Andrew is interested in the reconciliation of environmental justice and social justice. He is motivated by the possibility of using his position in research to support biological conservation and to serve as an advocate for marginalized communities—low-wage agricultural workers in particular.
Most of Andrew’s time abroad has been spent in Nicaragua. During a summer in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, he allied with the community to promote environmental awareness in affiliation with CARE International’s MICUENCA watershed protection program, and he helped facilitate the renovation of the community preschool. In Matagalpa, Andrew grew to appreciate the inextricable tie between environmental health and community health as well as the importance of this relationship for the livelihoods of local people.
Nicaragua provided a unique opportunity for Andrew to observe the socioeconomic ramifications of 20th century neocolonialism in Latin America and to witness the adverse effects of environmental degradation on delicate ecosystems in the neotropics. This experience provided a foundation for his passions for bottom-up grassroots community organizing and biological conservation.
Grassroots community organizing is central in Andrew’s service. During the summer of 2013, Andrew conducted outreach in Tennessee for the National Student Power Convergence in Madison, WI. Inspired by the conversations and workshops at NSPC, all aimed at building collective student power, he allied with student organizers from numerous public and private universities throughout his home state to co-found the Tennessee Student Union (TNSU). This action contributed to a growing movement in favor of democratic student unionism in the United States. During the fall of his junior year, TNSU’s first conference united about fifty students. The TNSU Steering Committee hopes to continue to amplify student voices in Tennessee and to rally support for civil rights, the LGBTQ community, tuition equality for undocumented students, and other important student issues. In the spring of his junior year, Andrew began working with Workers’ Dignity Project – Dignidad Obrera (DO), a low-wage workers’ center in Nashville. DO fights wage theft by uniting low-wage workers, victims of wage theft, and allies to win back stolen wages through collective action. He developed a good grasp of what a direct democracy workers' center looks like in action.
Biological conservation is also important in Andrew’s work. As a volunteer Intern with the Nashville Zoo’s Carnivore Department, Andrew has assisted with the maintenance of their conservation initiatives, such as the clouded leopard Species Protection Program. His mentors at the zoo taught him about the importance of comprehensive “Species Survival Plans” in biological conservation. Andrew wanted to participate in the implementation of these plans in the field, and this desire influenced the design of his Ingram Summer Project. He conducted this summer project with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) near the Brazilian Pantanal. His summer project took the form of a faculty fellowship with Vanderbilt’s Dr. Malu Jorge. He collected and analyzed data concerning the population density and distribution of a threatened species, the White-Lipped Peccary (WLP). Their research demonstrates effective methods of diagnosing ecosystem health in threatened regions by using “bioindicators” like WLPs. WCS’s work in Brazil is closely associated with local agriculture. During his summer project, he learned about how sustainable agriculture can support local livelihoods while conserving threatened species like the WLP.
Andrew’s leadership experience in other Vanderbilt student organizations includes Service Chair of Phi Sigma Pi, Student Affairs Coordinator of Vanderbilt-Pakistan Connection, VP Local Service and Nicaragua Spring Break Site Leader of MPIV, Treasurer and Secretary of Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence, and member of the Undergraduate Advisory Board to former A&S Dean Carolyn Dever.
During his senior year, Andrew looks forward to continuing his work as an advocate with Workers’ Dignity Project. He is excited about a new leadership position he helped to create for MPIV, Education Chair. In this position, he hopes to prepare site leaders for their spring break trips by emphasizing the importance of humility and stewardship in international service. These efforts are intended to influence MPIV’s work towards true volunteerism instead of “voluntourism,” a common problem that afflicts international service organizations.
In just one year, the Ingram Scholarship Program has impacted Andrew’s service and enhanced his worldview, and he looks forward to improving his work with the support of the other Ingram Scholars and the Program Directors this year.