Dirt, water, grit: how one double-major went from The Gardening Club to Newman Civic Fellow

Dirt, water, grit: how one double-major went from The Gardening Club to Newman Civic Fellow

F or Savannah Taylor, a junior double-major in Economics and World Language and Culture, gardening was more about the mud than about sustainability. She grew up in the suburbs outside of Atlanta where she and her parents would spend afternoons cultivating vegetables and greens. It was this natural affinity she brought with her to Georgia College where she quickly joined the Gardening Club. She didn’t expect that her personal hobby could lead to her to being named one of Campus Compact’s 290 students making up the 2021-2022 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. 

“A lot of people are kind of surprised by that! I meet a lot of people who think, “Oh, she must be an environmental science major,” but none of the career paths I’m looking at are, I would say, inherently environmentally related,” Taylor says. For her, the Newman Civic Fellowship is about learning how sustainability filters throughout every facet of our lives. Gardening is just the fun part. 

The Newman Civic Fellowship selects leaders from Campus Compact member institutions, like Georgia College, who demonstrate creative ways of solving challenges facing communities locally, nationally, and internationally. Taylor has been the president of the Gardening Club for a couple of years now, running an active group of around 20 people and a rotating interest group of about 40. 

Savannah Taylor with the edible garden planters outside the Ina Dillard Russell Library
Savannah Taylor with the edible garden planters outside the Ina Dillard Russell Library

Since the pandemic, she’s seen a rapid spike in interest from students in sustainability.“COVID has shed some light on this, as you know; people come to college, especially their freshman year, and they’re going through all these changes. I think so many people come out to my work days and discover how relaxing gardening can be.” 

In addition to the meditative effects of gardening, the pandemic has led to more students understanding the need for environmental accountability and awareness. “We’re a very lucky organization for the pandemic because most of the work we do is outside,” Taylor says, “so in terms of continuing our normal workdays, we’ve limited capacity and people wear masks, but other than that it hasn’t been a huge roadblock.” 

Through gardening, Taylor was introduced to the Georgia College Office of Sustainability where she now works part-time while pursuing majors vastly divergent from that kind of work. “I think we all get in these bubble of like, ‘this is what I’m doing and this is my concentration’. We get focused on the work that we do, but it’s really cool to step outside of that and say, ‘oh, what I’m doing is really important, but what they’re doing is also really cool and important!” 

Through pursuing these creative connections between academic disciplines, Taylor reached out to professors Marianna Stoyanova and Aurora Castillo-Scott for guidance on a paper about the impact of drug operations on the Columbian lexicon, which she was later invited to present at the 24th annual Conference on the Americas and was awarded a certificate of recognition. This divergence of ideas is exactly what the Newman Civic Fellowship looks to promote. 

The experience of the last year has driven home to all of us that we need open-minded, innovative, public-spirited thinkers and doers. That is what Campus Compact is about, and the stories of our Newman Civic Fellows demonstrate it’s who they are.
– Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn

 

“The experience of the last year has driven home to all of us that we need open-minded, innovative, public-spirited thinkers and doers. That is what Campus Compact is about, and the stories of our Newman Civic Fellows demonstrate it’s who they are,” says Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn. Although much of the current fellowship is virtual, Taylor expects that there will be opportunities for in-person events later this year. For the time being, she’s happy about the exchange of ideas she’s been getting from other fellows within the cohort, “There was one woman on there who was saying that she used to be in the military and afterward went to college so she’s now doing work that’s a kind of bridge between the two. That was really interesting, just all kinds of branches of civic work and a lot of issues that you wouldn’t normally see.”  

More than the accolades and accomplishments, Taylor enjoys filling her life with endeavors that leave her feeling complete at the end of the day. Beyond the Newman Civic Fellowship, she won’t be surprised to find herself doing international or domestic work, nonprofit or concentrated organizations. Savannah Taylor proves that there really are no limits when you think outside of the gardening planter. 

Savannah Taylor
Savannah Taylor