While most Goshen College students need to complete an internship and senior project requirements to earn their degree, GC alumnus Aidan Freisen is taking those experiences one step further, using them to jump-start his professional career.
A December 2019 graduate of the Environmental Science program, Friesen began his work of studying the local environment for his senior thesis project. As a student, he worked to calculate the effects that 80 years of climate change may have on the economic benefits of trees in the Goshen community. His project focused on the College Farm neighborhood, a residential area located just east of campus, between College Avenue, Goshen College and Greencroft.
Additionally, Friesen worked as an intern with the Goshen Parks and Recreation Department during his time as a GC student. Through this internship, he inventoried trees around the city, which meant “putting data points on a Google map, which stood for the tree, and putting in the species, estimated height, and estimated number of trunks,” said Friesen. What originated as a volunteer position in the summer of 2018 turned into a paid position with more autonomy in the summer of 2019, as he inventoried cemeteries throughout the city on his own.
That project and internship has since paved the way for opportunity.
In the weeks following graduation, Friesen was able to secure a position where he applies his senior thesis research to a larger scale. He currently works for the City of Goshen under the title of Environmental Contractor. In this position, Friesen applies the work he did for his senior project to 14,000 trees all over the city. Additionally, he serves as a consultant to Goshen’s mission to plant 2,000 trees a year, in an effort to reach 45% canopy cover by 2045, as he helps determine what trees will be the best to plant for economic benefit.
This position is one that was developed specifically for Freisen. After presenting his senior project, Freisen met with Aaron Kingsley, the City Forester, to discuss how this work could be applied to all of Goshen.
“Eventually we figured that contracting work was the best solution,” said Freisen. “This means that I am taking the same research and redoing a project that originally had 250 trees and doing it on a project with 14,000 trees.” After conducting research, he will work to figure out what trees Goshen should plant.
Because the job is contracting work, Freisen also enjoys a level of flexibility that can be rare.
“I can work how much I want, where I want and when I want as long as I get it done in time,” said Freisen. “This means that a lot of the time I work at the Electric Brew, which means I have started to see a lot of the same faces and have gotten to meet new people in the Goshen area.”
However, this position is only temporary.
Beginning in September, Friesen will be taking his talents abroad. He was recently accepted into the Peace Corps, and soon he will begin his two-year term in Paraguay. He will be serving under the title of Environmental Promoter. His work will include aiding in environmental education, creating Eco Clubs, promoting afforestation and much more.
Following his time with the Peace Corps, Freisen’s path is uncertain.
“I am currently thinking of going one of three ways: environmental education, forest or river restoration or environmental law,” he said. “But that is all up to change.”
For now, Freisen will continue to implement the work he began as a student to benefit the City of Goshen.