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Leading By Example

Through their professional and personal choices, professor and librarian seek to raise students’ awareness of the environment around them

For James and Pamela Hayes-Bohanan, sustainability is something they live every day. In fact, their Maple Avenue home, which abuts the west side of campus behind the Harrington Hall parking lot, is itself a model of sustainability.

Not only does its proximity to campus mean the couple never needs to drive to work, the 0.31-acre yard is listed as a World Wildlife Fund-designated backyard habitat. Solar panels, a bat box and many other elements promote sustainability and reduce the family’s carbon footprint.

While visiting Gray’s Daily Grind in Westport with Dr. Hayes-Bohanan’s Coffee Week class, BSU students (from left) Susie Beckwith; Olga Lindsey, ’17; and Karen Ormaza, ’16, get hands-on experience milling corn meal from locally sourced corn at the adjacent Gray’s Grist Mill with guidance from mill operator George Whitley.

“I can stand in the yard and talk about this for an hour,” said Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan, a professor in the Department of Geography who’s been full time at Bridgewater State University since 1997. “The fact that it’s so close to campus gives me a chance to share it and show it to students.”

Pamela Hayes-Bohanan is a librarian and adjunct Spanish professor, who began her career at Bridgewater State on a part-time basis the same year her husband arrived, and became a full-time employee in 2002. Both have been committed to environmental causes for much of their 34 years of marriage. It manifests not only in their home, but also in the activities they pursue, in both their professional and personal lives.

BSU students Ariana Barbosa, ’17, (left) and Eve Vernet, ’19, hold baskets from a coffee harvest while in Nicaragua.

“We are both passionate about it,” Ms. Hayes-Bohanan said. “It informs a lot of things we do.” Their home, she added, is “where our work and personal lives converge.”

The couple has been involved with BSU’s Sustainability Program since its founding, and regularly include in their lesson plans sustainability, environmentalism and social justice. Ms. Hayes-Bohanan taught the course “Sustainability 101” on two occasions. Even when teaching a Spanish class, she manages to work in these subjects that are near to her heart.

Pamela Hayes-Bohanan joins librarian and teacher Jacoba Cantarero and a young girl named Paola in the library at the high school in La Corona, Nicaragua, during a BSU study tour.

A longtime area of interest and scholarship for Dr. Hayes- Bohanan is coffee. His doctoral program focused in large part on Latin American studies. Two years after he arrived at BSU, someone introduced him to a coffee buyer from Equal Exchange, a global cooperative in West Bridgewater, and his interest on the topic of coffee grew.

“That changed everything, and I began to see coffee as something that was at the intersection of environmental and Latin American studies,” he said.

Of surprise to him was that coffee growers in Latin America get only one percent of what Americans pay for coffee. He’s working to bring awareness to this inequity and hopes to one day help change it. “Treating farmers and the land better means you get better coffee,” he said, not to mention it speaks to the idea of social sustainability.

For years, Dr. Hayes-Bohanan has taken study tours to Nicaragua to visit and work on coffee farms. For many of his students, it’s a highlight of their time at BSU.

As part of one of Dr. Hayes-Bohanan’s study tours in Nicaragua, BSU students and alumni learn about the process of sorting and drying coffee at the La Corona home of the Rayo-Granado family. Also looking on is local guide Freddy Membreño (second from right), who has assisted Dr. Hayes-Bohanan on several of his tours.

Ms. Hayes-Bohanan has joined her husband on several of these trips.

Emblematic of her commitment to the environment is an apple tree outside the entrance of the library. Not wanting to see it neglected, as the apples were high in the branches, she decided she would make it easier for the campus community to enjoy its fruit. A professor friend had the idea to get an apple picker. Ms. Hayes-Bohanan made it happen. “Now there are two apple pickers in the library, and they’re in the catalog,” she said.

While in Costa Rica on a study tour, Nahthan Paul, ’20; Christen Couture, ’20; and Ally Osborne, ’20, (from front) are headed to an overnight stay in an indigenous Bribri community in the Costa Rica/Panama border area. The pilot of the boat is a member of the Bribri community.

Her professional philosophy on sustainability as a veteran librarian is a holistic one. “All the work I do I see as a piece of the puzzle,” she said. “Libraries are the original resource-sharing place. You don’t have to buy more books and use more paper. We have it all here.”

The couple’s commitment has influenced many of the students they’ve taught over the years to be more
conscious of the environment and sustainability. A good number have followed in their footsteps (two are
featured in these pages). It’s proof that one of the most effective ways to teach is by good example.
“Something we say all the time,” Ms. Hayes-Bohanan said, “is everything is connected to everything else.”

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