Meet Nicolle Omiotek ’20

Shaping a New College Major

Student surveys other college programs on environmental studies

Nicolle Omiotek ’20 is conducting research that will help Elmhurst College shape its new environmental studies program.

Earlier this year, the College won a grant to develop the interdisciplinary major, which will include two tracks: a policy-focused B.A. and a science-focused B.S. “We want to make sure that graduates of the program go on to serve as stewards of the environment,” said political science professor Teri Walker, who is leading development of the policy track.

Omiotek, a biology major from the St. Charles area, took Walker’s Environmental Policy and Politics course in the Fall Term and was inspired by the meaty class discussions. She added political science as a second major because she wanted to “continue thinking about policy and activism.”

Walker later invited Omiotek to propose a research project for the environmental studies initiative under the Creative and Scholarly Endeavors (CASE) program, which provides stipends for students who work on scholarly or creative projects under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Omiotek’s project was approved.

For her project, “Impacts of Environmental Studies Programs on Community Stewardship,”

Omiotek is surveying environmental studies programs at small liberal arts colleges nationwide. She hopes to learn how courses, internships, service, experiential learning and special events influence student attitudes toward environmental stewardship, and whether the departments track graduates’ career paths and their involvement in environmental activism.

Omiotek said her ideal job after graduation would be working for the U.S. Forest Service. “I love being outdoors, and I’d like to be in a position to advocate for the care of the national forests,” she said.

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