Panther Profile - Junior Katharine Fortin

Panther Profile - Junior Katharine Fortin

Katharine Fortin is a three-year contributor for the Middlebury women’s golf team. She posted four top-10 individual finishes this year in seven tournaments, including medalist honors in the season-opening Utica Invitational in September. An environmental chemistry and chemistry dual major from Wellesley, Massachusetts, the junior has been playing the game she loves since her first year at Wellesley High School.

In this edition of Panther Profile, she talks about her path to Middlebury, her summer plans and her interest in regenerative agriculture.

Why did you choose Middlebury?
Middlebury stood out among the NESCAC and northeastern schools that I was looking at, as it boasted the perfect balance among academics, sports and social life. I liked the culture at Middlebury a lot. Many students spending face time with each other (not focused on their phones) and being active in outdoor activities and campus organizations, while keeping up with a rigorous class schedule. It’s also a beautiful campus in a down-to-earth town.

I actually heard about Middlebury very late in the application process as a senior in high school. I used to think I would never go to school north of Massachusetts, but I’m so glad that I did!

What other activities do you participate in at Middlebury?
I am an active member of Sunday Night Environmental Group, the umbrella group for environmental activism and awareness on campus. I am also the treasurer for Chromatic Arts Social House. I spend most of my energy on bettering our house community, planning events and making sure things are running smoothly in the house. You can find me in the Chromatic relaxation room we have nicknamed the “jam room” year-round, by the fireplace in the winter, or out on the lawn playing catch with friends when the sun is shining. 

How have you balanced your academic class load with your athletic schedule?
I see practice as an enjoyable break from the hours I spend in Bicentennial Hall learning chemistry. I love being on the golf course, especially when we’re competing in tournaments. Traveling all weekend for tournaments proves difficult when there isn’t a large amount of focused down time for homework. I take advantage of the Monday-Friday grind so that when the weekend comes, all I have to think about is golf.

What do you have planned for this summer?
This summer, I will be staying at Middlebury to do research with my advisor, Molly Costanza-Robison, on the contaminant uptake of organoclays. Simply put, I will be chemically modifying microscopic clay particles to better adsorb chemicals that pollute our water sources.

You had mentioned your passion for the environment and weather since you were six years old. What sparked that interest?
I can't tell you what sparked my interest, but I did (and still do) think thunderstorms were the coolest thing on earth and I used to watch the Weather Channel's Storm Chasers show on repeat. 

What interests you about the role that regenerative agriculture has in climate change, in our food systems, in the future of our nation as well as our world?
In a time of political turmoil, a divided country, and the threat of environmental degradation, everyone will agree that food is vital to our survival no matter what their affiliations. Regenerative agriculture is an approach that focuses on replenishing the soil’s carbon, nutrients and microbes without synthetic chemical inputs. Healthy soil produces healthy food and consequently, healthy people. It has the ability to mend multiple dangers lurking in our country and world by taking carbon out of the atmosphere and hopefully starting to reverse the trend of global warming.

Meanwhile, regenerative agriculture can produce fresh and healthy food that can feed the country (surplus food does not all have to be produced by big agriculture with high chemical inputs). However, distribution and access to this food begs serious attention and our current national food system needs a complete overhaul if healthy food is to reach everyone. The system we are using is currently not working. Climate change will continue to threaten us (and agriculture) as long as we keep business-as-usual. The biggest effects will come from a change in lifestyle of each individual to produce less waste (at least 30% of recycling products become waste, so I suggest reusing and repurposing) and leave the smallest carbon footprint (live small and thoughtfully).