiment with new concepts and skills.

Thoughts from the MSES Program Director:

"I am an environmental attorney and I’ve been teaching and advising students in our MSES program for the past 6 years. I teach a range of courses at the intersection of environmental studies and public policy. In every one of my classes I strive to highlight the multidimensional nature of environmental studies so that students consider how law, science, politics, economics, and a myriad of social factors all interact to form the environment in which we live and the ways in which we live in it." —Christopher Brooks, MSES Program Director

The Admissions Team at Green Mountain College hopes that you'll consider starting your journey towards an education in sustainability at GMC, especially if you're hoping to work as one of the many women in sustainability. We're dedicated to authentic sustainability, which means that we live sustainability every day.

We invite you to request more information today!

Explore our digital page — A Guide for Aspiring Female Leaders in Sustainability — for stories and advice regarding female thought leadership in sustainability.

Explore the Digital Resource