The following article was written for UGATODAY. To view the original article please click HERE.
A senior javelin thrower on the men’s track and field team, Alejandro Collins is passionate about environmentalism and human rights, which he attributes partly to growing up in Latin America. He follows the motto “more than my sport,” meaning that life is greater than sports. “We all need to set priorities and live every day by what we want to accomplish in life.”
Bachelor of Forest Resources in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
Spanish minor, Peace Corps Prep Certificate
High school: Trinity Christian School, Sharpsburg
This past summer, I worked as a manager’s assistant at the research greenhouses in Whitehall Forest. I am also a javelin thrower on the men’s track and field team.
Family ties to UGA:
Both my parents actually went to the University of Florida. However, my twin brother has recently transferred here.
Fun fact about me:
I practically have a jungle in my house. Taking care of my houseplants is one of my favorite things to do.
Top university highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
- Member of 2018 national championship men’s outdoor track and field team
- Athletic Director’s Honor Roll
- SGA senator for Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
- Student Athlete Advisory Committee vice president
- The Thomas T. and Bernice F. Irvine Foundation Award
How did you decide to come to UGA?
As a student-athlete, I had to make a decision not only on whether I would fit in academically and socially, but also athletically. This really narrows down your decision, especially because coaches may not have room for you on their roster, may not have enough scholarship funds to make the school worth it, or are simply not interested. Spending high school in Georgia definitely led me to decide on coming to UGA. Throughout middle school and high school, I attended the track and field camps hosted by the team here and I was able to build a relationship with coach Babbitt (one of the best throws coaches in the world who also coached the American record holder in my event). When it came to making the final decision, I chose UGA because I wanted to attend a large state school with good academics and a great javelin coach. UGA met all these requirements.
How did you choose your major?
Coming into UGA, I knew I wanted to do something environmentally related. As an environmentalist, I wanted to do my part in combating climate change and first landed on environmental engineering, but that wasn’t for me. One day during my freshman year, I was walking through the Science Learning Center and saw a very colorful and outdoorsy-looking display on a table. It was a table for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Since then, I have been a happy student in the school of forestry and would recommend a parks, recreation and tourism management major to anyone interested in people, the environment and social sciences. My end goal is to work with the relationship between people and the environment (human dynamics).
What is it like to be a student-athlete?
We are practicing up to 20 hours a week, getting treatment, going to physical therapy and attending team meetings. We’re trying to stay involved in different organizations, on top of our regular load. I am so proud of being a Georgia Bulldawg and I am thankful to the Athletic Association for all they do for us. We are provided with tons of gear, health care, free tutoring, mentoring and other academic help. In addition to that, the administration has been very receptive to our personal, professional and social justice initiatives. I can say for certain that UGA is one of the best universities for student-athletes to attend.
What lessons have athletics taught you?
Athletics has taught me the lessons of time management and perseverance. With so much training, I have learned to study more efficiently and complete assignments on time without jeopardizing grades or my athletic abilities. Going through so many injuries has taught me that almost anything can be conquered and is surmountable. If I prioritize my interests accordingly, I can accomplish my goals.
How do you balance academics and athletics?
Our training can be very intense and tiring. We are often too tired and sore from practice to want to do our assignments and study. Nevertheless, we have standards we need to reach based on NCAA, SEC and individual team guidelines. As I have matured, I realized that at some point, I will no longer be an elite athlete. This realization, along with taking major-specific classes has motivated me to do well in class; this is very obvious if you compare my GPA from freshman year to my most recent semester. We follow the motto “more than my sport.” Life is greater than sports, and we need to explore other areas of life to find our own niche outside athletics. At the end of the day, we all need to set priorities and live every day by what we want to accomplish in life.
My favorite things to do on campus are:
I love to walk in and around all the green spaces. The space between the Warnell buildings has a garden of ferns, trees and other woodsy plants. It gives the effect that we go to class between the trees, very fitting. Between Warnell and the Ecology Building is a turtle pond and garden to hang out in between classes while enjoying nature, relaxing and watching wildlife. I also really love to walk in the Trial Gardens. The curators keep the garden beautiful and flowering for the majority of the year; right now it is full of coleus, hibiscus and countless other plants, flowers and shrubs.
My favorite place to study is:
Pre-COVID-19, my favorite place to study was the lobby of my college’s main building. The lobby has several tables and sturdy chairs that allow me and my classmates to sit and study or do homework together. Most nights, I had at least one classmate staying there to study until midnight for an upcoming exam or simply finishing homework; I always had a study buddy.
My favorite professor is:
I am fortunate enough to have great professors in my program at Warnell; some of my favorite are Dean Dale Greene, Michael Tarrant, Bynum Boley and Kyle Woosnam.
Outside Warnell, my favorite professor was Mark Anderson, of the Spanish department, who taught an environmental ethics in Latin America class that I absolutely loved. This class encompassed my interest in the environment, ethics and social justice. Some of the material we covered has inspired my future career endeavors as a natural resource manager. This class taught us all to analyze the ethics of different environmental issues in Latin America and provided me with a new lens to analyze resource management.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with:
John Muir, the father of preservation, the mountains and national parks. He was famous for his laid-back personality, love for mother nature and simplistic lifestyle. He would often spend months in the backcountry surviving off tea and whatever he scavenged. Although I am sure he could teach me a lot about natural resource management, I would love to just hear all his stories, his principles and his life struggles fighting for environmental preservation.
The craziest thing I’ve done is:
Last summer, I went on a safari in South Africa and a massive female elephant chased our jeep.
The safari guide approached a female elephant that was walking alongside the road and revved the engine. The result of this was a very large, angry elephant chasing our jeep as we drove backward trying to evade the 4-ton animal charging toward us.
If I knew I could not fail, I would:
If money were not a consideration, I would love to solve climate change. Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity as we know it. If I had unlimited resources, we could develop technology that would transition the world to be carbon-neutral (or even carbon-negative). With all the money and resources, we could preserve nature and live comfortable and luxurious lives without damaging our precious Earth.
After graduation, I plan to:
Attend graduate school to study sustainable policy and environmental ethics. I also plan to volunteer in the Peace Corps and use what I have had the privilege to learn to help those who are often underrepresented and left behind. After that, I would love to work with environmental groups to help them implement responsible natural resource management plans in Latin America, where I spent the majority of my childhood.
I #CommitTo preventing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing my mask in public.