Spotlight on a Westie: Cindy Abrams

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Cindy Abrams

Class of 2020, Environmental Studies—Politics

Portland, OR

Favorite Campsite: Stanley Crawford’s Home in Dixon, NM

Plenty happened on the night of November 8th, 2016. For one, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. For another, at Saint Andrews University in Scotland, Cindy Abrams’ New Zealander friend was laughing and joking at what had transpired across the Atlantic in America. Feeling “demoralized and powerless,” Cindy decided to repurpose her life. After leaving the US to study international relations in a foreign nation far from home, with few intentions of ever returning home, she started thinking about how to make an impact domestically, rather than internationally.

That new direction eventually took Cindy to Whitman College as a transfer student. An early interest in environmental politics convinced her to apply for Semester in the West, but a Spring Break service trip to the Navajo Reservation showed that her voice belongs in the American West. The student group’s Navajo hosts pleaded with students to call attention to ongoing pollution issues in the area related to a coal mine, saying, “We want our voices to be heard and echoed by you.”

Taking this plea to heart, Cindy has dedicated her time on Semester in the West to finding her own voice as a writer. Through the Epiphany writing assignments and writing workshops with guest authors, Cindy has rediscovered story telling as a creative outlet. Writing for journalist Ben Goldfarb, she realized that until then, she “hadn’t had fun writing in ten years.” The further away from traditional academic writing the assignment got, the more fun she had. In the midst of one of poet Ann Walka’s creative writing sessions, Cindy remembers, “I didn’t want to stop.”

Cindy sees this newfound interest leading to a career in publishing or environmental journalism. Goldfarb’s description of life as a journalist was particularly captivating: conducting interviews, traveling to the issues, and talking to someone new every day. In short, exactly what she’s done on Semester in the West.

By Mitch Cutter

Photos by James Baker and Juan Pablo Liendo