Alumni Statements

Alumni were asked to submit statements reflecting on their experiences at the Center for Environmental Studies. As you will see, these statements highlight aspects of CES that make it one of the most innovative and effective interdisciplinary environmental studies programs in the nation.

If you'd like to submit a statement, please send it to submissions@browncesalumni.org.

 

Elizabeth Farnsworth, 1984

I have held a number of positions in the environmental field, working as an environmental educator (La Selva Biological Station), Associate Editor (Rodale Press), Adjunct professor of environmental science and policy (Smith College), Staff scientist at The Nature Conservancy, and currently Senior Research Ecologist at the New England Wild Flower Society. All of these positions have drawn upon the interdisciplinary training in environmental science, legislative policy, economics, and writing that I received through the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown. I wrote an honors thesis at Brown that demanded use of a range of skills derived from studying and working at the Center, skills that continue to serve me today.

I direct a region-wide program to develop peer-reviewed Conservation and Research Plans for over 100 species of rare plants in New England. I supervise all phases of the writing, publication, and dissemination of these Plans, and work with over 700 volunteers and conservation partners to implement management and conservation actions throughout the northeast U. S. and Canada. Incidentally, several exemplary Brown University students from the CES (and Dr. Johanna Schmitt's lab) have been integrally involved in research, writing, and management work related to this project.

 

Katrina Smith  Korfmacher, 1985.5

I am writing to share some reflections on my experience in the Environmental Studies Program at Brown.  I have both experienced its strengths as a student and as a colleague teaching in an ES program at Denison University.  I now apply the skills I began to develop at Brown in urban environmental health outreach at the University of Rochester.     

I believe so strongly in the Brown ES model of education that I focused my graduate training so that I might be able to propagate this model in another academic institution.  I expected that by the time I graduated, many universities would have adopted a similar model.  Indeed, the first year I was on the job market, there were nearly a dozen well-suited positions.

After graduating from Brown and receiving a Beinecke Scholarship, in part in recognition of my multidisciplinary background and plans to pursue joint studies in science and policy, I attended Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  I received a Master’s of Science in water quality management in 2 years, after which I took 9 months off for two separate competitively-funded research opportunities, one in Austria at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the other in South Africa.  I then returned for 2.5 years to complete my PhD in Environmental Studies with a focus on policy sciences. My background at Brown prepared me to design this multidisciplinary graduate program, negotiate through a newly evolving PhD program (the school had three different names while I was there), and complete my degrees in under five years. Students coming into that program with single-discipline training often struggled trying to find their ‘niche’ and understand the relationships between different disciplines in problem solving, while for me this was the fun part!   I don’t say this to ‘toot my own horn,’ but rather to counter the common idea that students should get a disciplinary undergraduate degree, then ‘branch out’ in graduate school.  My experience with the Brown CES program argues just the opposite: being immersed in an interdisciplinary approach as an undergraduate helps students frame their later work more comprehensively (and effectively), whether they continue to bridge the science-policy gap or pursue more disciplinary advanced training. Although Brown’s program prepared me extremely well for this graduate program, I was one of the few of my Brown ES classmates in graduate school – most of them had gotten such fascinating and rewarding positions doing environmental work after graduation that they didn’t go to graduate school until many years later!  I often envied these colleagues who were able to immediately enter the workforce making a difference in various environmental issues, but since I wanted to share the kind of education I got at Brown with others, I was committed to pursue a PhD. At Duke, I continued to be involved in undergraduate environmental education, designing and co-teaching the first First Year Seminar in Environmental Studies.  I was asked to help Duke design its undergraduate Environmental Science and Policy program based on my experiences at Brown.  I also was involved in the Center for Teaching and Learning, as I knew that teaching was very important to me.  As I was completing my dissertation, I was interviewed for positions at Bates College, Alleghany College and Denison University.  I accepted a position at Denison University, where I was actively involved in the development of the Environmental Studies Program for four years.     

As I became involved as a professional in the teaching of college-level environmental studies, I became even more impressed by the accomplishments of the Brown program.  Among the dozens of institutions that belong to the New England Environmental Studies director’s group, Brown is widely recognized as one of the strongest programs in the country, frequently emulated by other colleges.  While other colleges looked to Brown for its teaching methods, course offerings, and departmental structure, they could not easily replicate one of Brown’s greatest strengths: the freedom and support from the highest levels of the administration to pursue truly interdisciplinary work.     

