Professor plans to teach students on importance of environmental science

By Molly Kearney
October 16, 2008

Not many people in this world can say they knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up or remember the exact day. However, Dr. Carrie Nielsen, Cabrini’s newest biology professor, can. Nielsen knows exactly where her interest in environmental science started. Nielsen says it was on the 20 anniversary of Earth Day when she was in middle school. Nielsen turned that inspirational day into a whole career.

Nielsen has an undergraduate degree from Brown University in environmental science and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in geological and environmental science. Nielsen studied at two premier schools for environmental science. Nielsen is an ecologist first and foremost with an interest in sustainability. Nielsen’s education at Brown required students to be involved with the learning process, such as running environmentally-friendly programs on campus.

Nielsen’s undergraduate degree struck a chord when it comes to her teaching philosophy. When teaching, she wants her students to connect the topic with their own day-to-day life. Nielsen also draws on her own college experiences and is sympathetic to her students who have a lot going on.

Nielsen always knew she wanted to be involved with science but when it came to deciding which path to take she was torn. She weighed her options and realized research was not her career. Nielsen likes to interact with people, and so to teach and leave a mark on her students makes her even happier.

Nielsen wants her students to know that when they take her class, they are expected to think and interact. Nielsen uses active learning in every single class in order for her students to see that the real world and science are connected. She has done such activities as rock, paper, scissors and even lighting a peanut on fire to see how much energy it contains. She believes that activities like that are important when it comes to her philosophy of teaching.

Nielsen came to Cabrini after working a temporary position at Gettysburg College. She knew she wanted a small liberal arts school and Cabrini fit those requirements; it is also close to home.

What really struck Nielsen about Cabrini was that, “I really got a sense that people here take their social justice mission very seriously, it’s not just a tacked-on thing. It’s really integral to everything everybody does here and that was important to me because I think environmental justice is an important part to social justice and I wanted that to be integral to what I do and not just a hobby on the side.” Nielsen plans on doing what she can while here.

Nielsen has two very distinct hobbies. One is an interest in theater; and is in fact so rabid that she tries to limit herself to one play a week but one weekend alone saw several plays. She also crochets and knits and brings that into her classroom. Nielsen proctored an exam recently and brought her knitting in to busy herself.

Nielsen’s biggest passion is sustainability. Her biggest goal while at Cabrini is to advance campus sustainability. She suggests that the campus can do its own part to help. Those on campus can turn off lights and laptops. And people can also carpool. Nielsen wants Cabrini to think broadly about how to get sustainability into day-to-day lives on campus and off.

Nielsen wants the Cabrini community to know that she is a resource for students who are interested in sustainability and is willing to help. If a student is interested in public service, research projects or just learning about sustainability, she wants them to seek her out. She is more than willing to help.

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Molly Kearney

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