senior spotlight: ishani dave ’24

Our 33 class of 2024 ENVS linked majors have primary majors in 15 different departments, from film to government to feminist, gender and sexuality to chemistry. This diversity reflects the deep and widespread interest in environmental issues on the Wesleyan campus and our incredibly fertile coexist community! Ishani Dave ’24 is an economics and environmental studies major from New Jersey who works in the Office of Sustainability. Learn more about Ishani, below!

Hi, Isahani! Would you share a bit about your background and how you became involved in environmental studies? 
Hi, I’m Ishani!  I’m from New Jersey. I came to Wesleyan because I was interested in a liberal arts education. I chose Wesleyan specifically because I liked that it had strong arts and a strong STEM program, and I liked the people here. I wanted to study the environment because my dad is interested in sustainability, and in high school I always liked the projects that he did. I also had an environmental science class in high school, where I worked on biodegradable plastic and really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to continue with similar projects in college. I didn’t know how to get involved until I took an environmental economics class with Professor Raynor who told me about the environmental studies major. 

What has your experience been like working for the Office of Sustainability? 
I’ve been in the Office of Sustainability since my junior year. I feel like there are so many important and pressing environmental issues, and I want people to care about them more! I love working in the Office of Sustainability. I love the Bailey COE staff and students in general, everyone is very sweet and friendly. I feel like through working in the Office of Sustainability I get a better understanding of Wesleyan, and how energy, recycling, sustainability, and electricity function here. I’ve had the chance to meet with so many Physical Plant staff members as well. 

Are there any classes you’ve taken at Wesleyan that have been especially influential or interesting?
Within the Bailey College of the Environment, I really liked the environmental economics class I took with Professor Jennifer Raynor, as well as a climate consulting class. That class was cool because I was able to learn a lot more about the EPA laws and existing loopholes, as well as look at specific cases. Taking that class was really interesting because that was definitely not as familiar to me as other areas and I learned a lot. I also really liked the Javanese Indonesian dance class I took freshman year. I learned about the Gamelan—a collection of Indonesian musical instruments—in that class, too. Right now, I’m taking a West African drumming class, and I love it so much. There will be an outdoor concert in the spring with the West African dance class. 

Are there other clubs or student groups you are involved in on campus?
I would definitely say that the Office of Sustainability has made a big impact on me, just because I feel a lot more involved with the environmental community. That was one of the goals I had going into college. I am also a part of Women in Science, where I’m on the executive board/ steering committee. I feel like it gives me access to the STEM world on campus, and it is nice when people reach out to me to ask questions. I like to help other female students in science succeed, and to be able to provide them with resources. I am also the president of Shakti, Wesleyan’s South Asian Student Coalition! I like Shakti a lot because I’ve made friends with the people in the club, and I also feel more connected to my culture. It can be hard to connect, growing up in America.

What is the focus of your senior capstone?
I took Renewable Energy and Negative Emission Technologies/ENVS344 with Professor Rosemary Ostfeld and worked with Mira Begg ‘24 on a final project on carbon tax. Mira and I are continuing our project, and we want to implement a carbon tax on campus. We don’t know if it is going to be put in place this semester, but we want to create a proposal and spread the word about it. We’ve been talking to people at a few universities, including Yale, Swarthmore, and Smith. There are a lot of schools that have implemented a carbon tax. I feel that Wesleyan really presents itself as a very sustainable school, and if there are all of these other schools that have a carbon tax, we should be able to have one, too. I’m excited about this project, and hope it succeeds. 

We are trying to tax areas with the highest carbon emissions; specifically, heat and electricity. One of the questions we’re facing is how can we distribute the tax: by building, by department, or through physical plant? Under Yale’s plan, each building pays for it. However at Wesleyan, we need to consider that each department may not have the funding to do this. Hopefully, by the end of our project we will have an incentive to be cleaner and use less energy, and to overall reduce our carbon emissions on campus. In the long run, in many cases, the universities have ended up saving money after implementing a carbon tax. 

Professor Poulos is my faculty mentor, and I am enrolled in a tutorial with her for this capstone. I’ve known Helen since sophomore year, and she has always been interested in not just my professional and academic interests, but also my personal interests. She has been very helpful throughout the process, and connected us with our contact from Yale. 

Is there any advice you would give to yourself as a freshman, or to students with similar interests?
Looking back, I have no regrets. I’m really happy with everything I’ve done and accomplished while at Wesleyan! I would say to take more fun classes, and worry less over grades. The advice I would give to students is to follow their passions. That is the most important thing, because you need to be able to find joy in what you do. I would also say that there are many ways to get involved with the Bailey COE, even if you are not an environmental studies major. The faculty is very accessible and approachable!