Sophia Lovato has always valued the environment, meeting different types of people, and her Native American identity as a member of the Osage community. It was during her Semester at Sea experience through Colorado State University that she realized the power of her interests and identities, and how they could be applied to the field of environmental anthropology.
Originally from Monument, Colorado, Lovato came to CSU wanting to study animal science. Spending the Spring 2019 semester visiting Asia, Africa, Europe and North America altered her plans and inspired her to change her studies. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in global environmental sustainability this month.
“We went to 11 different countries,” Lovato explains. “We saw so many different places, people, and types of struggles. There were problems with pollution and poverty, but also people who were grateful and happy with what they had. I was really inspired by the human-environmental connection.”
Her pre-pandemic time at sea also provided her with other opportunities, such as a project on shark conservation and how to travel sustainably with the environment as a priority.
Lovato’s positive attitude has been evident in her work on campus as well. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with such an enthusiastic, determined, energetic and confident scholar,” says Kelli Gupton, Lovato’s academic advisor.
Lovato’s studies in psychology and sustainability led her to focus on how to build connections between people and their environment. She did an internship with the Semester at Sea media program, was a student researcher on the recently passed Colorado ballot issue on wolf reintroduction, and has been focusing on Indigenous collaboration and natural resource projects in her classes.
“One of the classes I took at CSU was an Indigenous ecologies class, which was a pivotal course for me,” Lovato says. “I realized there is a field that needs to focus on creating a collaboration between Indigenous people and western science.”
After graduation, Lovato plans on using her studies and commitment to environmental anthropology to better understand her identity and help her community.
“It’s a big thing to be reconnecting and to learn about your culture, people and language,” she adds. “It’s so important to care about the environment and culture that have both been suppressed for so long. I’m hoping to become a researcher in environmental anthropology so I can focus on these types of interrelationships.”