By Jason Wesseldyk
ALLENDALE—Each year, Grand Valley State University honors one undergraduate student and one graduate student in each academic major with an Excellence in Discipline Award.
An Otsego High School graduate was among this year’s recipients.
Anna Watson, who graduated from OHS in 2018, was given the Excellence in Discipline Award for Environment and Sustainability Studies.
Faculty from each department select the award recipient for their academic major.
“I tried to get to know the faculty in my program best I could, especially a few professors who taught class subjects I am truly passionate about,” Watson said. “So, when I learned that it was a nomination and selection process based on faculty opinion, it meant even more to me that I would be receiving the award.
“I was very glad to learn the professors thought I had made enough of an impression to be selected for this honor.”
Watson’s interest in the environment began at a young age, as her family spent a lot of time outdoors.
“Whether it was swimming in Lake Michigan, camping or visiting national parks, we were always outside,” Watson said. “So, I grew up caring about the environment, and especially admiring all of the beautiful waters Michigan has to offer.”
Still, pursing a career in the natural sciences wasn’t in her plans when Watson started at GVSU. Rather, she intended to study nursing.
But it didn’t take her long to realize she wasn’t passionate enough about the medical field to continue down that path.
“I struggled for a time freshman year with making a decision on the major that I wanted to pursue,” she said. “While doing some soul searching spring semester, I was taking a general education requirement course called (Dis)order and (In)justice, which dealt with global issues.
“One topic we covered thoroughly was pollution and that unit really tugged at my heart. We learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and so many other polluted areas globally. I decided that I had a passion for the natural environment and wanted to do what I could to protect it.”
In addition to the knowledge she’s gained in the classroom, Watson has also had the opportunity to gain some real-world experience to better understand her chosen field.
Last summer, she had an internship at the R.B. Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon. While there, she conducted her own research on conductivity and chloride levels in White Lake, as well as assisted with monitoring bacteria levels at public beaches throughout Muskegon County to ensure levels were safe for the public.
During her senior year, she worked as the Crane Foundation Endowed Water Fellow at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council in downtown Grand Rapids. In this position, she assisted with all water programs events, education and engagement and grant writing in addition to partnering with the West Side Clean-up to lead a stream clean-up around Earth Day.
Currently, Watson is working at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as a sustainability intern.
“In this role, I assist with the recycling efforts for the summer concert series,” she said. “We are also creating an environmental footprint report, as well as a sustainability plan for the organization.”
After graduation, Watson hopes to continue working in field of conservation, with a goal of owning her own greenhouse one day.
“I want to do my part in preserving our precious water resources and protect the environment,” she said. “I am unsure of exactly what God has in store for me next, but I am excited to see what the future will bring.”