I recently moved to Rochester, New York, where I have joined the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Rochester.  While the topic of environmental health is new to me, I have found that the skills I developed at Brown and Duke give me a unique perspective on the interactions between scientists, citizens, and decision makers.  These insights and approaches are just as relevant and useful in the area of environmental health as they were in ecosystem management.  In addition, I continue to teach an intensive graduate/undergraduate course at the Duke Marine Lab each summer. Whether teaching, doing outreach work, or applied research, I find what I learned from my interdisciplinary education at Brown to be most helpful.  I try to impart these lessons to students I work with.  The skill I would argue is most unique to the CES model of education is learning to ask the right questions, unfettered by a single disciplinary perspective, yet informed by the contributions of many.  Given the many Senior theses I have read in recent years, Brown CES undergraduates seem to have an exceptional ability to ask these ‘right questions,’ allowing them to address timely and critical environmental issues at comparable level to the Masters’ students I work with at Duke. I am glad to know that there are so many other alumni of the Brown program who have developed their insights into environmental problem-solving through the truly interdisciplinary approach of the CES.  I certainly hope the center will continue to produce students with these unique and powerful perspectives as the Center transitions to new leadership.

 

Marta Echavarria, 1987

As an international graduate from the ES program in 1987, I would like to reiterate the excellent preparation I had to face environmental work in the " real" world.  Having been trained in an interdisciplinary setting focusing on real social problems facing the state of Rhode Island, I was prepared to enter my profession with an open mind, willingness to work with others, no matter what their trainning and focus, and an enthusiasm to solve problems. Working in developing countries, there is a great need to be flexible but firm in order to find opportunities in settings where most people would feel discouraged because there are so many economic, political and technical limitations.  The ES program and Brown in general have helped me face life with conviction with my own ideals and to have the courage to pursue them. With current environmental problems facing the world, I hope Brown builds upon the ES program´s legacy and aims towards a leadership role in environmental affairs, a field currently being debilitated worldwide.

After working with the private sector establishing environmental management programs in private agroindustries in Colombia, my husband (Development Studies ´87) and I have set up our own environmental business promotion firm in Ecuador.  An important result of that process has been the establishment of a profitable butterfly exporting business with clients in the US and Europe.  This allows us to demostrate how the forests can be much more productive standing than logged to death for the cheap wood.  The companies we have established allow us to maintain a good quality of life for ourselves and our children, Cristian 3 and Camila 1, two key endevors in our lives right now.

 

Alison Becker Weems, 1989.5

It is through the Environmental Studies program at Brown that I learned to think.   I learned to think in a way that many of my adult peers today cannot comprehend. By taking classes in numerous disciplines, I learned how to approach problems from particular, and often narrow, perspectives.  But in applying knowledge from the various disciplines to my work in Environmental Studies, I learned to approach problems from numerous angles and to seek broad and detailed understanding of relevant issues.  I am able to approach everyday issues and global issues, regardless of their nature, with a comprehensive view that leads me to ask relevant questions and to seek effective solutions.  It is a skill that I use everyday, in both my professional and personal life and, everyday, I am grateful for the education I received through the Center for Environmental Studies.

After graduating, I worked to apply the methods I described in my thesis on environmental education in the classroom.  I taught  middle and high school science for 8 years.  I emphasized interdisciplinary thinking and problem-solving in my classes despite the fact that I was designated as a "science" teacher.   I now run a small tutoring business.  Through the one-on-one contact that I have with students, I am able to demonstrate the relevance of the material they are learning in traditional school settings and make a point of showing my students connections between what they are learning and issues that are prevalent today.  I apply the thought processes that I learned through the Center for Environmental Studies on a daily basis.  

 

Marie O'Neill, 1990

My experience at Brown in interdisciplinary research and practical problem solving laid a foundation for rewarding professional and academic positions.  My thesis "Participation in policy making: Case study observations and options for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program" provided me with hands-on learning.  I interviewed a diverse group of people, from fishermen to scientists to bureaucrats, drawing on skills from disciplines including sociology, economics, and political science.  I landed my first job through one of the thesis interviews, and then moved from Rhode Island to the environmental world in Washington, DC. Several CES alums were working in environmental policy in government and consulting at the time, and employers were enthused to obtain Brown grads who had substantial, practical knowledge of environmental problems.  The interdisciplinary philosophy of the CES program specifically contributed to this in giving people 'literacy' in many fields and the competence to communicate with scientists, policymakers, and economists alike.

