Colorado Mountain College: Sustainability studies to sustainable jobs
Special to the Daily
EAGLE COUNTY — As diverse as we are, sustainability helps keep the world together.
Take Nikki Maline, Bailey Matthews and Mikayla Curtis, for instance.
They earned Colorado Mountain College sustainability degrees and now make their livings in energy and science education, solar and green building and providing youth with ongoing opportunities.
Sustainability, they said, links them all together.
“Our careers are all intertwined and connected,” said Maline.
Nikki Maline arrived in Eagle County from Nebraska in 1997 with an Associate of Arts degree from Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte. She had worked in real estate, but it felt more like a job than a career.
She spotted Colorado Mountain College’s bachelor’s degree in sustainability studies in Edwards, and set sail. She graduated last May.
“It was so perfect,” she said. “It made such sense to me.”
These days, Maline is the energy programs coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. She’s sort of an energy coach for individuals and businesses.
“I love my job,” Maline said. “It’s a totally different working environment than real estate. I can make a difference.”
Early education to solar energy
Bailey Matthews migrated to Eagle County from Nebraska. After earning her associate degree from Western Nebraska Community College, she came to Colorado and taught special education at Battle Mountain High School for seven years, while taking night classes at CMC.
“One of the things I liked about getting my degree with CMC’s sustainability program, was that there was no preaching,” Matthews said. “Mercedes (Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid) is brilliant. She teaches without judgment. She gives her students the power to decide.”
Possibly the best sustainable thing about Matthews’ sustainability degree is affordability.
“I was able to graduate without a huge student loan,” Matthews said.
Matthews is the solar project manager at Active Energies in Minturn, working with a team consulting, designing and building solar systems for residential and commercial projects.
And there’s another advantage.
“I can bring my dog to work,” she said with a smile.
Sustainability in all its forms
Mikayla Curtis already had two college degrees when she decided to study for a sustainability leadership certificate.
Curtis was born and raised here, and graduated Vail Christian High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound and her master’s degree in negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding from California State University, Dominquez Hills.
Because of her interest and past experience in family and youth development — she had overseen leadership development programs for SOS Outreach in Edwards, for example — Curtis was most interested in studying sustainable social science, such as food systems and cultural equity.
“The certificate program pieced together a little bit of everything,” Curtis said. “It relates to sustainable family structures, and what kind of priorities are needed for social equity.”
Curtis is the manager of strategic impact with Eagle River Youth Coalition in Edwards.