Nature conservation is interdisciplinary
Martha Groom came to UW Bothell in 1998, joining the faculty that was then known as Liberal Studies (now the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences). At that time UW Bothell was still in its temporary location in the Canyon Park offices, prior to its move to the current campus location beside restored wetlands in 2000.)
Groom came to IAS with an interdisciplinary background: undergraduate degrees in biology and public policy and a master's and doctorate in zoology, as well as conservation and development. She was attracted to IAS due to its focus on undergraduate teaching, as well as its location in the Pacific Northwest. The interdisciplinary environment matched her teaching and research interests perfectly. “My first class had a dozen students. I got to know all of them,” she recalls.
“I was attracted to IAS because of its interdisciplinarity. Here, the challenge from colleagues and students to think differently – constantly – made it feel like I’d gone back to college myself. Moreover, I’m surrounded by people who think seriously about their teaching. It’s one of the things we are all passionate about.”
The value placed on student-faculty relationships, alongside the dynamic exchange of teaching strategies across different disciplines, continues to motivate Groom. As campus grew, UW Bothell added programs in nursing, education, business and STEM to its foundation in Liberal Studies. But Groom strongly believes that the full interdisciplinary breadth of IAS is necessary to address the complexity of issues that concern faculty and students.
“I care deeply about nature conservation. I’ve been working on it my whole career and I come at it from a hiking boots perspective. I love natural science field work and that perspective is absolutely necessary. But achieving conservation, or achieving environmental justice, is almost entirely social. It’s thoroughly informed by methods and practices from humanities and social sciences, and not just the natural sciences.”
As co-lead for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, Groom has continued to develop this interdisciplinary and socially-engaged approach to teaching, research, and practice. The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars is an undergraduate fellowship program designed to change conservation practice through diversity, equity, and inclusion. It recruits students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in nature conservation and brings them from around the country to Western Washington for an immersive, eight-week experience that spans two summers. The second summer brings students back to the Northwest to work in a wide variety of environmental internships.
2018 Conservation Scholars
In terms of curriculum, the program focuses on the interconnections between nature conservation, environmental justice, community impact, and students’ developing identities as social agents. Groom has brought a lot of IAS learning into the design of the program. She also brings lessons gleaned from the program back into her work here, both in her own teaching and in curricular discussions with colleagues.
“I understand from IAS how much power there is in having students talk together when they come from different majors and communities, but share a common interest. What really attracted me to UW Bothell, and has kept my attention, is the opportunity here to respond to who my students are. I want to create more of this space that helps students develop their own sense of power and agency, not just in terms of academic practice, but also in their sense of place in the world.”
Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program reunion in 2018