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PLU Senior Elana Tracy on her (three!) study away experiences, learning during COVID, and plans for graduate school

PLU Senior Elana Tracy on her (three!) study away experiences, learning during COVID, and plans for graduate school

Posted by:
May 4, 2021
By Ernest Jasmin
PLU Marketing and Communications Guest Writer

Senior Elana Tracy ‘21 has mixed feelings now that her studies at Pacific Lutheran University are coming to an end. On the one hand, PLU allowed her to discover a passion for global studies while studying abroad in Great Britain; but on the other, she won’t miss learning in the Age of Coronavirus.

“I’m now in my third semester of virtual learning,” said Tracy, who will graduate in May. ”The thing about PLU that I value the most is the accessibility of creating relationships with professors, staff members and other students. That has just really been lacking because of COVID.

“I can’t go to office hours easily, and you don’t see people in passing; and so, that community aspect is definitely missing.”

Tracy chose to attend PLU out of the six colleges that accepted her. The Las Vegas native initially wanted to attend a bigger school, but she saw the promise of a more intimate liberal arts setting after a tour of campuses in the Pacific Northwest.

“Everyone told me that the rain was really going to get to me, but in Vegas everyone gets excited when it rains,” she said. “I was more surprised to hear some of the jargon that is different from what I’m used to. This is super niche, but have you ever heard of jojos?”

Tracy is part of PLU’s international honors program and is a double major in environmental studies and global studies with a concentration in development and social justice. She’s served as an ambassador for the PLU Office of Admission. She was a standout pupil in Associate Professor of Philosophy Sergia Hay’s recent courses on environmental studies and environmental ethics.

“She’s brilliant, committed to equity, curious about big problems and their potential solutions, and she has a good sense of humor,” Hay said. “She has really embraced her PLU experience by seeking mentors, enjoying the interplay of ideas and methodologies offered by the liberal arts, and approaching her work with a sense of purpose that is future-directed.”

Hay’s ethics course was held in the North Cascades town of Holden Village, one of three opportunities that Tracy has had to learn away from campus. She also spent J-Term of her freshman year in Neah Bay; and, in 2019, she got to spend a semester studying abroad at Oxford University.

“It was really incredible,” she recalled. “We did an intensive course with PLU professors from February to about April. The core curriculum was on rationalism and faith. Then we did our general Oxford tutorials for two months, and those were a lot more independently driven.

“My primary tutorial was eight weeks long,” she said, “and that was a one-on-one tutorial with an Oxford tutor, and I got to design my own topic. It challenged me to pursue new interests in a totally different place; and, for that, I am forever grateful.”

Tracy attended the university’s OxPeace Conference, which nearly led to more study abroad. It inspired her to apply for PLU’s Peace Scholars Program, for which only a handful of PLU students are chosen each year. She was accepted and prepared to join scholars from other universities for seven weeks in Norway.

Then COVID-19 happened. “Although the program was virtual,” Tracy said, “I was able to go through dialogue facilitator and participant training, take courses on peace and conflict studies, and engage with a cohort of 11 scholars from other universities.”

Tracy was recently accepted into masters programs at the University of Washington and Columbia University. She chose UW where she will pursue a Master of Public Administration degree with an emphasis on environmental policy. She also hopes to get involved in research conducted by the UW Climate Impacts Group.

“I didn’t realize how much I valued in-person instruction until I didn’t have it any more,” she said. “I’ve accepted the fact that maybe fall quarter will be online because it’s not going to be my entire experience. That’s one thing that has motivated me to stay positive about going back to school in the fall.”