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Melissa And Her Son

In Their Own Words: Alumni Updates — Melissa Enos Hansen

Post Series: In Their Own Words -- Alumni Updates

Feel inspired by our engaged alumni and learn how significant bus Resource Experiences still impact them years after the fact!

Melissa Enos Hansen – “What have I gotten myself into?!”

Melissa and her son

Melissa and her son 🙂

Standing upon the shore of the Salton Sea, I walked delicately as I realized the rock-like substrate was actually shattered bones of tilapia. I can still feel it in my feet and hear it in my ears. While I understood the importance of the water body to migrating birds, it took me a while to process my emotions and what I was learning about introduced invasive species (the tilapia) and this inland salt pond. Having the opportunity to grapple with the value of such a complicated system has helped me better educate people about invasive species management in MA and about unique environments.

My bus experience affected me deeply, influencing both my professional and personal paths. For the past 12 years I have been working for the Massachusetts Audubon Society as an education coordinator. I work directly with schools to support teachers and students in science learning, using inquiry and hands-on nature exploration. I also run a summer day camp program, where campers are outside rain or shine, immersing themselves in nature and participating in small learning communities where they develop their social skills along with a sense of place. Working with staff to successfully develop programming for children in pre-school through middle school and teachers of all ages is by far one of the best parts of my job. I love seeing people directly connecting with nature, and more so, I love seeing staff empowered to create those moments!

Melissa in Colorado on her first backpack ever!

Melissa in Colorado on her first backpack ever!

I have low body fat, low blood pressure, and a fast metabolism. Suffice to say, I am not a fan of the cold. So the last place I ever would have pictured myself prior to bus life, was camping in snow in September in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. “What have I gotten myself into?” was immediately followed by, “I don’t know if I can do this,” as I took down my frosted tent, fumbling to get my mittens off so I could have better dexterity, but barely able to bend my fingers once I had removed the mittens. It was the extreme of being in the moment and feeling vulnerable – physically and emotionally. Making it through this made me realize I could probably tough out a lot more than I had ever considered. And I had the opportunity to prove this to myself several times over: When I was hiking with a hole (literally) on the bottom of my foot over 9 miles of volcanic rock; while I was canoeing in the Okefenokee Swamp amidst alligators. Each time, my feelings were tempered a bit more until, “I don’t think I can do this” became, “What is the best way for me to succeed here?” Eight years after graduating, when I was birthing my child and things did not go as planned, this learning manifested in full force!

Which brings me to what I do when I am not working – trying to apply what I learned on the bus to having a successful marriage and raising a mindful and ecologically aware child. My husband and I both work full time, so we communicate a lot about how to manage the house and raise a child, and generally have a system in place where we share or divide tasks. My son is my sidekick for many nature adventures which, since he is not yet 6 yrs old, are still pretty tame. No alligators or holes in his feet! He knows some species of birds, loves hiking and being the leader, and asks to go exploring; he has joined me on bird surveys and participated in a volunteer day in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. He sees litter that blows up our driveway and says in a frustrated voice, “I don’t know why people are pollutioning!” He eats a great diversity of food, helps me shop and choose “what is right for our bodies” and tells me “I am both vegetarian AND a meat-eater!” We intentionally and thoughtfully notice how “every body is different” and “every family is different” and how he and his friend can believe different things and that is ok. We also argue about who carries his backpack from the car to the house and typical family stuff too!

I honestly cannot imagine how my life might be different had I not been on the bus. If I attended a traditional graduate program, I probably would have learned plenty about environmental education pedagogy and emerging ecological issues. However, the bus program pushed me to be introspective; being open to transforming myself and continuously learning throughout life is the key that allows me to intentionally impact my professional work and my personal life.

Melissa was a Graduate student from 2000-2002 (Fall ’00 (Colorado), Spring ’01 (So. California & Hawaii), Fall ’01 (Atlantic Coast), graduated Spring ’02)