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Student Snapshot: Brendan Carr ’22

Brendan Carr at Stonehenge.

As a double major in environmental studies and theatre, with a certificate in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), Brendan Carr ’22 merges a passion for the arts with a drive to help bring about positive social and environmental change. Last spring, he conducted student-faculty research on India’s ongoing energy transition. Now, he’s partnering with Espoir DelMain ’21 in an independent study project focusing on post-pandemic arts and advocacy.

Below, Carr discusses this work and much more, including his summer studying politics in London with fellow Dickinsonians and the friends he’s made through classes, special-interest housing and the Mermaid Players theatre group. He also reflects on his interdisciplinary projects: “I find myself consistently living and thinking in an interdisciplinary space. Concepts and ideas that cross over between my courses wiggle their way into projects, from using stage directing techniques to analyze how narratives of environmental injustice are constructed to viewing Julia Child’s impact on American food culture through the lens of performance studies.”

Hometown:

North Wales, Pennsylvania.

Majors:

Environmental studies and theatre, with a certificate in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE).

Clubs and organizations:

College Choir, Mermaid Players, Alpha Lambda Delta and National Society of Leadership & Success.

Honors/scholarships/awards:

John Montgomery Scholarship for Music Merit in Vocal Performance, Lester & Dorothy Etter Scholarship, Alumni Council Scholarship and Dean’s List.

Favorite book:

I have multiple: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian and all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Favorite movie:

It’s a tie between The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Favorite place on campus:

I like to switch it up! My regulars are Montgomery House, the music-department lobby, the Academic Quad and the Quarry wrap-around porch.

On choosing Dickinson:

I initially discovered Dickinson through my dad [Dale Carr '75], an alumnus of the college—which was exactly why I didn’t want to go here. However, after multiple campus visits and numerous conversations with students, faculty and admissions representatives (shout out to Molly Boegel!), I learned that Dickinson is a community of individuals, and that was the kind of community I wanted to be a part of.

Best thing about my majors (and certificate program):

I find myself consistently living and thinking in an interdisciplinary space. Concepts and ideas that cross over between my courses wiggle their way into projects, from using stage directing techniques to analyze how narratives of environmental injustice are constructed to viewing Julia Child’s impact on American food culture through the lens of performance studies.

Favorite class/learning experience:

Such a difficult question! I’m grateful to have taken a number of inspiring courses, but I think my favorite learning experience has to be participating in the College Choir with Professor of Music Amy Wlodarski. Ironically, I came to Dickinson not wanting to sing in a choir. Four years later, I’m a huge advocate of choral singing. My work with the choir has taught me how to tackle challenges with persistence, how to sing through a wrong note and when to lean back on your peers for support.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Butternut squash ravioli.

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad in London, England, during summer 2019 with Professor of Theatre Todd Wronski (my theatre-major advisor) and 10 fellow Dickinsonians. We all took a course entitled London: The Political Arts, where we analyzed how politics and art influence each other, from the Tudor era to Brexit negotiations. As part of that course, we attended numerous performances, visited art galleries, looked at architecture and even toured the Houses of Parliament! One of my favorite moments occurred toward the end of our first full week in London, when my friends (Kristen Kim ’21 and Emily McFerran ’21) and I purchased last-minute, standing-room-only tickets to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe (which was only a short Tube ride and walk across the Thames away from where we stayed). We laughed a lot that evening!

Favorite professor:

As my First-Year Seminar professor in fall 2017, Associate Professor of Political Science Katie Marchetti helped me transition from high school to college life at Dickinson. I’ll always be grateful for her support during those first few months on campus.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a professional ski jumper.

About my research:

During spring 2020, I was given the opportunity to support Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Heather Bedi (my advisor) on her Fulbright research as a Dana Research Assistant. We analyzed India’s ongoing energy transition. I decided to work on this project because it allowed me to leap squarely into global environmental politics, a field I didn’t know much about at the time. I was also eager to work with Professor Bedi again after taking her Environmental & Social Justice class in spring 2018, which was my first ever environmental studies course at Dickinson. Through this experience, I learned how solar energy rose to prominence in India, how solar projects negatively impact the rural communities of Kerala and Chhattisgarh, and ultimately how governmental decisionmakers use narratives of solar development to establish a dominant national identity on the world stage.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I enjoy baking! My signature recipe is banana bread with walnuts.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Taylor Swift.

On learning how to work toward positive social change through SINE:

I found about the SINE certificate during my first year, through Professor Shalom Staub’s Introduction to Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship course. That’s when I began learning about systems-thinking and merging my interdisciplinary interests of performance and environmental change.

Through the program, I’ve taken courses with Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Michael Beevers, Associate Professor of Sociology Erik Love, Associate Professor of History Emily Pawley and Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre & Dance Karie Miller on subjects ranging from leadership to resistance to ecotheatre.

Additionally, I’m currently taking an independent study with Visiting Instructor in Dance Erin Crawley-Woods, along with Espoir DelMain ’21, titled Performing Citizenship: Theatre, Dance, and Civic Engagement. We plan to employ our knowledge of performing arts history, policy and methodologies to craft a post-pandemic arts advocacy project.

Best thing about my Dickinson experience:

The people. I’ve met some of my closest friends at Dickinson through my classes, Mermaid Players and living at The Site special-interest house.

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Published March 19, 2021