Molly Hoffman ’24 champions public service, environmental sustainability at Gettysburg

Molly Hoffman ’24
Molly Hoffman ’24

Molly Hoffman ’24 remembers making her first connection with Gettysburg College virtually from her home in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. The COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020 forced Gettysburg’s popular in-person Get Acquainted Day online.

Despite being unable to be on campus, Hoffman made the most of Zoom to participate in this event for accepted students, interact with campus groups and organizations, and meet Gettysburg students and professors. These interactions led her to discover Gettysburg’s Center for Public Service (CPS), Sunderman Conservatory of Music, Eisenhower Institute (EI), and Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC).

“Other schools I looked at had similar small class sizes as Gettysburg, subjects I wanted to major in, and clubs,” she said, “but these programs stood out to me. I knew I would be able to participate in them and do the things I would want to do and love doing.”

Hoffman liked the broad array of programs, the ability to dual major in environmental studies and public policy and minor in Spanish and music, and the opportunities to perform as a vocalist in the Jazz Combo and sing in the Concert Choir. At Gettysburg College, Hoffman found everything she knew that she wanted from her undergraduate college education.

Exploring environmental impacts with experiential learning

Hoffman said that becoming an environmental studies major fulfilled a deep curiosity for and desire to Do Great Work in this field.

“I’ve been really lucky to find a focus here on public lands with Environmental Studies Prof. Randy Wilson,” she said. “I feel grateful that he’s here and that I’ve been able to learn from him. His research focus aligns with mine, and he’s been a great mentor for me. His environmental policy class was my favorite class I’ve taken.”

“Molly cares deeply about environmental issues and how they can impact the health and well-being of local communities, especially those that have been historically marginalized,” Wilson said. “It has been an honor to work with her on her Environmental Studies senior honors thesis, which examines efforts to recognize the long history of Indigenous people as inhabitants of the lands comprising Yellowstone National Park and to formally re-establish their role as caretakers through new bison management programs. Molly and I will be presenting this research in April at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, which granted Molly a special student travel award to attend. I have no doubt that Molly is destined to make a profound and positive impact on environmental policy matters once she leaves Gettysburg.”

Complementing her coursework, the CPS enabled her to identify volunteer opportunities that fit her interests in environmental studies. CPS Director Jeff Rioux helped Hoffman discover how she could get involved at Gettysburg. These experiences included hands-on work with the CPS through the Painted Turtle Farm, the Farmhouse, and the community garden at the historic Sherfy House at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Molly Hoffman holds a painted turtle
Molly Hoffman delights in discovering a painted turtle on Red Rock Road in Gettysburg while interning for the Land Conservancy of Adams County.

A summer 2022 internship between her sophomore and junior years with the Land Conservancy of Adams County further allowed Hoffman to apply her communication, leadership, and project management skills to the real-world work of this nonprofit serving Adams County, Pennsylvania.

When Rioux approached Hoffman with the offer to transition her involvement with the CPS to a program coordinator position with oversight for campus sustainability, Hoffman accepted wholeheartedly. She serves on Gettysburg’s Climate Change and Sustainability Advisory Committee and the Student Sustainability Coalition as a representative of CPS.

“I’ve been able to delve into campus sustainability, with the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) report and on-campus policies and programs to see what we’re doing now and where we can improve,” said Hoffman, whose work involves educating students about campus sustainability initiatives and connecting students with environmental volunteer opportunities. “When I envision the future, I envision a sustainable future.”

Molly Hoffman ’24 in Costa Rica
Molly Hoffman ’24 learns to make tamales with members of the Borucca-Bribri Indigenous community during a Center for Public Service Immersion Project in Costa Rica in January 2024.

The CPS also introduced Hoffman to a breadth and depth of knowledge and experiences, allowing her to build enduring skills for future work in environmental studies. During her sophomore year, she studied the Lakota culture by participating in a CPS Immersion Project. Inspired by this experience, Hoffman then applied to become an Immersion Project leader in Costa Rica during the 2024 winter break.

“I always thought it would be so cool to somehow combine my environmental studies, public policy, and Spanish interest areas,” she said. “It was nice to have it develop into a leadership role and practice being a leader and learning about leadership. We had a great group of students. We learned from great speakers and community partners in Costa Rica about policies and programs they’ve already done to conserve their environment.”

In addition to honing hands-on leadership skills through the CPS Immersion Project, Hoffman also used her courses at Gettysburg College to develop her communication and teamwork skills, learning to share information with and collaborate with various people.

“Teamwork has also been a big thing I’ve learned,” she said. “Group work can be scary and uncomfortable at first, but through collaborating with community partners through CPS and working with staff, administration, and students, I’ve discovered how to work to bring people together toward a common goal.”

“When I envision the future, I envision a sustainable future.”
Molly Hoffman ’24

Molly Hoffman
Molly Hoffman ’24

‘Make your own opportunity and carve your own path’

As she looks to Commencement and beyond, Hoffman hopes to secure a position in environmental policy for either the Pennsylvania state or federal government focusing on public lands or a nonprofit that embraces environmental sustainability.

For Hoffman and many Gettysburg students, Gettysburg’s community fosters mentorships that support and nurture the whole student. Just as Hoffman counts individuals such as Wilson, Rioux, and CPS Associate Director Brenda Reyes-Lua among her mentors, she believes many of her classmates will look back upon their Gettysburg College experience with gratitude and express their thanks to the people who helped them during their undergraduate journey here.

“I feel so many students have found that one professor or staff member who has taken them under their wings,” she said. “There are so many programs at Gettysburg that are so well-established that students can get involved in and many great connections that the College has with other organizations. Beyond that, it’s easy to make your own opportunity and carve your own path. If you don’t see something you want, you can create that here.”

Visit Gettysburg College and learn more about how A Consequential Education prepares our students for a lifetime of personal and professional achievement.

By Michael Vyskocil
Photos by Diptiman Das ’27; additional photos provided by Molly Hoffman ’24
Posted: 03/04/24