Transforming Communities

Monica Simmons
Monica Simmons ’14 learned what it takes to run a small-scale, organic farm during her Ferrari Environmental Studies internship.

The Ferrari Environmental Studies summer interns

Andrew Ferrari
Andy Ferrari

Inspired by the Now Is the Time Campaign, Trustee Andy Ferrari ’68 and his wife, Barbara Quagliata Ferrari, sought to make a difference for Whitman students by helping provide high-quality, pre-professional learning opportunities. Their goal was a perfect fit for environmental studies.

“In recent years, both student applications for intern experiences and interest from partner organizations has increased,” said Amy Molitor, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies. “We are are tremendously grateful that this summer the Ferrari Environmental Studies Internship Fund began helping with the overwhelming demand.”

At Whitman, Andy Ferrari was an economics major and a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. He went on to earn an MBA in marketing from Columbia University and to co-found Trex Company, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of high performance wood-alternative decking and railing. He and Barbara currently reside in Winchester, Virginia, where they run a family foundation and serve on the boards of several corporate and nonprofit organizations. Andy served as a Whitman College Overseer from 2004 to 2010, when he was elected to the Board of Trustees.

This past summer, with help from the Ferraris and others, Whitman increased the number of environmental studies internships from three to more than 15. Among the students who took part in the greatly expanded program were Monica Simmons ’14 and Clare Sobetski ’13.

Monica worked at the Welcome Table Farm, a 25-acre property southwest of Walla Walla that seeks to provide healthy local food options for the Walla Walla area. The farm offers a full array of cultivated foods, including vegetables, grains, eggs, and perennial fruits and nuts, as well as cut flowers. Using organic practices, the farmers, Andy and Emily Asmus, seek to build soil health. Additionally, the farm operates primarily on human and animal power, thus reducing non-renewable and polluting energy sources. As an intern on the farm, Monica assisted in regular farm activities, including planting, weeding, harvesting and running a booth at the Farmers Market.

“The first day, Emily told me that I should just jump in and learn as I go. This was a great way for me to learn!” Monica said. “I have always been very interested in sustainable agriculture, but now I know how much work it requires to run a small-scale farm. I have much more appreciation for the system.”

Clare interned at the Kooskooskie Commons, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on providing healthy, biologically diverse landscapes to support stable, culturally diverse communities in the Walla Walla Valley. She worked on stream restoration and monitoring and participated in educating streamside landowners. She also investigated the consequences of local water policy, particularly on the Little Walla Walla River and Spring Creek.

Clare Sobetski
Clare Sobetski ’13 performed stream restoration work for Kooskooskie Commons, Inc., as a Ferrari Environmental Studies intern.

“I got a pretty holistic view of how the organization, and environmental nonprofits generally, function – from grant writing to inter-organization collaboration.” Clare said. “I have a new context through which to view Western water issues.”

Other students interned at locations from the Grand Canyon Trust in Utah to the Washington Water Trust on the Olympic Pennisula. Their activities were varied and drew on the students’ interdisciplinary talents. The students collected biological samples, archived materials, served as community educators, wrote marketing materials, coordinated events and restored watersheds, among their many activities.

The Ferraris join the environmental studies program in recognizing the value of providing student opportunities and building partnerships with environmental organizations that might regularly contribute to the education of students throughout the year. Whitman students bring their first-hand knowledge from their internships back to the campus, inspiring their classmates to pursue their own opportunities. In the future, the college hopes the agencies at which the students interned will continue to provide internship opportunities, academic resources, visiting educators, and speakers for academic courses and special programs, such as Semester in the West and Whitman in the Wallowas.

With the help of Andy and Barbara Ferrari’s gift, environmental studies students have experiences that prepare them for their futures, and the work they do has a tremendous impact in communities across the western United States.