senior spotlight: serena levingston ’24

Hi, Serena! What are your majors here at Wes?
My majors are environmental studies and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

What sort of intersection have you found between those two majors?
I think there’s the ecofeminism aspect, looking at how the ways people treat earth seem to mirror the ways people treat women and marginalized people. I’ve taken a lot of classes that focus on the effects of colonialism and western imperial thought on the earth and people.

What are you doing for your senior project?
I wrote a capstone essay last semester in the FGSS Department that was focused on endocrine disruptors, which are a class of chemical compounds that includes things like BPA and parabens. I wrote about how such things are talked about in mainstream media narratives, what that shows about cultural fears, and how that can be applied to broader rhetoric around environmental effects. So, for example, there’s a lot of panic around the effects of endocrine disruptors on reproduction. So I looked at things like who is panicking and who does it actually affect? And I found that the people who are panicking are not necessarily the ones who are affected by it.

What did you learn from doing your project on endocrine disruptors?
I really enjoyed doing a deeper dive into literature. I started my project with a New York Times op-ed, and then from there, went into the academic side. It was cool to see all the literature that the university has to offer. I was also interested in the topic because it touched on some of the futures thinking in environmental activism, like protecting the future for the children. Looking critically at the topic was really interesting because it’s a field I’m hoping to get into.

Do you have a favorite class that you’ve taken during your time at Wes?
That’s a hard one. One that really shaped my thinking was called Nature/Culture (ANTH215/ENVS218), about the nature-culture binary and how it’s constructed.

What environmental projects or clubs have you been involved in during your time here?
That’s a fun question! My freshman year I joined Sunrise Wesleyan. That’s been my longest-running commitment. I’ve been a hub coordinator of Sunrise Wesleyan since sophomore year. We do a lot of fun things. We just had a collage night last night to build community and we try to get environmental activism going on campus and across the state. We’re about to start working on a Green New Deal campaign for Middletown. And we’re always trying to work with the administration.

I am also a coordinator of the Environmental Solidarity Network. That’s been really cool. My role is archiving and institutional memory support. So I meet with groups to work on reporting their history or supporting their existing archives if they have one, because losing history is such a big issue with sustainability and broader student activism groups here on campus. It’s been cool to get to work with the Olin archives and learn about other people doing similar work.

I also work with the Sustainability Office as a Sustainable Middletown intern. In that role I work with another intern and the primary focus is working with the Sustainable CT framework, which is a separate organization with a whole list of sustainable actions a town can take to get certified. We worked to get Middletown certified over the summer, and we’ve been doing a lot of work supporting the new, “save as you throw” campaign and other Middletown community issues.

What advice would you give to students who are considering the environmental studies linked major?
I would tell them that the university has so many interesting things going on and people doing interesting projects. Students should follow their curiosity. If they’re curious about a major, take a class, see if they like it, and just follow where that takes them!