Heart and mind

Name: Patrick Austin Freeland
Major: Ecological Sciences and Engineering (ESE)
Year: First-year doctoral student
Hometown: Okmulgee, Oklahoma

Wanting more: After high school, Patrick had a good job in a bindery. “One day, I finished a project cutting several-hundred-thousand covers. There was a momentary sense of satisfaction, then a fork truck dropped off another job. I had an epiphany — no matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t really accomplishing anything.” With his family’s support, Patrick went back to school and got his undergrad degree from Haskell Indian Nations University.

Path to a PhD: Patrick did research on climate change and energy in indigenous communities during an undergrad internship. A joint Haskell-Purdue class on multicultural, sustainable agriculture followed. “I was impressed by the faculty and facilities at Purdue. I’d never seen so much greenhouse space in my life. My advisor told me she wanted to change the world. I couldn’t agree more. I hope that my ESE degree will give me the tools to make that kind of positive difference.”

Impressions: “I look at people on campus and see two things. Every single person has an inspirational story about how they got here, and they are doing something amazing with their lives. Building solar-powered cars, designing monstrous bridges. There is incredible intellectual and social capital where you start to see people coming together.”

Big goals: Patrick dreams of helping establish a service-learning school of earth sciences at the College of Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma. “I want to integrate traditional Mvskoke values into the program.” He says the school could help a local town purify its contaminated soil. “We might study the chemical process that a certain grass uses to remove lead over time, and at the same time the students would also plant the grass.”

Two wings: Angaangaq, an Eskimo shaman and elder, says there is spirituality and emotion — things of the heart. There also is technology and education — the things of the mind. Each is like one wing, and it takes two wings to fly. “I could be out there working, making money; it would be easy, but I would be flying with one wing,” Patrick says. “That’s why I came to Purdue.”

By Susan Ferringer