DU Senior Seeks International Knowledge Firsthand
Maddy Gawler takes on the world with a triple major and 40 countries stamped in her passport
As a student at Denver’s South High School just across the highway from campus, Maddy Gawler was more than familiar with the University of Denver. But though she’s spent most of her time as a student living in the same geographic area, the now-senior has logged more frequent flyer miles in the last four years than many of us will in a lifetime.
By the time she graduates, Gawler will have participated in six official DU study abroad programs: interterm trips to Belize, South Africa, Japan and New Zealand, as well as a full semester each in Spain and Ecuador. She’ll also graduate with a rare triple major, in Spanish, geography and international studies, accompanied by a minor in leadership.
Most of the trips have involved another of her passions: sustainability. “I have been interested in environmental science since high school, and when I came to DU I had great professors who talked about sustainability in different ways,” Gawler says. “I took the Belize interterm during winter quarter of my first year, and that’s when I realized sustainability was an area I wanted to focus on.”
During her time in Ecuador in the spring of 2018, Gawler learned about the importance of sustainability up close, taking field trips every weekend that included local farms, rural health centers and even a daylong trek through the Amazon. “A lot of what we talk about in the U.S. is the impacts of climate change on developing nations, like those in South America,” she says. “It was really amazing to see those impacts directly.”
One memorable trip took her to the site of an oil spill. “To see the pools of oil still there was really devastating,” she says. “The communities have contaminated water sources, their crops aren’t growing, and they have seen a lot of negative consequences because they’re not being taken care of. That was the most impactful experience I had.”
Gawler’s interest in sustainability has focused on the emerging area ecotourism, which involves responsible, conservation-supportive travel to natural areas. Last December, she received an Honors Grant and a Pioneer Leadership Program grant to do independent research in New Zealand on the topic.
“I worked with a professor there who was studying the impacts of the water crisis that happened in Cape Town, South Africa, on the tourism industry there,” she explains. “After my research with him, I got to go out and learn about ecotourism and sustainability in New Zealand.”
Travel has always been a priority, and coming from an international high school, Gawler knew she wanted to major in international studies. “I love learning about new cultures, and I wanted to continue to learn about them in an academic setting.”
As part of the dual-degree program, she will finish her bachelor’s degree this spring and then next year will complete a master’s degree in international development with a focus on sustainability and a certificate in global corporate social responsibility from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
With degrees in hand, she’ll be ready to take on a career in the developing field of corporate social responsibility, something she’s been learning about during two concurrent internships in her senior year. “I’ll be working on sustainable outreach, helping companies in Denver be more aware of their energy use to make their buildings and processes more efficient.”
Although Gawler has blazed a trail all over the world as a DU student, she says it’s the campus community and her professors who have had the most impact. “I’ll definitely miss the community aspect—being able to get a coffee with friends after class, going to club meetings, and just the social parts of being a student,” she says. “I love school and my professors, so having to leave is sad.”