The University of Texas at Austin
School of Undergraduate Studies
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Lauren Ayers

Lauren Ayers
Major: 
History
BDP Certificate: 
Environment
Graduation: 
Spring 2011

I am a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pursuing an advanced degree in history.

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

“And as an environmental historian, I incorporate theories and methodologies from surrounding disciplines.”

Discuss your general career path since graduating from UT.

After graduating from the University of Texas, I joined the Peace Corps. I served as an agroforestry volunteer in Cameroon for six months before becoming ill and returning home to Texas. Upon my return, I worked as a part-time research consultant for a history professor at Rice University, and later applied to doctoral programs.

How did your BDP experience influence your career path and interests?

My experience in the BDPs reminded me how important environmental studies were to my career path. After the Peace Corps, although I returned to history, I kept the environment as an integral part of my journey back to the academy. Environmental history is innately interdisciplinary. And as an environmental historian, I incorporate theories and methodologies from surrounding disciplines. My studies align with the work I started and explored at the University of Texas.

What do you value most about your BDP experience?

The Environment BDP was the first program that encouraged me to step outside of my major department. I credit the BDP for “forcing” me to be seen by different groups of people and do something that I wouldn’t originally do. I worked with a mechanical engineering professor, who helped me get an internship with the White House Council on Environmental Quality through the Bill Archer Fellowship Program. I also worked in positions related to environmental public policy. These were the first experiences that allowed me to grow as a young adult and stretch the limits of who I was.

In what ways did an interdisciplinary education prepare you for what you are currently doing?

I remember the one credit hour environment seminar I took freshman year. Seven years later, I still think about the lessons and how I can incorporate them into my work as an environmental historian. As a historian that elevates non-humans actors, I think about the relationship between humans and nature. That very statement means that I must use non-traditional theory and methods. By necessity, I look to geography and ecology to help me interpret history.