Updated on October 1, 2019
Finding My Calling at Notre Dame de Namur University
Ever since I was twelve years old, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was positive I wanted to go to college and become a psychologist. I’m not sure what instilled in me this strong desire to be a psychologist. Maybe it was all the crime TV I use to watch. I was always fascinated with how the detective would try to get into the mind of the criminal. I followed this desire and went to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) to major in psychology.
At NDNU I loved all my psych and sociology classes and couldn’t get enough of them. During my second year, I started to look for jobs in the field of psychology and found a few, but none of them were calling out to me. So, I instead took a job as a Bonner leader. The Bonner leaders are students who work through the Sister Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement at NDNU to do community service.
I worked at San Bruno Mountain Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. San Bruno Mountain sits right at the southern border of San Francisco, California. There I helped remove invasive species and planted native plants. Native plants are needed to support the three endangered butterfly species that live on the mountain. It was through this experience I discovered my passion for environmentalism.
Following my newly kindled passion for environmentalism, I talked to my academic counselor and added a second major in social justice. With a background in psychology and new knowledge about environmental studies, I became fascinated with the intersection of the two fields. I wanted to research the effects of natural environments on the human psyche. Through reading some of the research, it became obvious to me that nature has a deep and, in some ways, unexplained positive effect on the human psyche. I realized that preserving natural places is crucial to human mental and physical health.
It was through this experience at NDNU that I learned the difference between a passion and an interest. Yes, I was interested in psychology, and it’s a great field, but I was passionate about environmental justice. I wanted to do my part to make the world a just and better place.
The next challenge I faced was how was I going to help do this. So, I did some reflecting and read about some of the most influential and impactful world leaders. I knew I wasn’t the first person to want change or to feel strongly about protecting the environment. After some reflection, I noticed an occupational commonality among many of the world’s leaders; they are all lawyers. Some of these lawyers I looked up to included Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, over half the U.S. presidents, and the notorious Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Following my heart I applied and was accepted to University of California Hastings College of the Law. Three years later and I am now a law school graduate. With my degrees in hand, I was hired by the Center for Biological Diversity in their Environmental Health program, working to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the inextricable connection between the health of humans and all other species. I absolutely love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I have found my purpose.
Perry Elerts graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame de Namur University in 2016, and a JD from Hastings College of the Law in 2019. He currently works at the Center for Biological Diversity.
For information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.