After working 5 years, I got a masters in Environmental Health Sciences at Harvard, a PhD in Epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill, and am currently a Research Fellow in Environmental Epidemiology at Harvard.  I recently visited the Brown campus and the CES, and was keenly aware, while in the building, of how much of an impact the training and camaraderie I experienced there has made in my professional life. I am so proud when I encounter fellow alums who are employing creative approaches to make a difference in the world, and who can attribute some of their inspiration to CES.

 

Dana Hanson, 1993

I stumbled into ES11 (the CES intro course) the fall of my freshman year. I was not aware that such academic disciplines existed...the different study units ran the gamut from policy, to science, to literature and beyond. I immediately looked into the concentration requirements and was intrigued by the varied nature of coursework demanded of ES majors. The combination of the interdisciplinary core requirements and the personally selected "focus" coursework resonated with my desire to take advantage of Brown's open, student-driven approach to liberal arts education. The mandatory thesis requirement was daunting, but the program coursework appeared to build in a manner that would prepare a student to meet this challenge.

By my junior year, I had selected a focus in environmental health policy, entrenching myself in extra law and policy courses and spending several days a week at my internship at the RI Department of Health. My academic training at Brown and my off-campus internship in a local government agency continuously reinforced one another, the culmination of which was my senior thesis on incorporating lead education in RI newborn nurses' home visits. Working independently to forge a relationship between a state environmental health agency and the local visiting nurses associations was an all-consuming challenge for me. In the days before email and cell phones, it involved a lot of footwork to get out and meet with the various players, as well as a lot of time holed-up in my dorm room making and returning phone calls to "real world" professionals. As I toiled away on my thesis, my friends in other concentrations would continuously say that the ES requirements were too hard -- the expectation that an undergraduate would work independently to effect change in the world was unrealistic. (There were many days where I tearily agreed with this assessment.) But in the end, the connections were made, and the visiting nurses adopted my lead education protocol in their home visits. And though it was only a tiny little policy change in the state of Rhode Island, I can honestly say that it came to be because of my personal devotion to the cause and my ability to harness my academic CES training to get the job done. To this day, I marvel at this achievement of a 22-year-old.

My undergraduate training at the CES provided me with the skills and confidence to identify a problem, to figure out how to track down resources to help, and to stick it out until the mission is accomplished. Upon graduation from the CES, I took a full-time position working as a lead poisoning prevention educator for the RI Department of Health. I later shifted my interest to worker safety, earning a graduate degree in industrial hygiene from Harvard School of Public Health and working in consulting and research positions evaluating workplace hazards from office buildings to construction sites. I strongly believe that the hands-on, “real world” training during my undergraduate years in the CES prepared me to tackle my work with confidence and adeptness in my career in environmental science.

I'm currently the full-time "health and safety manager" of my two young sons. Though I am not currently employed in the professional sector, the good old fashioned liberal arts problem solving skills acquired at the CES have seen me through ten years of post-graduate life thus far, and will certainly propel my other personal and professional endeavors for years to come.

 

Jennifer Shepherd Amerkhail 1993

I have never been more aware of the value of my Environmental Studies training than in the last year when I served as an advisor for an appointed Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In advising the Commissioner on restructuring of electric markets, I had to digest complicated market theories, understand federal/state and congressional/agency interactions, and comprehend the operations of the electricity grid. My job was to integrate and translate all of this information into advice for the Commissioner about the formation of electric restructuring policy. Without my undergraduate foundation in the disciplines of economics, political science and knowledge of energy systems and without my prior college experience integrating these different ideas and applying them to produce solutions to actual problems, I would have had difficulty meeting the needs of my employer and serving the public interest. Further, the skills that I gained in Environmental Studies service learning classes including negotiation, meeting facilitation, needs identification, and public interaction prepared me for the public and industry outreach requirements of my job.

