Three Conference Presentations Highlight Students First Year

May 30, 2018

A fascination with nature – and cold climates – made choosing environmental science an easy decision for Noah Henkenius ’21 of Plymouth, Mass. He originally planned to study the field as his minor, but when he came to campus for an Accepted Students Day, the former performing arts major spoke with an environmental studies faculty member. That changed everything.

“I was impressed by how knowledgeable they were, and realized that environmental studies was my true passion,” he explained. “I therefore switched before I even signed up for classes.” 

Previously, Henkenius was set on working in a cold climate region such as the Arctic, Antarctica, or Greenland. “At MCLA; however, my horizons were opened up to many other options, such as working with birds or in stream ecology.” Not yet sure about his exact focus within the field, “The opportunities I receive while at MCLA will help shape my path.” 

According to Henkenius, his academic experience at MCLA has been nothing but positive. His courses are some of the best parts of attending the College. “All of the professors I have had for classes are all so nice, knowledgeable, and helpful,” he said.

He also participated in MCLA’s summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy just prior to his first semester. “I enjoyed that experience a lot because it helped me feel closer to the College and to make new friends before I arrived on campus” in September.

As a first-year student, Henkenius embraced multiple opportunities to conduct undergraduate research. He presented his poster, “Sediment Transport and Salinity of the Hoosic River” not only at MCLA’s Annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), but also at the Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference (CURC) at UMASS-Amherst, and at the Northeast Natural History Conference, which was held in Burlington, Vt.

Part of his work is a continuation of ongoing research he conducts with several other students, as they determine if the dams near North Adams impact how sediment flows throughout the river.

In addition to providing him with valuable public speaking experience, Henkenius said it was important that he attend the two conferences outside of MCLA to obtain numerous and differing perspectives from students and faculty from other institutions. “I was asked if snow plowing processes could contribute to higher salinity in the river in some areas, but not others. Since this was a popular question, it is a variable I hope to investigate with the group, further into the future.”

Back on campus, Henkenius belongs to MCLA’s Wildlife Society, for which he recently was elected as its treasurer. He decided to attend MCLA not only for its location in Western Massachusetts, but also the affordable cost. “Additionally, when I visited the school during Accepted Students Day, it felt like home.”

He recommends the College to others who prefer a personalized education, and who enjoy living in a setting with plenty of outdoor activities available to them. In addition to an abundance of opportunities for ambitious, motivated students that may not be available at larger institutions, at MCLA, it is easy for students to connect with their professors and to help get the help they may need with their studies. For those reasons, “MCLA is a great school,” he said.