Stories of the Class of 2017: Jacqueline Zurmuhlen: Creating a Sustainable World

When Jacqueline Zurmuhlen arrives in Iceland at the end of May with her bachelor's degree in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Studies, she hopes it will be the next step in her journey to make the country - and eventually, the rest of the world - a better place to live in.

Zurmuhlen fell in love with Iceland during a 2015 visit to the country. It was the final leg of a backpacking trip through Europe that she took between transferring from a community college in Arizona and starting at UNC.

"I realized that I felt really connected to the land, the culture and the people and everything they stood for," she said.

She liked the small country's beauty, welcoming people and emphasis on sustainability so much that she returned last summer to work on her Honors Program research project and a 13-week internship at an eco-friendly hostel in the capital of Reykjavik.

Zurmuhlen parlayed the connections she made into a job working for a family that operates several environmentally friendly vacation rental houses. As fortunate would have it, the family also owns multiple greenhouses, the source of much of the country's food, so she hopes to do some volunteer work at them and at a nearby geothermal energy station.

"I hoping to advance my knowledge of permaculture, indoor agriculture and food production overall," she said. "My ultimate goal is to help run some of these greenhouses and geothermal energy stations."

Zurmuhlen's mother's from Iran and her father's from Germany - she lived in both places before the family immigrated to Detroit - wants to eventually use her knowledge, experience and skills in the United States.

"Primarily my goal and what I'd really love to do is bring about sustainability and environmentalism through policy change," she said. "In my studies as a political science major, I believe that the most effective way to get any change to come about is through government, believe it or not. My major helped me understand how exactly the U.S. -- and the world -- really work."

I see myself working in a small foreign government to get experience and then moving into a U.S. government position," she said.

And somewhere along the way, she said, she's going to work on a graduate degree.

- UNC News Service

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