Make The Connection

Theory-to-Practice Grant, ‘Olives and Sustainability’

November 4, 2015

Michael Durfee ’17 traveled to Morocco in May using a Theory-to-Practice Grant. While there to study sustainability and traditions, Durfee climbed a sand dune in the Sahara. (Photo courtesy of Michael Durfee ’17)

Learn how OWU’s many academic, research, and travel-learning programs prepare students for leadership and global citizenship and help them … Make the Connection.

Name: Michael Durfee ’17
Majors: Environmental Studies and Medieval Studies
Hometown: Ithaca, New York
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “Olives and Sustainability”

In May, Durfee traveled to Morocco to investigate sustainable aspects of the olive as well as the production and sale of food and trades material in a traditional society. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in environmental management at a national park.

Lessons Learned: “Field research involving human interaction across cultures is not nicely translated into one’s native comforts. Then a question intended to lead the furthest away one can get from those comforts is most definitely not as easy to answer as predicted while sitting in a comfy library computer chair.

“Yet if my research hypothesis, that traditional knowledge can help with modern sustainability issues, were superficial and simple, then I’d find everything on my first attempt. I sure didn’t.

“So I understand something very important: No one place will have all the answers. This is especially true when ‘tradition’ can be applied to hundreds of thousands of communities across the globe. That means I have a solid excuse to travel to more far away places, right?

“While my hope for finding a plethora of helpful traditional knowledge shines brightly yet, I’ve encountered an alarming issue in Morocco. I went to find tradition, but I found a startling lack of it. It’s a country stuck between tradition and modern progressions. …

“OWU won me over when I saw the extent of its Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies program, and when I saw the jaw-dropping, drool-making, eye-bulging expanse of opportunities to study abroad. The small size was necessary as well.”