Student Profile: Samuel Rob '18

Sam Rob
Posted on January 30, 2018


Woodrow Wilson School, certificate in ENV and PLAS

How do you define sustainability?

As Dr. Shana Weber always emphasized during her class "Investigating an Ethos of Sustainability at Princeton," sustainability defies definition and for good reason- sustainable solutions should manifest differently in different contexts. As such I tend to also not think of sustainability as a state, but rather as a process that serves as an effective lens to tackle the unique challenges of modernity.  Unlike the environmental challenges of the 1970s, today's environmental issues, such as climate change, have forced us to take a broader approach to how we conceptualize the environment-- we can no longer exclude ourselves from environmental solutions. The human experience is central to the sustainability movement and this gives me so much hope for the future.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Campus Farming Initiative? 

In truth, the seed for working on establishing a campus farm at Princeton was sowed during my summers home from college spent volunteering for the Community Supported Agriculture program at Earth Spring organic farm in my hometown farming community of Boiling Springs, PA. I always envisioned Princeton using its vast tracts of land on the other side of Lake Carnegie to produce food for the University, but the project wasn't conceived until my junior year when I  took Dr. Weber's class, which inspired me to think about how Princeton can model solutions here on campus to global issues. Even in my short time at Princeton I had already witnessed the build up of considerable momentum  towards creating sustainable food systems here on campus by the student group Greening Dining, Princeton's Vertical Farming Project inaugurated by Dr. Paul Gauthier, the Princeton Garden Project, Rozalie Czezana and her work with Princeton Studies Food and of course the continuous efforts by Campus Dining. All of this inertia I felt had created a critical mass for Princeton to take a leap forward and start a student-run campus farm to sustainably produce food for the university. Given the important conversations in the administration about Princeton's plans for campus expansion in the near future, I also felt that it was the most salient time to reassess how Princeton is using its own undeveloped land, most of which is now under conventional agriculture. Employing Dickinson College's successful 50 acre campus farm as a model, I investigated how Princeton’s current conventional farmland could become a vital space in the university, not only to produce sustainable food, but also for students to engage with sustainability in a very real way. A campus farm would not only allow students to engage with the many issues facing sustainable food production on a practical level, experiencing how farmers work the land, but also immerse themselves in a wide range of  academic opportunities– engineers working on renewable energy projects to run the farm, art students enhancing the aesthetics of nature, foreign language classes studying agricultural vocabulary.  The vision of the campus farm as a common space to bring together many student groups engaged in environmental work is what  inspired me and has driven me to continue working on it with a group of other passionate students outside of the classroom. Together with the Princeton Vertical Farming Project I believe one day we can supply enough produce to feed the campus, but we have to start small and grow the project.

I'm also involved with the Princeton Environmetal Ideathon which will be a great platform to kickstart the project and I'm excited for those that will carry on the torch.

How has your leadership role shaped your experience at Princeton?

My leadership training in Princeton's Army ROTC program has greatly clarified my lifelong passion for environmental stewardship. Growing up the son of two Army officers and spending my childhood running around in the woods of the Army posts I lived at, the military and the environment have always been inextricably intertwined. Overtime I have clarified this connection in realizing that the sweeping sustainable solutions that we need to implement to combat climate change and other pressing environmental concerns relies on influencing people in the same way that the Army's complex mission set relies on people on the ground from all backgrounds coming together to accomplish the mission. In my experiences so far as an ROTC cadet I have had to create cohesive teams out of  diverse sets of peers and I see this work in team-building with America's Greatest Team as  crucial to the future leadership I hope to have with the environment. Although I initially struggled to reconcile my service in the Army with my passion for the environment, through engaging with sustainability and the central role it gives to people in environmental solutions, I came to understand that leading Soldiers in the Army will prepare me to later lead people towards sustainable solutions. As I will commission as an Army engineer this June, I hope to serve with the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a vital role in managing our nation's waterways, and pursue a career as a  water law attorney after my military service.