Though she grew up in nearby Yucaipa, Torrie Brandon ’16 only discovered the preserve at Oak Glen while volunteering as a student at the University. An environmental studies and business major, Brandon knew she wanted to fulfill her community service requirement outdoors, and since her sophomore year she’s been doing just that, starting out with trail maintenance at Oak Glen and now as the student ambassador for the Wildlands Conservancy.
In this role, Brandon connects students with volunteer projects at Oak Glen and the Wildlands Conservancy’s other nearby preserves at Bluff Lake and Whitewater. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of outdoor education programs,” says Brandon, who currently has students busy creating a new curriculum at Oak Glen and another group using GIS to map all of the Wildlands Conservancy’s locations throughout Southern California.
“There are a lot of opportunities to be involved,” says Brandon, “from pulling weeds to putting together a garden.” The Wildlands Conservancy has two main goals, she says: nature conservation, because this area is particularly environmentally sensitive, and outdoor education, especially with low income schools. “A lot of kids really haven’t been to places like this,” says Brandon. “You see them there, and it’s just the coolest thing ever.”
For her senior capstone project, Brandon is working on a detailed log of her work with the Wildlands Conservancy, as well as an evaluation of the environmentally sustainable practices of locally owned Goose Coffee Roasters. As if that weren’t enough, she’s also putting together an environmental impact assessment of a proposed large scale tourist resort in the Galapagos, which she visited last year on a study abroad program.
Brandon wants to use her degree (her minor is public policy) to go into consulting with companies on sustainability. “You can’t get rid of business, and you wouldn’t want to. The key is to make everything work together in an efficient and sustainable way.”