Our next staff spotlight features Program Manager Andrew Miller! After guiding backpacking and paddling programs in the Bay Area, Andrew took a detour to work in the entertainment industry before returning to environmental education with Cottonwood Institute in 2019. As CI’s Program Manager, he’s responsible for many of the logistics behind our field programs, from locations to risk management to making sure each trip has plenty of fruit snacks.
Read our other staff and board profiles here!
Why is environmental education important to you?
We have a dozen overlapping environmental crises occurring right now. These are huge, challenging problems that require creative responses on every level. That said, I believe one of the most impactful things we can do is also the one of the easiest and the most intuitive, and that’s getting young people connected to the natural world. It really doesn’t take much more than a night sleeping out under the stars to start creating that affinity for nature, and it just grows from there. I’m constantly amazed by our students’ creativity and determination in taking on environmental problems, and it motivates me to keep doing the work too.
Do you have a formative memory of when you learned to love the outdoors?
We went down to Joshua Tree for an outdoor ed program when I was in seventh grade, and on the second or third day we got caught in a freak snowstorm in the middle of the desert. I had been trying get out of that trip because I was terrified that something horrible was going to happen, and in that moment I really believed we were all going to freeze to death (at least I would have been right)! But then the instructors broke out a box of Snickers bars they had been hiding and we had a big dance party to stay warm in the snow, and it totally changed my perspective on what it meant to get outdoors. It wasn’t just a trial to survive, it could actually be something amazing. Seeing that once was really all it took.
How have you been staying connected to the outdoors during the lockdown?
I’ve gotten out camping a few times this summer and I’ve been psyching myself up to attempt my first 14er. I also sit on my porch and watch the neighborhood dogs go by while I work, which is sort of like being in nature.
What’s an unusual skill people might not know you have?
I can split an apple in half with my hands. It’s a great campfire party trick!
What’s your favorite snack to eat in the woods?
Hear me out—a sardine and cheese sandwich is the perfect lunch on trail. It’s delicious, eating fish makes you strong, and your breath will keep the bears away.
If you didn’t work for Cottonwood, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d go rescue my family dog from my parents’ house and we’d go travel the Wild West together.
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