Audrey Lipps (Class of 2019)

photo of Audrey Lipps

  • junior double major in Individualized Studies and Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
  • self-designed major focused on environmental and social justice studies
  • from Oxford, OH
  • spent 8 months in Hawaii doing ethnographic research on food justice and sustainability (May-December 2016)
  • interned for Women Engaged for a Common Future in Utrecht, the Netherlands (January-July 2017)
"The Western Program, which is a key part of Miami's liberal arts, has enabled me to design not only my own major but also the kind of research I would need to conduct."

Why Miami?

"My dad is a staff member at Miami, so I was very lucky with my tuition and scholarships. Being from Oxford since high school, I spent a lot of time on campus growing up near campus, and a lot of my friends went on to Miami as well. I've actually been taking classes at Miami since I was a high school senior!

"During my first year I met a great group of people who were interested in a lot of the same things that I was, especially issues related to social justice. We all became members of organizations for marginalized students such as F-Word (Feminists Working on Real Democracy) and Spectrum, and my friends had a house that served as a cool safe space for those of us who didn't necessarily fit into the classic mold. During this time I also began getting a feel for the Western Program and its Individualized Studies major."

Best Miami Experiences

"I could talk about the Western Program all the time! It's so interdisciplinary, and I love how the professors really let you decide how your education is going to be formed. I chose my major there during my freshman year, took some classes, and got the feel for being more in control of my major and the classes I take. We put our major into categories, figure out how to title it, and determine the sort of research and different disciplines we need to create something that feels super meaningful.

Audrey Lipps takes in the sunset at Hapuna Beach, Hawaii.

"I started at Miami planning to major in English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, but Western gave me a broader perspective of my interests. I was able to pick and choose from so many different fields: anthropology, sociology, social justice, environmental science, sustainability — all of which were very important to me. Without creating my own major, with its focus on environmental and social justice studies, I wouldn't have been able to graduate on time!

"As part of my ethnographic research project for my major, last year I went to Hawaii for 8 months (from May to December). I'd chosen Hawaii because I spent the summer before my freshman year there working and living on an organic sustainable farm. With the help of Jacqueline Daugherty, my Western Program advisor, I designed my own syllabus. Professor Daugherty was amazing in helping me put together reading lists and figuring out what exactly I would do while there. We designed my research questions on food justice and sustainability and determined how I would conduct interviews and create field journals. I'm now in the process of writing the final manuscript to present to different food conferences.

"After returning from Hawaii this past December, one week later I traveled to the Netherlands to work in the city of Utrecht for a non-profit organization called Women Engaged for a Common Future (WECF). WECF partners with the United Nations and the European Union to work on sustainability issues, such as clean water, that prioritize women. As an intern, I was able to learn about issues related to international policy and water development and sustainability, all in a global context. We created awareness for different conferences where women would be presenting on different issues.

"In addition to Jacqueline Daugherty, associate professor Ann Fuehrer from the Department of Global & Intercultural Studies helped me with just about everything related to my trip to the Netherlands, including immigration issues and the kinds of challenges we may go through while living and working abroad."

Miami and Liberal Arts Education

Audrey Lipps (right) and a friend at the Pride Parade in Utrecht, Netherlands

"Being a liberal arts major has let me explore different areas of many different disciplines, not only through Western but also through the requirements of the College of Arts and Science as well as the Miami Plan. A geology class, for example, helped me with my interests in environmentalism, understanding how weather patterns work and how they relate to social issues, especially when I was in Hawaii. It was a course I took begrudgingly but ended up finding extremely interesting and useful.

"The Western Program, which is a key part of Miami's liberal arts, has enabled me to design not only my own major but also the kind of research I would need to conduct. In August 2015 I started looking at locations to work and people to interview, with Dr. Daugherty and others in the Western Program saying, 'We're here for you and want to cater to your learning experience.' There were certain required classes, of course, but also classes I chose on my own and others that I took in both Hawaii and the Netherlands — including some that didn't involve sitting in a classroom!

"Having this hands-on research experience is really beneficial for the path that I want to take, which will have something to do with environmentalism, sustainability, and social issues. I definitely want to go to grad school, and as I begin my applications I'm also hoping to publish my ethnographic research paper. I'm sure my involvement in two very different kinds of communities in Hawaii and the Netherlands will also help my applications, and they've provided me with a broader view of the different issues that I'm interested in."

Food Justice and Sovereignty Issues in Hawaii

Watch Audrey discuss her ethnographic research experiences in Hawaii.

A Completely Different Culture Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Everyone should check out a class in the Western Program and see how they like it. It's very different from the general Miami experience! The professors are very open, honest, and flexible, which is crucial because you really need to be motivated to be a Western major. You don't have the explicit structure and guidelines that many other Miami majors give, but you can really build on any sort of major or discipline that you want.

"You just need to know what you want to do and create that yourself. Take a Western class and see how you feel about it. I always leave my classes feeling empowered, ready to do something else!"

[November 2017]