I know that my senior CES thesis project set me apart from other job applicants when I was seeking my first job after graduation at an electric utility. My completed thesis demonstrated my ability to tackle a real-world problem, energy use in low income housing, that required
the application of several disciplines to reach reasoned solutions. My employer especially appreciated that I had hands-on experience interacting with low income housing residents when it came time to plan a conservation program targeted at low income families. I feel that I would not have been as successful in developing meaningful solutions and identifying problems in my chosen thesis topic had it not been for the interdisciplinary model taught at the CES and the holistic approach of my advisor.

Today, as a technical expert on wholesale electric markets at FERC, I promote the formation of functional, efficient electric markets in the Midwestern United States under the umbrella of the Midwestern Regional Transmission Organization. I will start law school this August with a planned focus on energy law.

 

Jonathan Clough, 1994

For me, the Brown University Center for Environmental Studies provided a remarkable experience both socially and academically. The close-knit community at CES allowed for intimate relationships with faculty and staff that are usually found only at a much smaller school.  Such individually tailored academic counseling proved to be very powerful when backed up by the extensive resources and the wide curriculum that Brown University provides.  The interdisciplinary approach to learning at the Center has proved invaluable to my career, as it has allowed me to see environmental problems from a broader perspective than some of my classically trained colleagues.  The focus on working on large projects with a team has proven to be directly relevant to the daily challenges of my career.

I am a self-employed computer consultant developing and applying bioaccumulation models for the US Environmental Protection Agency. In any day at my job I may use skills that range as widely as chemistry, ecology, mathematics, environmental law, environmental policy, and technical writing. The excellent reputation of CES meant that there were several agencies and companies interested in hiring me right out of school.

 

Garvin Heath, 1994

I knew Brown was the place for me when I visited in the Fall of 1988. After a tough first semester where I wasn't sure where I belonged, what intellectual issues motivated me, and where I would find kindred souls, I found the Center for Environmental Studies. The CES was a perfect fit: exceptionally talented and motivated students, a mission to improve the human experience on the planet and the planet's experience of humans, and a rigorous but flexible program of study that harnesses a student's intellectual and emotional energy, creating scholars and humanitarians able to tackle real-world problems that do not present along disciplinary boundaries. I couldn't have been happier! I worked hard, pursuing a curriculum that matched my friends in mechanical engineering for its depth in that field, but also included the breadth of environmental science and policy courses that allowed me to integrate them into an independent thesis on the spectral analysis of temperature and carbon dioxide samples taken from Arctic and Antarctic ice cores.

My studies prepared me well for the demands of a position in the US Environmental Protection Agency, where I qualified both as an Environmental Protection Specialist and Environmental Engineer. My position integrated research, policy-making and public outreach--a perfect match for someone with both the hard science skills necessary for research, and an understanding of institutions and what motivates individual behavior change. After deciding that I needed further academic training to meet my goals for environmental improvement, my broadly interdisciplinary academic and professional training (and the strong credential that a degree from the CES provides) afforded me the option to pursue doctoral degrees in at least three disciplines: environmental engineering, public health and architecture. Instead, I have chosen to pursue my advanced graduate training within a program remarkably similar to the CES: the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California Berkeley. Faculty around UC Berkeley are eager work with ERG students who share the same characteristics as the students during my undergraduate years at the CES. Interdisciplinary environmental education has played a pivitol role in my maturation as a scholar and humanitarian; it is critical that we preserve opportunities for the pursuit of such rigorous and relevant training as the CES provides.

 

Jeff Albert, 1992

The Center for Environmental Studies was the lynchpin of my undergraduate education. The combined focus of the environmental studies curriculum on fundamentals and practical applications of science to policy problems was invaluable to me both in terms of scholarship and professional development. Indeed, my professional life since graduation has been largely devoted to the proper integration of science into policymaking, and the practical skillset I gained at CES has been a significant component of my professional success.

I am currently back at Brown, with a joint lecturer's appointment in Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies. I co-teach the introductory course in geographic information systems and science and I am involved in several research projects, ranging from the Watson Institute's Middle East Environmental Futures project to a study aimed at explaining desert vegetation trends in the Great Basin region of the United States. I am also involved in student advising and thesis supervision.

