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Class of 2021: Gunnar Ward

Gunnar Ward leaves handprints instead of footprints behind on the Hill as he steps off and into his position as an AEG Environmental field chemist ensuring healthy ecosystems and minimizing pollution. The Environmental Studies major’s handprints are in the soil and on the roots he planted in the campus agriculture programs and ecosystems at the McDaniel Environmental Center (MEC). He takes tremendous pride in knowing his handprint remains in the roots of the towering trees and in the flowers buzzed by the bees.

Gunnar Ward

Gunnar Ward is an Environmental Studies major from Oakland, Maryland.

When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: embraced by an immediate sense of community and knew right away I wanted to be part of it.

The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: Passionate, eager and ready to help make Earth a greener place.

Real world experiences: Student Agrofood Systems Coordinator for the McDaniel Department of Environmental Studies – I reflect on this experience as one that I completely changed my life. Working with Dr. Elly Engle over a summer to maintain the campus garden and use it as a tool to generate and nourish my community was simply incredible. Beyond that, my passion for this project allowed me to further develop the skills of dedication, patience, and time management. I’ve also served as an Environmental Health Intern with the Maryland Department of Health.

Aha moment: How involved McDaniel students are was my aha moment. After meeting so many people that are taking on multiple majors and still remain active in clubs and organizations was an aha moment for me and has made me extremely grateful to be a part of a community of so many talented and driven people. My peers are inspiring and have made me a better individual in so many ways.

Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: A mantra of mine was that the footprint I am leaving on the Hill is a handprint in the soil. A handprint used to plant roots in the campus agriculture programs and restore ecosystems at the McDaniel Environmental Center (MEC). I take tremendous pride in knowing my handprint remains in the roots of the towering trees and in the flowers buzzed by the bees. Beyond that, there is a sense of community unlike any other when collaborating to grow food or make healthier ecosystems that is everlasting.

Professor who most influenced who I have become: Dr. Elly Engle. Dr. E has been tremendous in helping me become a better version of myself in every way. From guiding me to a passion for sustainable agriculture and community engagement to teaching me the value of self reflection and truly learning from experiences of all kinds has been instrumental in helping me become the best version and ever growing version of myself.

My mentor. For life: Atticus Rice ’19 is my mentor for life but at the core of his mentorship are the values of leadership, friendship, and service. Atticus was my role model of how I wanted my experience at McDaniel to go. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and in doing so he taught me the value of leading by example and using passion as a compass to guide me to my goals. To this day, Atticus remains one of my closest friends, my go-to on everything professional development and my mentor.

Best class ever: Sustainable Agriculture with Dr. E is the best class ever. In what other class will you be able to learn to grow your own food, outline and plant a garden, attend massive regional conferences and above all cultivate a sense of community within and outside McDaniel built upon teamwork, dedication, and the common goal of growing organic, clean, and regenerative food to nourish your body and others. Sustainable Agriculture all in all is a deep dive into how food should be and for so many reasons it is life changing and the best class ever.

Took me totally by surprise: That college ties formed upon the Hill truly are never broken.

My favorite spot on campus: My two favorites are Harvey Stone Pavilion – keep your eyes out for the two trees close together for a hidden hammock spot – and Sunset Hill, a spot on the golf course that overlooks the horizon west and is the perfect place to watch the sunset and dodge last minute golf balls and sprinkles.

Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: The lessons shared in the classroom are secondary to the life lessons learned here. The true value in college is far beyond the classroom but in the experiences made on the Hill.

My capstone: “How does trail maintenance influence tick populations on hiking trails?”

What it’s about: Identifying and observing the relationship between how different levels of trail maintenance influences tick populations and subsequently the threat of contracting a tick-borne disease or exposing others to them.

Capstone translated: Trails that are better maintained are safer and less likely to have ticks on them.

What’s next: I have accepted a position with AEG Environmental located in Westminster and will be working as a field chemist to help minimize pollution and ensure healthy ecosystems and people. I would like to eventually get my master’s in Environmental Health and Safety before finalizing my run as President of the United States and hosting Jeopardy in my retirement.

About Gunnar

Name: Gunnar Ward

Major: Environmental Studies

Class of 2021