As the director of annual giving at the Philadelphia Zoo, Robin (Respicio) Folkerts '98 combines her love of nature with her Christian call to conservation, a responsibility she cultivated as an environmental science major at Messiah.
While at Messiah, environmental science major Robin (Respicio) Folkerts ’98 served as president of Earthkeepers and helped to purchase recycling bins for campus apartment buildings with a grant from Target Earth, a Christian non-profit environmental organization. She also participated in a lobby training conference and met with one of her local representatives to discuss her concerns about the weakening of the Endangered Species Act.
“I sat down with him and read Bible verses [in which] God calls us to care for his Creation,” she says. “Weeks later, I read that this representative supported legislation to strengthen the Endangered Species Act. All of these activities taught me that one person can make a difference,” says Folkerts. She is currently employed by the Philadelphia Zoo as the director of annual giving and finds much satisfaction in building relationships with donors who support the zoo’s conservation efforts.
Other alumni of Messiah College have gone on to integrate environmental stewardship into their vocational pursuits. Upon graduation from Messiah College, biology and environmental science major Nicole Rossbach ’99 pursued a master’s degree in environmental policy at Tufts University in Boston. She is now working as an environmental protection specialist, which involves preparing environmental assessments for federal projects.
For Kristoffer Gontkovsky '99, his time as an environmental science major at Messiah College led to a career working for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Gontkovsky helps to ensure that local industries meet proper environmental and human health standards.
Rossbach credits the environmental program at Messiah College with helping her to become more aware of the responsibility of Christians to be good stewards of the environment. “My time at Messiah challenged my mind and my faith and led me to pursue a career working for the environment,” she says.
Kristoffer Gontkovsky graduated in December 1999 with a degree in environmental science. He now works for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. By enforcing federal, state, and local laws, he ensures that local industry has as little negative impact as possible on the environment and human health. “My time at Messiah gave a purpose to stewardship,” he says. “If God did bring to light all that is, then our calling is not just about protecting everyone’s right to hug a tree. It becomes consistent with how we view all that God declared ‘good.’”
Messiah’s mission is to educate students in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society. When it comes to caring for the environment, Messiah College is doing just that. In their day-to-day lives, these alumni carry the College’s commitment to stewardship into the surrounding community. They model what the Creation care movement seeks to communicate: faith in action. “Tell other people about Christ,” says Sheldon. “At the same time, show them what it means to be a disciple. Part of that means taking care of God’s Creation.”
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