Dr. Ashley Reis

(Dr. Ashley Reis pictured on the left in blue. Me pictured on the right in a giant hoodie!)

Going to college was something I never, ever imagined. While I was in high school, although I was involved in various extracurricular activities, I hated sitting in my English class and listening to my teacher talk about Shakespeare or being in my Algebra class, trying to understand all the different formulas. So, the day I graduated high school, the days I received acceptance letters from different colleges, the day I moved into my dorm, and the day I arrived late to my first class of the semester were all very surreal days for me.

The class that I was late to was Intro to Environmental Studies. Throughout the semester Dr. Reis talked about John Muir, Rachel Carson, environmental justice, the difference between conservation and preservation, and the tragedy of the commons. I liked sitting in her class and learning about all these different people who were and still are stewards of the environment and I realized that that was what I wanted to be. Halfway through the semester, I changed my major from undecided to Environmental Studies and I felt like pieces of my life started to fall into place.

Dr. Reis was one of the most influential figures for me in realizing that I wanted to work in the Environmental Studies field. She didn’t just teach us about historical figures like Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold, she also introduced us to grassroots movements and activists like Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. She spoke about indigenous activism and environmental racism and always acknowledged whose land we were on.

During my second semester I took another class with Dr. Reis called #EquityOutdoors where I learned about all the people putting in the work to make the outdoors an inclusive, equitable space and not just a white, heterosexual community. In her syllabus, she included different Instagram handles of people and groups who represent LGTBQ, POC, women, people with all body sizes, and people with different abilities in the outdoors. I found out about this internship through one of these accounts, @latinooutdoors.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to have Dr. Reis as my professor during my first year of college. Her enthusiasm and support for her students is something you don’t get to experience often. She has changed her teaching style to accommodate students, introduced us to different ideas that we will carry on throughout life, and I know all her students greatly appreciate when she brings her dog, Banjo to class. Her door has always been open to every student whether it was to talk about personal issues, the Game of Thrones finale or Jonathon Van Ness. Whichever students get to sit in her class next will be extremely lucky.

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