Recent grads envision expansion of prairie lands on campus | Earlham College
COVID-19 news, plans and updates | READ MORE
Skip to Content

Recent grads envision expansion of prairie lands on campus

August 27, 2019

A senior capstone project by three recent Earlham graduates aims to increase the biodiversity on campus and save the College thousands of dollars in annual maintenance costs. Pictured from left: Karen Mager, Evelyn Barragan, Brenna Hellman and Lydia Evans.A senior capstone project by three recent Earlham graduates aims to increase the biodiversity on campus and save the College thousands of dollars in annual maintenance costs.

Brenna Hellman, Evelyn Barragan and Lydia Evans graduated from Earlham in May but not before submitting a proposal to transform up to seven acres of campus-owned land into prairies.

“We liked this project in particular because it met a number of different goals we had to increase both the biodiversity on campus and also the number of resources available for people to engage with the land,” says Evans, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Environmental Studies and Psychology in May. “We wanted a project where we could start from scratch.”

“We didn’t know anything about installing, caring for or maintaining prairies,” added Barragan, an Environmental Sustainability graduate from Chicago, Illinois. “We just knew we wanted to make a difference on campus.”

During the spring semester, the students worked in close collaboration with Director of Facilities Ian Smith, faculty from the College’s Natural Science Division and a number of community partners to better understand the needs of the project. Assistant Professor of Environmental Sustainability Karen Mager was the team’s faculty adviser.

A key component of the team’s work was to draft applications to secure start-up funding from state and federal resources, but funding has yet to be secured for the project. The team is also looking at a cost-share collaboration with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and have received favorable feedback about their proposal.

“Everyone we have worked with has been very enthusiastic about our project,” says Hellman, an Environmental Science and Biology graduate from Albion, Michigan. “We think this project has real potential for adding different plants and flowers to campus. This project can also bring in more pollinators like insects, birds and other animals that are common in prairie habitats.”

Perhaps the best part, the team says, is the potential for the project to pay for itself in three to four years and save the College money thereafter. College officials estimate that it costs $40,000 every 10 years to maintain the targeted acreage.

Future students with an interest in environmental sustainability will continue work to complete the project.

This senior capstone is the latest in a series of team-based projects that are a hallmark of the College’s Department of Environmental Sustainability.  Previous capstone projects resulted in the construction of the area’s first purpose-built playground for children of all abilities, as well as a separate playground as part of an updated master plan for Richmond’s Middlefork Reservoir.

Related Links:

Projects such as these are encouraged by Earlham’s EPIC initiative, a four-year journey through the liberal arts that integrates the academic major with transformative learning experiences, including research, study abroad, internships, and leadership development, to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond Earlham.

The EPIC Advantage — the offer of up to $5,000 funding in support of an internship, research experience, or project — provides a level of support that few institutions in the country can offer.

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. We rank 7th nationally by Princeton Review for Best Classroom Experience and 22nd by U.S. News and World Report for commitment to undergraduate teaching.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


Print Friendly and PDF