Cole Burnham '23

Psychology and Sustainability Majors

One of Cole Burnham’s favorite courses wasn’t in either of his majors; it was an architectural history class taught by Ivo Van der Graaff, associate professor of art and art history. History and architecture have always been of keen interest to Burnham ‘23.

“Professor Van der Graaf took notice early on of that fact and really pushed me to do my best work,” Burnham says. “The belief he had and the effort he put into helping me pursue my passion has and will continue to stay with me.”

Burnham is a dual major in psychology and sustainability. With a background in farm work, it didn’t take much for a course in eco-gastronomy to ignite his interest in sustainability. And he’s always been curious about “how people tick.”

He participated in Semester in the City, working for Solstice, a company that develops solar farms in low-income areas of Boston. Burnham also was a Global Racial and Social Inequality Lab fellow at the Waysmeet Center, where he ran the food pantry. 

“Working in such an intimate environment really taught me about how every single cent counts, as we had to make do with whatever funding and food we had,” Burnham says. “Going to do store pickups also pushed me out of my comfort zone, where I oversaw making sure that we had what our regulars needed on a daily basis.”

Having traveled to 13 countries across three continents, it’s hard to imagine much could move him out of his comfort zone, but, as a resident assistant (RA), Burnham says he faced challenges — and learned from them.

“Being an RA has really taught me that there is a wide range of personalities, perspectives and work styles. It can be frustrating to be working with someone who sets different standards than your own, but it is important to use that as a learning opportunity to continue to get the work done,” Burnham says. “Since beginning to understand this, I’ve noticed myself change by being more flexible with scheduling and wanting to sit down to understand my coworker’s priorities compared to my own.”