Student Profile - Teresa Cohn

Teresa Cohn

1. What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

I had been wandering around the lodgepole pine forests of Yellowstone National Park doing things like coring trees, estimating cone serotiny, and sitting up all night taking carbon efflux readings while wondering if every crack of a branch was a grizzly. I’d worked with a fire ecology research team led by landscape ecologists Monica Turner and Bill Romme.

2. What was it that made you want to take the programme?

To be very honest, I’d attended a short course with Terry Tempest Williams and David Abram at Schumacher, and was more interested in spending additional time at the college itself than I was in Holistic Science (though that changed). I’d found the short course experience inspiring and expansive, and I liked Mary Bartlett and her letterpress quite a bit.

3. Describe your time at the College.

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I actually think myself back to my little room at Schumacher. Perhaps this is because my mind was so full I was often sleepless there, or maybe it’s the reminiscence of a simpler time. I don’t know; it’s not intentional. But what comes to mind now is the energy of ideas, the days in which I’d have the great fortune of thinking, “I cannot manage one more incredible conversation today,” skip dinner and head to the river. I remember the great generosity of the Schumacher community, and all the learning that took place under the moon in the gardens or watching seals by the sea. I remember talking with Marianne DeTray in her pottery studio when working on a paper on symmetry for Brian Goodwin’s class. She said, “No, no, you have the matter of intention all wrong. You don’t break symmetry deliberately; you let the pot break itself. I’m not interested in a perfect thing.” I remember the rocks of Dartmoor rising out of the fog on walks, the long library tables, favorite trees along the river, grey herons in the meadow. My friends, most of all. And I remember writing a note home, “This place is full of the most bizarre and brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life.”

4. What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

I’m now a geographer, and an assistant professor of Science Communication at the University of Idaho, based at the McCall Outdoor Science School. Part of my research for my M.Sc. included work with American Indian tribes of the Missouri River Basin and water. I’m still doing this work, though I now define my research more broadly as human-environmental relationships in ecologically and culturally diverse areas of the Western U.S. Much of it takes place in tribal communities. I’m also an affiliate of the Environmental Humanities program at the University of Utah. I teach a course with Terry Tempest Williams each summer in Montana.

I’m also a mother, wife, and tapestry weaver, which I believe has a great deal to do with this process of holism and geography. And I think both Mary Bartlett and Marianne DeTray would be pleased. They are the people who taught me that life is made by you do with your hands.

I should add that my cohort is still in touch after 15 years. I emailed one of them today to congratulate him on a new job, and two last week because of the passing of a parent (they’re married). My cohort still provides a kind of moral compass by which I steer. As a professor of graduate students now myself, I often remember the incredible teachers who passed through Schumacher, set expectations of myself by that standard, and continue to learn from them in reflection. Sometimes I even hear myself saying things like, “I’m not interested in a perfect thing.”

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