What you can do with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies
Ben Martens graduated Bowdoin in the Spring of 2006 with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies and Government and Legal Studies, minoring in Biology. He currently works as the executive director for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, located in downtown Brunswick.
Originally from a small town in New Hampshire, Ben arrived at Bowdoin intending to participate in the environmental studies program, an aspect of the college that initially brought him to Bowdoin. He was especially drawn by the interdisciplinary nature of the ES program, getting the opportunity to pair the major with another area of study in order to view the environment through another related lens. Choosing government and legal studies was an appropriate choice for his current employment, as Ben works day to day with fishermen on fisheries policy.
Participating in two environmental studies fellowships during his summers at Bowdoin, Ben expanded on this passion of both helping people and the environment which surrounds them. Working through GIS (geographic information systems), an involved mapping computer program, Ben worked to address kayakers’ effects on intertidal zones in Casco Bay surrounding the islands of Portland. In his second summer at Bowdoin, Ben worked with the Maine State Planning Office “speaking with fishermen and other users in two bays in Maine to think about how to practice co-management of the marine resources.” This fellowship was the Ben’s first introduction to working with fisheries policies and the fishermen themselves, intimately connected to his current line of work.
Despite this particular focus on the ocean and fisheries, Ben did not immediately step into fisheries policy after graduation. “When I first graduated from Bowdoin I worked for a political campaign in NH, working to get the governor there reelected, and that was a great experience that made me realize that I did not want to be in politics, and I took a job down in Boston working for a nonprofit that was focused on getting people access to the Charles River Parklands. Although that wasn't’t really what I found particularly inspiring, it was a great place to learn about non-profits and how they work and how to do a good job running one.” After that Ben moved to Cape Cod to work with the Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance turning fishermen into advocates for sustainable fisheries.
After those two and a half years, Ben moved back to Brunswick, where he currently works for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association as the executive director. Bowdoin’s liberal arts education thoroughly prepared Ben for working at a small non-profit. Looking back to his college years, Ben says, “I loved my liberal arts education, but I also got a liberal arts education then I got a liberal arts job. I run a very small non-profit, so I have to do a little bit of everything. And that’s what you learn from a liberal arts education: how to balance and get a little bit of knowledge and expertise in a lot of different things.
So, running a small non-profit, I need to know policy, I need to know history, I need to know how to write, I need to know how to make a budget.” Ben has been back now for eight years, thoroughly enjoying his old college town. “Brunswick’s a great place to live and now that I’ve got a family, I love being so closely connected to Bowdoin College. I have found a lot of joy in becoming friends with professors and faculty and the people that Bowdoin brings to Brunswick. I just think that that’s special,” says Ben when asked about what it is like to come back to a place he previously only viewed through the eyes of a student.
In Brunswick, Ben serves on the Sustainability Committee for the town of Brunswick, giving back to the community with his environmental expertise and bridging the gap between the town and the college community. Additionally, now with a family, Ben, his son Micah, and wife, also a Bowdoin grad, and his dog, explores the greater Brunswick area garnering a broader appreciation for mid-coast Maine.