Sage LINCOLN '12, Student

Whether she’s fighting for fossil fuel divestment, completing community-based research for the Honor’s College, or overhauling housing recycling programs, Sage LINCOLN ‘12 is a changemaker and trailblazer at the University of Pittsburgh. A fifth-year student triple-majoring in Ecology and Evolution, Environmental Geology, and Urban Studies, Sage’s involvement in environmental activism on and off campus is highly impressive and noteworthy to everyone around her. She has received multiple scholarships during her academic career, including Ellis’ own Arbuthnot Award, the prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, and the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship. Motivated and driven by the connection between environmental and social issues, Sage shares how Ellis prepared her to succeed and explore her passions in college and beyond.
Years at Ellis:Grade 9 to Grade 12
Location:Pittsburgh, PA
Interests:Environmental Activism
Education:B.S. Ecology and Evolution, B.S. Environmental Geology, B.A. Urban Studies, University of Pittsburgh

What inspired you to become involved in environmental activism?
It was realizing that as an individual, I am so connected to the larger world. Everything is connected and impacted, and I felt guilty that I was removed from it. That realization ultimately inspired me. I realized that regardless, I have to exist in society, and while I can reduce my personal impact, the issue is much larger than me. We have to challenge these systemic issues, mobilize politically, and on a larger scale, change the system that causes so much environmental damage.

Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him or her?
I don’t have a single mentor, but I have built a lot of relationships with adults who have had a huge impact on how I see the world. That really started at Ellis with Ms. Yam. She would discuss issues and delve into broader life questions that weren’t necessarily Calculus related but made us think about who we were as people, how we think about the world, and how we analyze different situations. The relationship with Ms. Yam made me comfortable with the idea of a mentor really fulfilling a two-way relationship, and showed me that it can be a personal relationship as well.

What lessons have you learned from your education at The Ellis School and the University of Pittsburgh?
Through my experiences at The Ellis School and the University of Pittsburgh, I learned that the most important part of education isn't what you learn in the classroom. It is who you experience it with, and how that opens your perspective to the struggles other people face. If I only understood things from my own perspective, I wouldn’t be expanding my persona, challenging myself, and diving into new experiences.

How do you feel Ellis prepared you for college and the “real world”? How did an Ellis education set you apart?
Ellis prepared me incredibly well for college, and because of that, I didn’t have to stress about my classes or the workload like many other students. I was really comfortable with myself and knew how to handle challenging academics, so I was able to explore outside opportunities and expand myself as a person. I had more time and flexibility to pursue my passions and get involved in campus-based environmental justice activities because I was so well-prepared for the work.

What is your fondest Ellis memory?
I grew up doing pottery and ceramics and that continued at Ellis. One year, a friend of mine broke her thumb and couldn’t throw pottery on the wheel with her hands anymore. Our clay teacher, Ms. Sturdevant, told us about an artist who threw clay with his feet, so we decided to give it a try. And it actually worked! We made tons of bowls, and I still have some of them today.

How did the all-girls environment at Ellis shape you?
Ellis taught me to be authentic and true to myself, which is an incredibly important core value of mine. There’s this phenomenon that happens without males around, where, overall, women are more authentic in how they present themselves.

For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
Be open to different experiences. Rather than being super regimented and selective about a certain major, career, or school, set yourself up to do a lot of different things and expand from there. We don’t live in a single issue world, and through Ellis and Pitt I’ve built the confidence to embrace the uncertainty. Your path doesn’t have to be linear, it can zig-zag all over the place, and that’s often how you move on to positions that can make the most impact.

What are you proudest of?
I am proudest of the fact that I have been able to remain very true to myself. I have a strong sense of self, and when you’re in college and high-achieving, there’s a lot of pressure to fit into certain molds or follow a certain path. I have been able to keep my own wants, needs, and passions in line without molding them to certain expectations.

What do you do in your free time?
I really like to cook and explore the outdoors. I rock climb, bike, run, hike, and backpack. I’ve biked the Great Allegheny Passage trail three times, and I’m preparing to do my fourth trip. It’s good to recharge, it helps me focus, so I can continue loving the work I do and make an impact.

What is the last book you read?

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri