Climate&Me: Carter Frank

Climate&Me: Carter Frank

Carter Frank used to love playing City: Skylines, an Xbox game where players get to build their own city, decide the placement of roads, and design public transportation. Frank, now a senior studying Environmental Planning and Policy and the University of Southern Maine, had no idea just how much a childhood hobby would translate into his career trajectory.

Like many other students, Frank’s educational journey had a few twists and turns before he found his passion for environmental planning. 

Frank grew up in Ellsworth, ME, where he took weekly trips to Acadia National Park and spent countless hours outdoors skiing, camping, hiking and kayaking. He enjoyed living in an area with natural beauty and having the opportunity to explore these landscapes. While Frank loved the outdoors, environmental science was not the field he planned on studying. Instead, he was planned on becoming a doctor and moved to Denver, Colorado, to get his undergraduate degree. 

When Frank arrived in Denver, he found that it was not quite what he expected. The area was losing a lot of its natural beauty due to development. “I didn’t understand what Maine had until I left it.” Frank says. He missed Maine’s forested landscapes. 

Simultaneously, Frank slowly began to realize he did not want to become a doctor. In his courses and job shadowing, he found the laboratory environment did not appeal to him.  

Then, the pandemic hit, and Frank moved back home to Maine feeling uncertain about his next steps. He found work as an arborist for eight months while considering his next steps, ultimately deciding to go back to school and enroll at USM, studying nursing. Per his course requirements, he had to take a science class. So, he signed up for an environmental planning course. “I realized: this is something I really cared about,” Frank says.

Everything clicked: the balance of development and sustainability, thinking about how towns can build things most efficiently, and engaging communities in the process. The more he learned about environmental planning, the more Frank understood that it was the right path for him. He wanted to become a doctor to help people – and here was a way to help people in a way that resonated more deeply with him. 

Then, in the fall semester of his senior year, Frank began to assist on a collaborative project with other students and professors from USM, the University of Maine, and Bowdoin College to better understand how Maine municipal websites were providing information to their communities. 

For example, did town websites have interactive, easy-to-use maps – or PDFs? Is the information up to date? This compared this information with the enrolled communities in Community Resilience Partnership to better understand community resilience with digital service inventories. 

“It’s been really cool to see the connections and work with students with different perspectives all throughout Maine,” says Frank.

After graduating, Frank is planning to find work as a city planner in Maine. He remains hopeful in the face of climate change: “The biggest source of hope are the people” he says. Seeing what folks have already accomplished and connecting with a community of people who are excited and passionate has been really meaningful for him. 

“We’ll have to keep mitigating climate change, but we are equipped with all the tools we need to make a difference.”