 

Norris Muth, 1996

I think that the CES affected me in two important ways. First, it provided a wonderful faculty and student community that helped to foster my interests in the environment. Second, it harnessed and focused my interest in such a way that I approached issues in the field (particularly those that I was already predisposed to) with a more critical and analytical eye. I think the marriage of these aspects at the CES is critical to its success as I think it would be counterproductive in the long term to simply foment concern while neglecting the ability to critically assess or identify environmental issues.

I am currently a PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I have previously earned a Master of Forest Science degree at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

 

Emily Noah, 1996

The interdisciplinary model embodied by the curriculum of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) is paramount not only to learning about environmental issues but also to the development of their solutions.   It is rare to find a position in the environmental field that does not require understanding of the multiple dimensions characterizing any environmental issue.  The undergraduate courses I took through the auspices of CES provided me with a foundation in environmental history, public policy, ecology, and other disciplines.  More importantly, my CES experience provided me with the opportunity to integrate disciplines through service learning projects focusing on reducing natural resource consumption on the Brown campus and preventing childhood lead poisoning in Providence.  By acting as a focal point for environmental studies at Brown, the CES community makes such integration concrete in a way that transcends ordinary collaboration between academic departments.    

After working three years for a public policy consulting firm that contracts with the Environmental Protection Agency, I completed my Master’s degree at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where I am currently employed as a research associate for the Program on Forest Certification.

 

Cynthia Fleming, 1997

When I think back on my time at Brown, it is my experience at the CES that stands out as the most productive and rewarding. The impressive faculty, the opportunity for applied thinking and analysis of real life issues, and the opportunity for personal growth are what made CES stand out on campus. For college students, who are still exploring and forming their interests and passions, the interdisciplinary curriculum is especially critical. I am very grateful for the opportunity as a student to delve into the social, economic, political, and ecological realms of both our backyard and of the world with people of such caliber and experience, who could guide us in developing problem solving, analytical, and collaborative skills. What I gained were practical skills that helped me write a thesis on private/public partnerships in land conservation in Rhode Island, that guided me on a professional path, and that are now making me a more effective conservationist everyday.

After graduating from Brown, I pursued my interests in environmental science in Wyoming and California and received my master’s degree in Botany from the Field Naturalist Program at the University of Vermont. I am currently in my third year as the northeast regional ecologist for the Boston office of The Wilderness Society. Thank you to the CES, the faculty, and students for starting me off on this track and for providing me with the skills and knowledge to make it happen.

 

Todd Hettenbach, 1997

When I look back on my experience at Brown and compare it with the experiences that my friends had, I understand the tremendous role that the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) played in my education. Certainly a large part of that has to do with the Center's gifted faculty, but I believe that a significant part also came from the structure of the Environmental Studies program.

The University prides itself on providing students with broad liberal arts educations, and that gives the students the ability to bring insights from multiple fields to bear on issues.  The Environmental Studies curriculum not only teaches students how to apply their many particularized skills, but--due to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems--it also demands that they do so.  CES has become a specialized laboratory for the application of interdisciplinary scholarship, and this focus on tying different disciplines together would be lost if the Center's mission was split into the individual departments.

The academic and intellectual benefits that I derived from CES came not only from the interdisciplinary nature of the course material but also from the community that developed within the Center.  While the students at CES came from different backgrounds and approached issues with different perspectives, we all shared a common general interest, and that interest gave us a focal point from which we could share our individual bases of knowledge.  For example, I shared my specific interest in economics and I benefited from my classmates' interests in ecology and law.  While this interaction could have occurred in a "special interest house," I believe that placing it within an academic context made the discussions much more rigorous.

The interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Studies program has served me extremely well since graduation.  My first job out of college was with an environmental policy and research organization in Washington, DC called the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  I was a policy analyst at EWG and was responsible for researching and writing reports on public health and environmental issues.  This required me to draw heavily on a number of fields, including economics, statistics, biology, chemistry, and law.  I am extremely grateful that my training at CES gave me the tools to integrate these disciplines.

I have since left EWG and just graduated from law school.  Law is the ultimate multidisciplinary field, and I know that my experience and education at CES will play in big role in my future.

