Brandon Rothrock, a senior from Stewartsville, N.J., has a history of going for what he wants, even if it means making major life changes. Right out of high school, Brandon started his college career at Florida State University, but soon realized that it wasn’t right for him. He then made the move to State College to continue his education at Penn State as a meteorology major.
Brandon made yet another big change during his college career. After taking GEOG130: Environment, Power and Justice, he decided that his heart was more set on geography than meteorology. He picked it up as a second major, but soon dropped meteorology and focused on geography.
“I felt really interested in the topic and I just realized that meteorology on its own wasn’t going to be enough for me,” Brandon says.
Within Brandon’s geography major, he is focusing on human-environment interaction. He describes this as a way of thinking systematically in which a change in a system, such as the climate or the environment, can affect human systems, like infrastructure or health care.
Through classes and research projects, Brandon has been able to completely immerse himself in the study of improving the environment and looking at issues from every angle. He explained that although something may improve a community economically, socially or politically, it may be negatively impacting that community’s environment.
Currently, Brandon and many other researchers are working to improve the environment. The most important thing to do is educate people so that future generations do not have to pay for the mistakes that are being made now.
“If we’re not dedicating the resources and the time to educate the people who are our age and younger than us, then our society is just not going to be able to handle the stresses that are going to occur,” he says.
Sustainability and self-improvement go hand in hand at a larger scale. In order for humans to be able to continue to succeed, we must put the environment at the forefront of the plan of action.
“Sustainability helps me realize that you should be building on your skills instead of just going through life and taking classes, but not actively involving yourself. It has really helped me grow as a person,” Rothrock says.
Although recycling and other simple ways to help the environment are extremely important, Brandon says that getting involved is really what will make long term improvements. On top of classes and research, Brandon is the student programming coordinator for EcoReps, held an internship with Recycling and Composting Education at the Sustainability Institute at Penn State and served on the Student Sustainability Advisory Council and the Council Of Sustainable Leaders.
He truly believes that it is essential to get involved with sustainability organizations to be able to collaborate with other students and give recommendations to the university on issues that affect Penn State.
“Those who are not a part of sustainability programs aren’t moving people forward,” says Rothrock.
Brandon is also continuing his geography and sustainability research internationally. He accepted a Presidential Internship at American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he will be working in the Office of Sustainability and focusing on their carbon footprint analysis.
“I’m pretty excited, but also pretty nervous because I’m removing myself from the United States for a while,” says Rothrock. “It’s made me really happy with the way that my future has panned out.”