Student Sustainability Journeys: Eli Brooks

As the end of the spring term draws to a close, we are celebrating the graduation of those seniors who are minoring in Environment and Sustainability (E&S). These students come from majors across the Institute. Below we share with you here an example of one student’s academic journey through the E&S Minor. 

Eli Brooks (Course 2, 2022) was attracted to the E&S Minor for two primary reasons. First, he had always wanted to “do better through engineering.” Second, he wanted to make sure that if he had the opportunity to take classes outside of his major and GIRs, that it wasn’t a random collection of classes, but rather a collection of classes that were all of interest to him. 

Eli’s roadmap though the E&S Minor included five classes:

  • 12.387 / 15.874 / IDS.063[J] People and the Planet: Environmental Governance and Science
  • 1.005 Tools for Sustainable Design
  • EC.715 D-Lab: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
  • 4.411 / EC.713 D-Lab Schools: Building Technology Laboratory
  • 11.002 Making Public Policy

Looking back, he sees that the combination in pairs of People and the Planet and Tools for Sustainable Design melded well with the two D-Lab classes. The former two classes provided over-achieving views and frameworks, whereas the latter two were oriented towards more hands-on projects “implementing ideas in reality and in a foreign country. Confronted with a real-life situation, how do you ensure that something is sustainable?” As he explained,

“What I ended up with was a ground-level view and then this much broader view in the combination of all of these classes. This is how they all connected. There were two sides. One was more of an in-person, ground level (you are doing something in this other place), and then the other side was broader, like how can you be an engineer and be sustainable, and what does sustainability mean in the context of engineering now?”

One of Eli’s primary regrets was that he did not find this passion until later in his MIT career. He started classes for the E&S Minor in his junior year, and he laments that he has had to squeeze many of the classes into his senior year, “I’m not going to have an opportunity to expand on the learning I’ve had. I realized too late that I enjoy it. It would have been nice to have some time after finding this passion.” 

Eli is thankful that he did the E&S Minor because, as he said, “it allowed me to take classes that I would have otherwise never taken… like Tools for Sustainable Design, which was one of my favorite classes. I definitely learned a lot about climate change, and also about larger issues in the world. I don’t want to just live in this (privileged) bubble. I learned a lot more about what is really happening in, rather than just turning a blind eye.”