 

Nick Rosenberg, 1997

The CES experience was a unique one which prepared me in ways no other program could. Clearly the interdisciplenary approach engrained in the Center's academic life left is special - it left me with a tremendous confidence to work in a field where science, policy, and ecological ethic are so closely interwinded. When I graduated, I worked immediately for a non-profit organization that consulted with US EPA, numerous state environmental agencies, and community organizations. While a new job out of college is a bit daunting no matter what, I remember how amazed I was to be in a world of professional policy-making with the tools to understand not only the basic scientific underpinnings of environmental protection, or a superficial academic understanding of policy - but rather a comprehensive analytical blueprint for addressing real-world problems. This of course comes not only from the academic thrust of the Center and the analytical approach taught so well by the instructors there, but also from the service learning throughout the program. As an undergraduate in the program, I worked with local, state, federal and community representatives on a variety of applications to existing issues in Providence and the surrounding area. I worked with Providence's Urban Forester, the Mayors office, community groups from Olneyville and neighborhoods along the Woonasquatucket River. In preparing my thesis, I worked closely with a representative of a national US EPA program, which I later returned to after graduation as a hired consultant. I am certain that the interdisciplenary approach, combined with the oppportunity to apply that approach in the real world alongside community leaders and government representatives prepared me for life and carreer in ways no other program could. Further, the very nature of the CES facility fosters a truly collegial atmosphere where students become immersed in the field, and the lines between academia and application blur from the the very moment one walks in the door of the Center. Whether I pursue work in the environmental field or elswhere, I always take my training from the CES with me.

After leaving the Green Mountain Institute, and a non-profit environmental consulting organization in 2000, I entered law school at Boston College. There I worked with the Environmental Law Society on a variety of projects, including organizing the first New England Environmental Law and Policy Conference in 2003. I also recently taught an undergraduate course at Boston College: Environmental Law (PS 201), which was an introduction to law through the lense of environmental policy. I graduated in May and recently had an article published in the school's Environmental Affairs Law Review, where I was an editor, entitled "Development Impact Fees: Is Limited Cost Internalization Actually Smart Growth?" (30 B.C.Env.Aff.Law.Rev. 641). In September I will be joining the law firm of Edwards & Angell, LLP in the Boston office (although coincidentally a Providence firm - Angell as in Angell Street!)  

 

Lisa Schipper, 1997

What did I know then, when I spent every day and night in the UEL, monopolising the PC in the corner, hammering out my thesis on "cows and climate change"? Parties were gathering in Kyoto, and the Protocol was being negotiated at the very same time (1997). That Protocol has played a vital role in my life, as I have worked for the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn as a consultant on numerous occasions since then, and I have travelled to at all the Conferences of the Parties and Subsidiary Body meetings, following negotiations closely, since 1998, and continues to play a central role in my research. But it was not just my BSc in Environmental Science from THAT Ivy League school that got me around the world like this, it was to a great extent my education – academic and personal – that I got through CES that contributed to this.

It was perhaps not until I began my MSc at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK that I discovered how fortunate I had been as an environmental science student at Brown. The UEL was not just physically there for us, it was also there emotionally. As a Master's student at UEA, I had nowhere to go, and I missed having a community of people around me! Having been a ES student from the start of my undergraduate days (living in Hope College) of course I developed close ties with my fellow ES-concentrators there. But also the faculty and staff at the UEL were welcoming, supportive and inspiring. There was a distinct sense of equity among students and staff – and we worked together and took care of our “home” together. The idea of an Urban Environmental Lab as a “project” was always present – even involving those of us who were indeed looking far beyond Providence.

But upon beginning my Master's dissertation I also looked back at my Bachelor's thesis: “Let's have a laugh and see how inexperienced and naïve I was then.” Lo and behold! The thesis on cows and climate change was not only still relevant, but it was eloquently written, designed and argued (well, for a Bachelor's thesis that's not bad!). Perhaps the conclusions were a bit bizarre (eradicate all the cows and the US can meet its 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions?) but I am not at all ashamed that the thesis abstract is one of the first things to appear when I do a search on myself in the Internet. In fact, I am quite proud to be linked to CES, and thereby to all the other fantastic ideas and people who are part of that. I guess “Alumni” is a bit of a misnomer; it seems most of us are still very much living with at least part of our hearts in the UEL.

