Michael Rossi, ‘16, has never been a stranger to the woods. A lifelong Boy Scout, Rossi spent his childhood exploring the forests, rivers, mountains and shores of Massachusetts, pitching tents among fallen leaves and enjoying the dance of camp fire light on warm summer nights.
Rossi’s time scouting eventually became a solid basis for an interest in environmental affairs — and then, during his senior year of high school, he watched a family member struggle and persevere during a run for state representative, ultimately defeating a 14-year incumbent.
“Those two things really inspired me to find a program that linked the environment and public policy. And with the Environmental Policy, Law and Society major, Unity really had the whole package,” Rossi said.
What Rossi found on arrival at Unity College was more than he could have ever dreamed. He reminisced about the success of Unity’s five-day adventure-based orientation trip, Nova, in setting a foundation for friendships and relationship-building across his entire class year. While he was at Unity, Rossi took advantage of every opportunity, becoming the vice president of student government association, working as the chairman of the Committee for Student Success, and even working in the marketing department, among other things.
“I did everything you could think of while I was there,” he said. “I fell in love with the community aspect and seeing how students from different majors and perspectives can come together on the basis of sustainability.”
Unity also offered Rossi many opportunities for advocacy, such as when he joined a group of students traveling to the People’s Climate March in New York City. He also got to work with Maine legislature, at one point actually attending and speaking at a hearing with President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury.
“There were lots of opportunities at Unity to take part in advocacy. I mean, we’re the leader on a lot of sustainability and environmental issues,” he said. “I think being part of an institution that took the lead on environmental issues helped me feel more comfortable transitioning to other, larger institutions. Unity really made me feel like I can make a difference.”
“I don’t think I’d ever want to imagine my life without Unity. I feel like I had more opportunities to find myself there than I would have had elsewhere.”
Even though he hasn’t been off Unity campus that long, Rossi is already putting his Environmental Policy, Law and Society degree to good use. Since graduating last December, Rossi has been working with the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action fund (ELM) to create a database of elected officials at every level of state government in every town across the state to help increase the political and advocacy activity of Massachusetts residents who care about the environment. Rossi is also helping the ELM specifically mobilize voters in Massachusetts Congressman William Keating’s district after Keating filed a bill involving a local land dispute between Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and the town of Chatham.
Once the fall comes and the leaves start to turn across New England, Rossi is heading to graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to start a Master’s in Sustainability Science. Unity was the main factor in deciding to go that route, he said.
“You go through school around some of the best sustainability initiatives in the country, and see it worked into subjects like English and Math. This graduate program is really taking the next step for me to be able to work with nonprofits and government agencies in this industry,” Rossi said. “Ideally, someday I’d like to work with a nonprofit organization. Something like the Environmental League. An advocacy group in Massachusetts. That’s my dream job.”