A couple days ago I landed in Chicago to start my final Winter Quarter at Northwestern (which is a very odd thing to type). As I write this, three of my four classes have met, and so far my excitement is still growing. I’m just about done with my requirements for my major and two minors, and this quarter I’ve been able to tailor my classes very closely to my interests.

My first class is a 300-level Spanish class called Pictures in Latin America; it focuses on photography as an art form and also looks at its role in broader culture and politics. My professor happens to be the Chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Department.  I took photography in high school, but I’m excited to learn about it from a more academic perspective.

Two of my other classes are more environmentally focused. One is an Environmental Policy course on International Non-Governmental Organizations that I’m looking forward to. The other is an Environmental Science class called Health of the Biosphere. This is actually an elective for me and is a bit different from many of the other classes I’ve taken at Northwestern. Most of my classes have been policy or humanities-based, but this is a more scientific class. I decided to enroll in it because of my interests in biodiversity and because I think the science will be a nice addition to what I already know. My professor has already discussed ecological restoration work and the hunting habits of peregrine falcons, so it seems like the perfect class for me.

Finally, my last class is a bit more unique. I am pursuing an Independent Study this quarter through the Sociology Department. My advisor is a professor I had during my Sophomore year who also works at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I’m going to be researching management plans for large carnivores (bears, wolves, and mountain lions). I’ll get to speak with some very interesting people and also read reports on what different places have done to manage these species. At this point, I have little idea where the research will take me, but I’m excited to focus on such a niche and fascinating topic. As a bonus, the professor from the zoo is on a panel developing a new plan for large carnivores in Illinois. My report will hopefully be helpful for that process.

Of course, there are many things that will happen between now and Spring Break. The academic opportunities that I have this Winter Quarter are exciting because they focus on subject areas that are distinctly relevant to my interests. I’m excited to see how they play out!

–Jason Smith

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