Professor Inspired by Traveling
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A UVM professor is using travel as inspiration for his lectures.
Frank Zelko, an environmental studies professor, said his move from Australia to Burlington benefited his work here at UVM and abroad.
“One of the benefits of traveling around the world is unexpectedly learning new things and finding them really interesting and turning them into a lecture that demonstrates something interesting about human environmental history,” Zelko said.
The first thing one may pick up on when meeting Zelko is his sense of humor.
Such is the case when he described how he made his way from Melbourne, Australia to Burlington, Vermont.
“Occasionally it was a little dangerous to have a mango or something fall on your head when you’re there. But, no, it’s not the reason,” Zelko said.
The real reason he said he left the tropic allure of southern Australia was to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Kansas, where he studied under the founder of environmental history, Donald Worster.
Zelko said he has been interested in environmental issues since he was young, but the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship in Auckland when he was 14, fueled his passion for the subject.
“It was a very dramatic event in the newspapers at the time and I remember feeling outraged about that,” he said.
“I think that sort of sparked an interest in environmental politics and passion for environmental issues,” Zelko said.
His students have witnessed that passion.
Senior Scotia Jordan said Zelko’s classes are her favorite because of the topics he addresses.
“He is good at finding the offbeat and using it in his lectures,” Jordan said. “Global environmental history is a very serious subject…it’s good that Professor Zelko makes it fun as well as serious,” she said.
Zelko’s passion for the environment is what led him to eventually pursue a doctorate degree in environmental history and explore his interests in the non-governmental environmental organization, Greenpeace, which developed into his book, “Make It A Green Peace!”
The book explores Greenpeace’s history.
Zelko’s research in environmental history includes issues in green politics, such as looking at the comparison between environmentalism in different countries and also human interactions with the environment.
“I look at changing ideas about the environment,” he said. “How people have thought differently about nature at various points in history and how that shapes the way they act and the way they conceptualize themselves in nature.”
Although Zelko said he enjoys living in Burlington, he also spends much of his time traveling the world.
“I don’t actually stay here all the time. I tend to travel a lot,” he said.
Zelko’s research takes him to many places, including recent trips to Hawaii, Munich and Iceland.
Zelko said traveling enhances his knowledge on environmental issues, which then lends itself into topics for lectures.
Senior Roisin Low said she also enjoys Zelko’s stories and “how he relates the class material back to those areas.”