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A student of nature

March 28, 2005
By Chuck Bowen

Alethea Kimmel-Guy started college at 16 as a member of the first class of Ohio high schoolers invited to enroll in post-secondary studies. In the 14 years since, she has dabbled in several areas of study, married, had a daughter and traveled across America.

Alethea Kimmel-GuyThe latter experience, a cross-country trip spent mostly hiking and camping in national parks and forests, piqued an already growing interest in the environment. But it was a July 4 camping trip to the Hocking Hills that pointed Kimmel-Guy toward Athens and Ohio University.

"I love this area geographically," she says. "I don't think there's any place in Ohio that can parallel the Athens area or the Hocking Hills."

Kimmel-Guy acknowledges that she "wears a lot of hats." In addition to being a single mom to 9-year-old Aquene Kimmel, the senior environmental geography major is founder and president of the Ohio University Sierra Student Coalition and a member of the Appalachian Ohio Sierra Club. She leads environmental geography discussion labs. And she sits on Faculty Senate's Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee and works with its Environmental Audit Team. The range of Kimmel-Guy's experiences support one of Vision Ohio's guiding principles, that learning is derived from the totality of the college experience including activities both inside and outside the classroom.

"It's my passion,"she says of her interest in the environment. "It lets me sleep at night.

"I think geography is a great place to pursue studies in the environment because it's place-based," she says. "It allows you to look at the issues that affect one particular place. It makes it more human to people and allows people to become involved on a personal level."

To help her pursue her studies, Kimmel-Guy received the McNair and Udall scholarships. The McNair program is designed to prepare first-generation and under-represented students for advanced studies, while the Udall program helps fund the academic pursuits of those planning careers related to the environment.

After Kimmel-Guy earns her undergraduate degree this June, she wants to pursue a doctorate in geography and environmental studies and eventually teach those subjects to college students.

"I know (teaching) can be very powerful," she says. "I've had extremely influential professors myself." She's also had a taste of the work - and its rewards - as a lab discussion leader.

"I run into former students on campus and they tell me what a difference (the lab) made and how differently they view these sorts of issues now," she says. "I know the impact I have on my students. It's real."


Chuck Bowen is a student writer for Ohio Today, a magazine for alumni and friends of Ohio University. This story appears in the magazine's spring 2005 issue.

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