I am currently in the final months of my PhD in Development Studies at the School of Development Studies/Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA (expected completion May 2004). My thesis is on adaptation to climate change in developing countries, entitled something like “Deconstructing Adaptation Discourses: Theory, Policy and Practice” (subject to change!). I hope to continue doing research on adaptation, vulnerability and risk to global environmental change in developing countries in the future. My goals include coming back to the UEL and give a soup seminar – hopefully one day soon – and always being available to help new CES students who want to learn about the issues I am researching.

 

Molly Smith, 1997

My time at the CES was crucial to developing my skills as an environmental scientist and problem solver.  Through my coursework, interactions with faculty and student, and senior thesis research, I learned how to approach an environmental problem, understand the science behind an issue, and work within the policy-making world to devise solutions.  I was an environmental science major, so my coursework primarily focused on terrestrial ecology.  However, I also took policy-related classes throughout my four years at Brown and was integrally involved in environmental education initiatives in Providence public schools.  This combination of science research, policy and education provided me with many skills that I have relied upon in my subsequent endeavors working at an environmental non-profit and in graduate school.

I am currently finishing my fourth year University of California, Berkeley's Environmental Science, Policy and Management Ph.D. program (expected graduation May 2005).  My plan is to pursue a career in environmental non-profit work, as an advocate for the use of science in setting environmental policy.

 

Ana Isabel Baptista, MA 2000

My experience as a Master's student at the CES was invaluable.  I came to Brown from a very narrowly focused environmental sciences program at Dartmouth College which I felt constrained my career options and academic interests. I came to the CES at Brown's because I was looking for a program that would allow me to explore the very complex environmental problems afflicting a vast majority of urban areas throughout the world.  The CES's interdisciplinary program allowed me to pull from various fields including public policy, urban studies, economics, and environmental science to produce more comprehensive and relevant research and learning.  The professors at CES and my research contacts there helped me find a position after graduation as a policy analyst and environmental planner with the RIDEM.  My CES education gave me a broader set of tools to draw from when faced with the real challenges of environmental management and decision-making.  Ultimately, I decided to pursue my doctoral studies and was able to choose from a variety of programs as diverse as Urban Planning and Environmental Science precisely because of the interdisciplinary approach I was exposed to at Brown.  

I am currently a doctoral student at Rutgers University in Urban Planning and Public Policy with a focus on environmental policy.

 

Alexandra Foote, MA 2000

My MA in Environmental Studies was extremely useful because I think it made me stand out as a candidate for admission to top-tier law schools.  I got into Hastings and Davis and onto the waiting list for Boalt and NYU.   I wrote my Master's thesis on childhood lead poisoning and tenant's rights to obtain lead-safe housing.  My thesis research included work on legislation in RI and "hands-on" work with advocates.  This work was extremely rewarding personally, and I think it makes me attractive to employers as someone who is practical and takes initiative.  I certainly love to talk about my experience at Brown and it has given me a passion and focus to continue work on the childhood lead issue from a legal perspective.   I am on the cusp of getting the environmental law work I really want.  I know that having an MA from CES gives me credibility and taught me the practical skills I need to stand out beyond scholarship.  I stand out because I have actually worked for an environmental and social cause. I was able to be successful at CES by building on the work of undergraduate and graduate students before me.  Thank you, Harold Ward.  Thank you, CES.

I graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 2002.  I am now a practicing attorney in criminal defense but am seeking work in plaintiff-side environmental and human rights litigation.

 

Meredith Hall, 2000

There's no question that CES got me to where I am today, in Berkeley, sorting through landscape architecture drawings. I started out at Brown with a fairly solid idea that I'd like to study environmental issues, but I wasn't quite sure which part of the broad field I was most interested in. The advising I got at the UEL, from the very first CAP course (ES11), till the end both directed me and allowed me the freedom to explore all the ideas that piqued my interest. Apparently disparate courses on plant ecology, environmental communications, and art/architecture taught me that there are numerous ways to approach creating a better environment -- all valid, and all important to understand. The CES's most important lesson, for me, was that communication is the key: if specialists, policymakers, and the public can't understand one another, no one wins.

My first real job after school was working for Chip Giller '93 at Grist Magazine -- where I suspect having an ES degree literally got me the job. After staying there for two years, I've moved on to UC Berkeley, where I've just finished my first year in the three Masters of Landscape Architecture program. The education I got at Brown has prepared me perfectly for the design world, where we are encouraged to know a little about everything and always know where to go to find the answers. The CES's emphasis on group projects and oral presentations has given me essential skills for the design process. From communicating our ideas to the public to doing environmental analysis and from planning livable communities to restoring ecosystems, there's no day when I'm not applying the skills I got a Brown to landscape architecture.

