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May 23, 2019

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Looking at the effects of waste

And, researching students’ attitudes toward recycling

University senior combines passions to pursue environmental sociology

Alicia Loch, a senior from Quakertown, Pa., is in the middle of a year-long research project studying sustainability at Bluffton University. While the project fulfills her sociology field-experience requirement, the project combines elements from both of her majors—biology and sociology.  

“With this project, I’m looking at the effects of waste—especially paper waste—and how it biodegrades, and then I’m researching students’ attitudes toward recycling,” explained Loch. “My goal after graduation is to work in environmental sociology, and that’s a perfect path for me since I have the natural science and social science backgrounds.”

With help from Bluffton’s Center for Career and Vocation, Loch is currently updating her resume and applying for fellowships. She plans to pursue environmental sociology in graduate school.

“I’m so excited for my future because there are so many opportunities and there are so many sectors of environmental sociology,” said Loch. “Justice is one of the areas I’m interested in because you can look at justice through racism, human rights, feminism— it’s really exciting to bring that to peoples’ attention.”

Growing up Mennonite and exploring the Buddhist faith, Loch developed a passion for social-justice issues at a young age and is continuing to pursue them in college.

“Bluffton is a great faith-based community that has helped me look at my goals in life through the Anabaptist perspective,” said Loch. “I have this passion for helping people, and I find social justice and social change as something I’m excited about.”

For the research project, Loch is relying on the expertise of Dr. Matthew Friesen, assistant professor of sociology, who incorporated environment sociology into his graduate studies.

“He’s helping me find my own path and then giving me pointers on where to go from there,” said Loch, who also named Dr. Angela Montel, professor of biology, and Dr. Bob Antibus, professor emeritus of biology, as supporters of her research.

“They all remind me when I get panicked about my future that it’s okay, to take life one step at a time and then figure out what to do next,” said Loch, who is very involved on campus.

Loch currently holds leadership positions for Bluffton’s Gender Perspectives and Brave Spaces clubs. She also performs as a lead in several of Bluffton’s plays and musicals, sings in University Chorale and works in Musselman Library and the social sciences department. As an ambassador for the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, Loch receives a stipend to collaborate on projects with Bluffton’s Sustainability Club.

Loch chose Bluffton because of its faith-based mission and the community feel on campus.

“I know if I went anywhere else, I wouldn’t have gotten all of these opportunities or as much help as I have,” said Loch. “It just felt like home, and it still feels like home.”