Environmental Studies Spotlight
JP Peckinpaugh: Building a Better World Together
“Working and learning alongside some of the most empowering and accepting professors allowed me to develop my own path for education.”
In 2011, JP Peckinpaugh ’12 traveled to Khon Kaen, Thailand, during winter term, studying at the local university and helping farmer Paw Biew educate his villagers about the dangers of proposed copper mining on Poohinlekfie Mountain. He and other members of his village grow food on the mountain to support their families.
Peckinpaugh had attended an environmental conference on mountaintop removal mining in Washington, D.C., and had participated in related rallies and educational events closer to home. Being aware of the destructiveness of some mining practices in Eastern Kentucky, Peckinpaugh understood how mining can spoil the soil and the water. Sharing Paw Biew’s goals and concerns, Peckinpaugh became his ally.
“Taking the knowledge I gained in the classroom and from these experiences, I was able to help organize communities in Thailand being affected by copper mining. My professors enabled me to think outside the box, which has allowed me to develop solutions to problems rather than simply hope for change.”
Peckinpaugh also made an impact on Transylvania’s campus. Along with nine other members of the Transylvania Environmental Rights and Responsibilities Alliance (TERRA), Peckinpaugh established the Sustainability House, where the group lived deliberately, conscious of their impact on the environment. Residents of the house dried their clothes on clotheslines, biked around town, conserved water and utility use, and volunteered to help local efforts to protect the natural environment.
“We realized as the term went on that sustainability is more than just being eco-friendly. It’s a community. It’s depending on and drawing from the community and creating that aspect of sustainability.”
As part of a growing interest in activism, community organizing, and social justice, Peckinpaugh also served on Transylvania’s Sustainability Board, worked with the Sierra Club and the Student Environmental Action Coalition, helped create the Transy bike program, and contributed to a sustainable energy project to save money and reduce carbon emissions.
In 2012 Peckinpaugh and two other Transylvania students were selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University in Washington, D.C. One thousand students and leaders from around the world devoted two days to pressing global issues related to education, peace, human rights, poverty alleviation, public health, the environment, and climate change.
While at Transylvania, Peckinpaugh took a variety of classes in fields such as education, sociology, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and environmental studies. That broad education has helped Peckinpaugh feel comfortable working as a Residential Youth Worker at St. Joseph Children's Home in Louisville. There Peckinpaugh helps children who have experienced abuse or neglect learn to build functional relationships so they can eventually move to a foster home or return to their birth parents’ home.
“Without a liberal arts education, I don’t believe I would have felt as empowered to facilitate my own journey in life.”