Alumni Story by Logan Strenchock: “Pursue a career path that reduces the distance between your passions, research and work”
My name is Logan Strenchock and I was born in Pennsylvania but have been studying, working and residing in different countries in Europe for the last 10 years. I was a member of MESPOM batch 17-6, and enjoyed some memorable times in Budapest, Greece and Sweden. I wrote my thesis about the development of local food systems in and around Budapest, and it gave me plenty of time to get my hands dirty in understanding the complexities of transformative short food supply chains in practice.
When I graduated from the MESPOM program I began a mixed path which lead me to spending part of each of my weeks working as the environmental and sustainability officer at CEU, and the other part of my week involved as a garden team member at Zsámboki Biokert, a four hectare organic fruit and vegetable market garden about 50 km from Budapest.
When I was a student, I was lucky to be studying with and active group of classmates who took interest in the sustainability performance of our institution, and our outside of class activities resulted in the introduction of a selective waste collection system on campus. This seems like a basic step, but was a big victory in our eyes, and my work since then as sustainability officer builds on this initial enthusiasm, as institutional sustainability is a continuing process that must involve improvements in infrastructure, teaching and learning and civic outreach. The University’s commitments to sustainable development resulted in the renovated buildings in Budapest being recognized as the first University buildings in Central Europe to receive environmental accreditation, as we followed BREEAM standards for construction and design of the campus. As we look forward to the future, the University looks to build on this legacy as we reach the conceptual design stages of the permanent Vienna campus development, where exciting opportunities lay ahead in historic Otto Wagner site as Steinhoff in the city’s 14th district.
In addition to focusing on infrastructural improvements, my work also focuses on organizing participatory outreach events which help educate the University and local community about important environmental and social issues, and practical skill development which can help participants make environmentally conscious decisions in everyday life.
I organize activities under the banner of “Sustainable CEU” which is a campus group open to all students, faculty and staff who have an interest in environmental engagement.
I have a passion for organic gardening, and the CEU community has shown a great interest in urban garden themed events, visits to local organic farms, and discussions with local actors who represent sustainable agriculture in practice. I helped develop and co-teach in the Introduction to Agroecology and Organic Gardening Systems course offered by the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy. In addition to gardening, I have helped organize bicycle and DIY repair workshops, conferences which involve many local civic society groups, and a number of events which focus on the Degrowth movement. It is always important for me that events I organize help community members learn more about ground level activism in the location of the campus, and looking to the future this will remain a goal of mine in Budapest and Vienna. The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us on campus, especially those who organize participatory events, but we sure hope that such events will be possible again in the near future, and until then we are striving to make the most out of the possibilities of online forums.
Outside of my work at CEU, I am also the co-founder of Cargonomia, a cargobicycle logistics center and local food distribution point in Budapest. We have developed the first community cargobike sharing system in Hungary, and work to promote the everyday usage of cargobicycles for families, businesses and individual persons, promoting more liveable, car free cities. We have also helped establish an edible forest in the Zuglo district of Budapest, and a permaculture garden in the hills of Buda. We seek to show personify the benefits of taking an active part in community mobilization for making change together in our neighborhoods.
My advice to MESPOM students would be that it is worth while to pursue a path during and after your academic career in which you create a means for reducing the distance between your passions, research and work. This sounds simple, but takes time and persistence to do in practice, but if you can reach a point in which you are inspired to wake up each day because you are doing work which you care about, and truly believe in the benefit of, it will not feel like work for you, and you will likely be very impactful. Finding opportunities to do this takes time, often much volunteering beforehand, and an open mind and heart. There should not be a large separation between the scholar that you are in the classroom, and the type of person you want to be in your local community. If you can find a way to combine these and while finding a way to earn a living in this challenging world, it is highly likely that you will be quite happy doing so.