exploring science AND embracing diversity

| Judy Berthiaume

When Sarah Kintner came to college she had a passion for the environment but never saw herself in a career that aligned with that interest, mostly because she didn’t think she was particularly good at science. Then, as a sophomore, the Honors student took a geology class to meet her general education requirements. Much to her surprise, she loved the class and soon became a geology major with plans to pursue a career in hydrogeology. After she graduates in May, she hopes to work in the environmental consulting industry or in regulations to protect ground and surface water, prevent contamination and remediate environmental contamination. She’s especially interested in restoring brownfields, which are plots of land that were previously used for industrial or commercial purposes and contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution; they’re generally community eyesores. The remediation and revival of the land is good for the environment and helps a community. Phoenix Park in downtown Eau Claire is a great example of brownfield restoration. Formerly an abandoned lot, the park now is a community treasure that has spurred a revival of the downtown. An active researcher, Sarah won a prestigious Goldwater Scholar award, an honor given to only the top science, math and engineering students in the country. The Suamico native’s research has ranged from agricultural irrigation management to a first-of-its-kind study of naturally occurring compounds in Eau Claire’s drinking water. As a Blugold, Sarah also has worked to better understand the world around her by participating in intercultural immersion experiences. The Appalachian Domestic Intercultural Immersion Experience took her to Kentucky to learn about Appalachian culture, including the coal industry, art, activism and community social work. She spent time in Minneapolis as part of the Somali Domestic Intercultural Immersion Experience, learning about Somali culture, history, minority education and Islam. Meeting with the Somali elders and mosque leaders were among the highlights of that experience, as was spending time in the Somali charter school. Sarah was in New York City exploring immigration history as part of an American Immigration History class. She visited sites important to the American civil rights movement through the Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Through a domestic intercultural immersion project, she spent time in Fresno learning about Hmong and Latino history, the migrant population and public education. Through the Honors program, she took a class about Hmong culture, history and language. And as an AmeriCorps volunteer she was part of a literacy program, working with area preschool-age children on language, literacy, social and numeracy skills. Her many and varied experiences as a Blugold on campus and out in the world have helped her gain the knowledge, skills and confidence that she’ll need to be successful professionally and as a global citizen. They’ve also helped her build a network of academic and professional mentors whose connections and recommendations will help her stand out in the highly competitive STEM field. As she looks to her future, Sarah Kintner is anxious to make the world a better place by exploring science AND embracing diversity … and that’s pretty powerful!

Photo caption: Sarah Kintner