Julie Vastine '03
ALLARM director makes waves in the community
by Ariel Klatskin '13
November 12, 2010
Julie Vastine '30, director of ALLARM, focuses on local and regional water issues such as stormwater education and natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Dickinson’s global-education programs drew Julie Vastine ’03 to the college, but it was ultimately a connection to her roots that led her to the environmental-science department’s Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM). “I’m from the Eastern shore of Maryland, so being engaged with Chesapeake Bay issues definitely resonated with me,” she says.
At the end of her first semester, she declared environmental science as her major and began working with ALLARM. Vastine was able to experience what ALLARM could offer a student early on in her Dickinson career and then beyond when she returned in 2007 as its director.
For two years after graduation, Vastine worked in Washington, D.C., for EarthRights International, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human and environmental rights with an emphasis on corporate accountability. During her time at EarthRights, Vastine developed skills that she carried with her when she returned to ALLARM. “I knew I needed to develop fundraising skills,” she says, “If you get the opportunity to learn, do it. It works if you’re going back to school or whatever field you’re working in.”
Though Vastine was passionate about the mission of EarthRights, she missed directly engaging with a community on a daily basis. “You want to be effective in your own backyard. I knew that writing grants day in and day out wasn’t doing what I wanted to do for the long term,” she says.
When she learned that the ALLARM director’s position was open, she applied.
Vastine had “unfinished business” at ALLARM, she says. She wanted to play a direct role in cultivating substantive, enriching experiences for students that would have a positive impact throughout the state.
Wading into the Carlisle community
Working closely with the Carlisle community was a key priority for Vastine.
“When I came back, I had a couple of goals that pertained to community work,” she explains. “For example, I wanted ALLARM to be more specifically involved in Carlisle. It’s really interesting, even though we’ve worked with communities in Cumberland County, our work never really focused on Carlisle before.”
The desire to create local programs lent itself to her work with students, with whom she developed programs like the Letort Stormwater Education Campaign in 2007. Students’ participation ranges from creating educational materials like posters and advertisements to organizing the annual Letort Festival and creating presentations for community education.
This year students are putting together rain-barrel workshops, and Vastine is enthusiastic. “This is a need that’s right here in Carlisle,” she says. “We’re being involved in our local stream and community, which is really exciting.”
On working with students, Vastine says, “I think we’re doing a pretty good job of having a cohesive unit. Last year people definitely referred to it as a family. It’s a family that works really hard together.”
Today, ALLARM is one of many organizations working with communities on the Marcellus Shale natural-gas issue in Pennsylvania. Vastine adds that when she considers new projects, she would be happy to see former students return the way she did.
“It would be really exciting to see a former student or alum be interested in coming back,” she says, “I do think there’s something to be said for having a connection to history.”
Learn more about ALLARM.