Taylor Parker, environmental consultant and Principal, Tidal Influence, LLC
My education in Comp Lit literally led me to art and the associated world of limitless ideas. As an undergrad I was culturally ignorant before I found my first survey course and I switched my major to Lit immediately upon peeking through the door that it opened for me. The degree I received academically trained me to empathize, to focus my energies on seeing other’s perspectives, and to value both the objective and myriad subjective viewpoints present in any situation. Comp Lit gave me access to beauty so as to appreciate the world more widely and deeply and realize what is worth fighting for.
- What is your present occupation?
Oddly enough, I am an environmental consultant. While a student I was working for various environmental non-profits and started my first company before completing my degree. Upon graduating, I started my current company with my business partner in 2008 with the goal of restoring wetlands, working on endangered species and providing environmental education opportunities. Since then, we have expanded into providing research and monitoring services, restoration planning efforts, and environmental communications.
- What are your career/educational goals?
One of the gifts Comparative Literature gave me was the capacity and inclination to continuously revisit my goals through new eyes and with a new sense of purpose. Throughout my education, forcing me to question my assumptions was the painful goal of each professor I was fortunate enough to have. It worked and I produced better work because of their attention to my nascent attempts to express myself. Carrying that into the real world, I am regularly assessing my efforts and my intentions. Primarily, I would like to expand my work on endangered species to a more global scale and I would like to improve our cultural environmental and science literacy. To do this I would like to grow my company to work on more and different environmental projects, I would like to start a non-profit to meet other social and environmental problems that my company cannot adequately work toward through its current manifestation, and I would like to do this while incorporating the work of pre-professionals and artists. Going back to school definitely has an appeal to me but I have yet to find the program with the prefect-fit that would justify absorbing the time I could use toward accomplishing career goals. I’m sure it will appear though as any good excuse to study art and beauty is welcomed.
- How has the study of Comparative Literature/Classics informed your life, career, and the major decisions you’ve made?
The influence is too innumerable to list! I can’t stress enough how Comp Lit changed my paradigm. Through the valuation of expression, to perspective-taking, to increasing my cognitive flexibility, Comp Lit has built the foundation of how I see the world. There is an adventure inherent in deciding to pursue the study of art that has fostered a courageous spark within me. The study of Comp Lit is a somewhat Romantic appeal that by its nature has no bounds and no deciding force other than the urge to develop meaning against boundary of the existential cliff. Stepping off that cliff into the void has proven beneficial to me financially and spiritually and has provided depths of intellectual and aesthetic stimulation through my business pursuits and life adventures. This came from Comparative Literature and this came from the aesthetic freedom and academic rigor my professors provided.
- What advice would you give for current Comparative Literature students?
Just play. Play in the world that Literature provides, that the Arts provides. You’ll have to develop a strong character and robust life-skills to play effectively and purposefully but I think the play aspect is most important. I can always tell when I’m veering off the path when I stop playing. You’ll have to provide for your basic needs like everyone else but don’t let the business degrees or engineering degrees intimidate you: they are trying to figure out the world just like you. The difference is that while they pretend to know how it works, you, as an Arts student, know that you won’t. Meaning, purpose and hope are derived from that knowledge.