April 27, 2017

Teaming Up in D.C.

Many Guilford College alumni end up working together in communities across the United States, thanks to networking programs and shared interests and values. But Elizabeth Tyson ’08 and Anne Bowser ’08 have taken that to the extreme, sharing an office at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars through the Science and Technology Innovation Program.

At first the two seem like an unlikely coupling. Anne was a double major in psychology and German at Guilford. She went on to get a master’s in Information Science at the University of Maryland and then a PhD in Library and Information Studies with a focus on Human-Computer Interactions (HCI), also from the University of Maryland.

At Guilford, Elizabeth was a double major in religious studies and environmental studies. After Guilford she conducted field work in sea turtle conservation in Mexico and in agriculture across Guatemala and Honduras, followed by a stint as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Alaska. She then completed a dual master’s of science degree in natural resources conservation at Colorado State University and ECOSUR in Chiapas, Mexico. Eventually she moved to the San Francisco Bay area where she studied invasive plants, working with a citizen science program to create maps across the country.

Finding Common Ground

It was through citizen science, which is a partnership between amateur scientists and professionals, that Anne reconnected with Elizabeth.

“When I saw Elizabeth’s name on a listserv I immediately knew it was the same person I had gone to school with,” Anne says. “I knew someone from Guilford would be the type of person to find value in working with others to contribute to the greater good.”

Eventually, Elizabeth joined Anne at the Wilson Center. And together, they’ve been building capacity and bridges between grassroots communities and federal government communities to initiate and maintain citizen science projects in the U.S. and abroad. Through this work, one of their big-picture goals is to use citizen science as a tool to get more data and promote better decision-making around crucial environmental threats such as climate change.

An Inspiring Education

Both Elizabeth and Anne credit their time at Guilford for getting them where they are today.

“There were two classes that really made an impact on me,” Elizabeth says. “One was Reading Wilderness and the other was Magic, Science, Religion and the Modalities of Thought. Through those classes I found a new way of looking at the world, helping me understand knowledge is not relegated to the ivory tower. They also inspired my love of and reverence for the outdoors.”

For Anne, the whole of a liberal arts education made an impact on her.

“For me it was really about figuring out who I am and what I want to be,” she says. “I had a Guilford College bumper sticker on my car that said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ and I really took that to heart. I want my work to reflect the values I learned at Guilford.”