KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 15, 2001 -- When Kimberly Anderson of Woonsocket receives her bachelors degree at the University of Rhode Island later this month, it will be the culmination of a dream that began 20 years ago and was sadly interrupted.
Anderson was in her junior year studying biology at the University of Illinois when her parents died, and as a result she left school. "But it was always my dream to go back and finish school some day," she said.
Circumstances led her to Rhode Island, and seven years ago she began taking classes at URI. While caring for her three growing sons, she excelled in the classroom.
Anderson was recently recognized with the Estes Benson Award for Academic Achievement as the graduating African-American student at URI with the highest grade point average. Following the awards ceremony, State Representative Melvoid Benson said, "Kim is a true example of what can happen when we make education possible for people who want to get off welfare and make a contribution to society. When a college education is attainable, great things can happen."
Andersons interest in environmental protection led her to pursue a degree in environmental economics and management. "Ive always been drawn to biology and the environment, but back when I started college in Illinois the environmental field was really in its infancy," she said.
In the last two years, Andersons passion for the environment earned her three prestigious Coastal Fellowships at URI, which allowed her to undertake a variety of environmental research and outreach projects in the state.
She began at the Southern New England Forest Consortium in 1999 conducting a survey of public officials for their thoughts on the cost of community services and the value of open space. "It was really my first opportunity to work in my field and get my feet wet," she recalls.
Her next fellowship found her working with an environmental planner at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management studying watersheds. Among other things, she assisted in the creation of a directory of water-related groups in the state and collected data on water pollution, storm water issues, and drinking water protection.
Following graduation, Anderson will begin a third fellowship, this time working at URI with Geographic Information System maps and teaching local teachers how to use the maps in the classroom. In a pilot program, shell work with teachers in Barrington who will have their students counting trees in town and plotting their location on the maps.
Though shes not entirely sure what shell be doing after that, she said the Coastal Fellowships have given her great insight into her chosen field.
"Environmental economics is all about tradeoffs," explained Anderson. "When talking about what kind of building youre going to do in your town, theres always tradeoffs between open space and residential and commercial development. I think of environmental economists as the middle-men empowering people to make decisions about their environment."
Looking back on the 20 years since she began her college education, Anderson concluded, "Its been a difficult road, but I did it and so I know others can do it, too. I would recommend it for anyone."
For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892