South Hadley, Mass. - October 30, 2020 - For the Mount Holyoke College field hockey team, not being with each other this semester has been difficult. This is a team and a culture that thrives on their communal passion for the sport of field hockey, and each other.
One of the emerging stars of the program, Margaret Robb (Summit, N.J.), was an instrumental part of the Lyons returning to the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship Tournament for the 21st-consecutive season in 2019. The sophomore produced 24 points in 19 games last season, and from her coach's perspective, Robb's impact was felt in every aspect of the game.
"I would say this is the third game in a row where she has just been all over the place...our energizer bunny so to speak," said head field hockey coach Andy Whitcomb after a 2-1 win over Springfield College on October 1, 2019. "She has to be dog tired but she guts it out, and she is one of our best field players. There is no doubt about it. If she puts her mind to it she is just a really good all-around player. I am so proud of her."
This fall has been a little different for Robb. Instead of gracefully operating in the shadows of the pristine foliage that populates the campus of Mount Holyoke College in the fall months, Robb has been enjoying an experience away from campus. Robb, a neuroscience major, would have entered the first semester of her junior year this past fall, but decided to take on a volunteer internship in a field that she was also passionate about. Environmental science and eco-justice.
Beginning in mid-August, Robb has been completing a volunteer internship at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, just outside of Terre Haute. Here, Robb has been volunteering her time to learn more about the environment through hands-on work, as well as educational workshops, cooking classes and frequent interaction with herds of alpacas and flocks of laying chickens.
"It is honestly such a great community of people," said Robb. "It has been refreshing to go back to the roots of how everything in our country started. It is humbling work. I love waking up every day and being able to learn something new. Having different experiences and learning from other people has been very rewarding. "
Robb was drawn to environmental science through a job this past summer at a local Garden Center. Although she was technically a cashier, Robb showed a true passion for the environment, and staff members would repeatedly catch her taking care of certain plants around the shop, and asking pointed questions about their processes. Through this, Robb was drawn to her internship experience at the White Violet Center for eco-Justice. Through her work, and her questions, Robb has been able to develop links between eco-justice and her major at Mount Holyoke, neuroscience.
"When learning about where our food comes from, I have thought mostly about the poverty issues in our country," said Robb. "An affected environment can lead to diseases that people could get over time. If our food is being genetically modified, or if we are adding things that are not actually good for us, then we have seen an increase in cancer in humans. It affects animals, it affects us, and overall affects the environment. This is an internship where you are working, but you are also thinking about these greater issues. I think people becoming more understanding of where their food comes from is a good way to begin conversations around environmental science."
Beginning in August, Robb, along with four other interns that are around her same age began harvesting vegetables, and serving their food at the local food pantry. The group would also sell their products in local Farmer's Markets and provide food for the Sisters of Providence ministry.
Through these experiences, Robb was able to learn about topics like organic fertilizers and pesticides that don't hurt the environment, and think critically about the links between her passion for working on the farm and being outdoors, and her experiences as a neuroscience major and student-athlete on the field hockey team at Mount Holyoke.
"Volunteering here has been a good balance of teamwork and there is a strong sense of community," said Robb. "We have family dinner on Sunday, so you definitely get that community vibe, which is nice. I wish there were more opportunities for people to go to a place like this and learn about the environment through hands-on experiences. I am more of a visual learner, so I can do it, then teach others. I really like that aspect of education."
Robb is no stranger to volunteering her time for the greater good. Last January, Robb, along with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Mount Holyoke College, organized a toy drive that generated over 250 gifts for the local South Hadley community. Robb also stepped up and orchestrated sport-related activities for young girls that were members of Girls, Inc. on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
"I have always been interested in volunteering," said Robb. I have always been interested in spending time with groups like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps after college. I have been able to volunteer in various places, but being able to be away from home and being able to meet people and hear their stories and understand where they come from, I think that has been the best part of this internship."
Robb looks forward to the day that she can re-join her field hockey teammates and begin their run at a 22nd-consecutive trip to the NEWMAC Championship Tournament. Robb certainly looks forward to the education that she will be able to spread upon her return to campus, and the thoughtful conversations that come with that.
"What I am learning here is the power of educating others," concluded Robb. "The more I educate the people around me, the more they will educate others and then we can all raise awareness together. It would be great for people to be able to experience working on a farm and learning about where their food comes from."