As soon as Steve Hash got word he’d been tasked with presenting his company’s work at a conference in Western Massachusetts, the Littleton, Colo., resident was sure of at least one stop he’d have to make while in New England.
Hash, a graduate of Colby-Sawyer’s Class of 2007, said he last visited campus about five years ago — shortly before the birth of his first child. But for him, making the two-and-a-half hour, 115-mile trek to New London, N.H., was a no-brainer.
So with his presentation in the books and only a handful of hours before his flight home, the former environmental studies major hopped into his rental car and headed north.
“Colby-Sawyer was a huge part of my life,” said Hash, sitting in the Thornton Living Room after a brief tour of campus and visit with some of his former professors. “I spent four years of my life here. You meet a lot of people, develop a lot of memories. So whenever I’m in the area, I really try to make an effort to come up to visit.”
Not only did Hash meet his wife of eight years, Katie (Srednicki) ’06, on campus, but it’s also where he realized his love for the environment. And now, with a career as a project engineer for an environmental consulting firm servicing Fortune 125 aerospace engineering and petroleum companies, Hash is quick to give credit to the people — and places — that made it all possible.
Hash said one of his favorite professors at Colby-Sawyer was Laura Sykes, his academic advisor, and now academic vice president and dean of faculty. Hash said he took several courses with Sykes as part of his major, though one his most memorable classes with her – Desert Communities – was actually an elective. The class, which Hash took during his first year, culminated with a one-week camping trip in the Sonoran Desert outside Tucson, Ariz.
“It was my first time on a plane, which was terrifying, but a great experience all around,” said Hash, adding that he still hates flying. “Laura inspires me to this day to be a lifelong learner. I try and stay in touch with her and we still talk pretty frequently, whether through email or whatever, and I make it a point to visit her whenever I’m around.”
Sykes said Hash was an extremely diligent student, who would often work on assignments listed on the course syllabus well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately for Hash, this practice didn’t always pay off, like on one occasion when midway through the semester, Sykes eliminated an assignment that still wasn’t due for a number of weeks.
“It’s been exciting and rewarding to watch his progress as he’s been given more responsibility, been promoted in the firm, and started a family,” Sykes said. “I am so proud of how successful he’s been in his career, and I’m thrilled to remain a part of his life. It makes my whole day when I find an email from him in my inbox.”
Hash arrived on campus as an undeclared student, but through courses like Desert Communities and White Mountain History, it wasn’t long before his passion for the outdoors pushed him toward a major in environmental studies.
Soon after graduating, Hash landed a job as a staff-level scientist at Orion Environmental, Inc., out of Long Beach, Calif., where he quickly fell in love with his position. And in an effort to further his career, Hash decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in engineering — something he said he never thought would be in the cards while an undergrad. Still, Hash credits Colby-Sawyer for helping him develop the discipline necessary to advance his education.
“I think coming to Colby-Sawyer definitely helped me understand the importance of maintaining accountability with your academics, which in turned really prepared me for grad school,” Hash said. “There’s not a lot of room to hide. The small class sizes were great, which for me really helped me just stay on track and develop the discipline necessary to pursue a graduate degree.”
Hash also credited the college’s dedication to a liberal arts core for giving him the skills outside his major necessary to succeed. Because as important as soil and groundwater remediation is — the process of removing, destroying or transforming pollutants — the ability to communicate his team’s work to clients is perhaps most paramount.
“There are a lot of stakeholders on the projects we work on, so you really need to be able to communicate clearly the work that you’re doing,” said Hash, who manages a team of six people. “It’s important to understand different perspectives and to be mindful of those perspectives, and I think the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum at Colby-Sawyer in general just really prepared me for the real world.”
Hash said he would absolutely recommend environmental studies as a major to students like himself who entered Colby-Sawyer undeclared, and cited professors like Sykes and Leon-C Malan in the School of Arts & Sciences as being truly inspirational.
If nothing else, Hash said that in today’s climate, the environment is simply a good area to direct your passion.
“The environment is a hot topic right now, so I think it’s really a great industry to get into on a lot of levels,” Hash said. “From a professional development standpoint, there are a lot of opportunities, but I think it’s also just a good cause to get behind.”