We have a lot of students who love being in iCons, but if there’s someone who stands out as being the biggest iCons advocate, it has to be Hannah French. “iCons is unlike anything I’ve ever done,” she’ll tell you, “and I’ve met so many great people and gotten to work on exciting and relevant projects.” Note: if her name sounds familiar, it’s because she was featured in the iCons video.
When she came to UMass, she didn’t want to sit in lectures. That’s not surprising to us – Hannah has an intense passion for environmental conservation, is always in motion, a natural leader, and freely speaks her mind. She was ready to solve big problems, and then iCons came along.
“iCons promised an opportunity to work in teams and focus on the biggest challenges facing the world today. Of course I applied!”
Quickly, she made iCons her home and has been integral to building an iCons community. With a group of peers, she helped launch the iCons Student Forum, an informal weekly gathering where iCons students can come to work on projects, get feedback, practice presentations, and discuss science. The Forum was built on what was originally a peer-mentoring program. “We thought that one-on-one mentoring was not what we needed as iCons 1 students,” so the Forum was conceived.
iCons Program Coordinator Chaz Nielsen recalls when Hannah approached him about the forum. “Hannah was the leader of a group that came to me and said ‘we have a better idea than mentoring. How do we make it happen?’ iCons is all about students driving the educational ship, so to see our students take our ideas and make them their own…what could be better than that?”
Hannah is spending her summer with working with Blanding’s turtles, a threatened species native to eastern Massachusetts. She’s working with the UMass’ Environmental Conservation department to identify and protect Blanding’s turtle habitat. This involves being out in the field to track and trap turtles and protect turtle nests from predators. Her favorite perk, though, is that “we get to release the turtle hatchlings as they emerge from the protected nests at the end of the summer!” (photo credit to Hannah for the tiny turtle shots you see down below).
When not saving turtles, you might also find her juggling (come to a juggling club meeting and she’ll teach you how), playing the fiddle or ukulele, making crafts in the Craft Center, or in the offices of the Campus Sustainability Initiative, where she is a Green Office fellow. I’m not sure where the time and energy comes from, but we’re certainly glad she’s part of iCons!