 

Jeremy Sinaikin, 2000

The benefit of the interdisciplinary nature of the CES is exposure to a broad array of environmental issues from many different perspectives. Learning to think as a policymaker, economist and scientist, being able to approach the multiple sides of an issue without the burden of a dominant orthodoxy is invaluable when tackling any type of complex problem. This type of thinking is applied throughout our education in courses like ES 11, ES 12, ES141 and ES 145 as well as the capstone of the educational process, the senior thesis. A CES education allowed me to excel in the consulting environment, with the varied projects requiring different skillsets, thought processes and requiring expertise on a wide array of subject matters.

After graduating I worked for two years at Industrial Economics Inc., a consulting firm specializing in studying environmental economic matters for the federal government.

 

Matthew Amengual, 2001

At Brown, I was able to conduct rewarding and meaningful research in Rhode Island that citizens and government officials used to create better environmental policies. Central to this research, was synthesizing information and methods from disparate disciplines into a cohesive form useful for the greater community. For example, for my thesis I combined data speaking to the value parcels of land as openspace that ranged from ecological to cultural in order to help a town create their acquisition policies. This research would not have been possible without the interdisciplinary focus of my education. Moreover, my undergraduate research experience was exciting because it allowed me to work in a way that I felt had a real and positive impact on the environment and society of Rhode Island. Working one on one with faculty provided for a rich educational experience that prepared me extremely well for a career as an environmental professional. I have been able to use this experience as a consultant to the U.S.E.P.A.--where I use my breadth of skills and knowledge to support the implementation and creation of environmental policies. Although my career as a professional working on environmental issues has been short, it is already apparent that my experience at Brown prepared me extremely well.

In the two years following Brown I have been a researcher at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge Massachusetts. This fall, I will be attending Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT as a masters candidate. My focus will be environmental policy.

 

Ana Brown, 2001

I was drawn to Brown in large part because of the strength of the environmental studies program. Not only is it one of the few urban environmental programs in the country, but it offered an opportunity to explore real life problems on a local level, learn to develop and apply practical solutions. I graduated from the CES with a deep appreciation for the education that it provided me. This appreciation has grown even stronger since I left as I’ve come to realize how rare this model is at the undergraduate level. Whereas some programs offer strong theoretical and philosophical training, the CES stands out as a nexus for training critical thinkers and environmental problem solvers, while also providing a solid academic framework.

It’s atypical that undergraduates, or even graduate students, are expected to carry out applied research projects and conduct remediation. Through the CES, I was challenged to design and implement projects from start to finish. My CES training has proven invaluable to my work at the Quaker United Nations Office, an international policy organization, where I focus on sustainable development issues. In a small office with limited staff, this experience has been instrumental in enabling me to independently carry out ambitious undertakings with limited additional institutional support. Through my studies in the CES, I was able to develop the vocabulary needed to communicate with different stakeholders - an essential tool in my work focusing on international fresh water resources concerns. I work daily with economists at the World Bank, country Ambassadors and staff, and water specialists at the UN and from around the world. CES gave me a solid training needed to effectively work with and strategize with these different players in order to effectively address and influence policies and bring forth positive change. Further, it has pushed me to fine-tune my personal philosophies and critical thinking and ground them in practical experience.

I owe much to the CES program and look forward to working with the Brown CES Alumni Association to help give back to Brown.

 

Justin Huxol, 2001

The Center for Environmental Studies taught me the importance of individuals who span fields of subspecialty and exercise the parlance of both science and policy. Environmental scholarship demands an approach that is sensitive to the interconnected nature of issues and problems that do not fit into a single category or discipline. The Center's unique approach to interdisciplinary scholarship and cooperative environmental problem solving is what drew me to pursue my degree in Environmental Studies. Over the years, the Center has fostered students who choose to work together on timely policy relevant projects. Whether it is taking on Providence's childhood lead poisoning problems, Rhode Island's regional open space planning, or campus environmental planning projects, the Center enriches its local and regional surroundings through advancement of student led research and its creation of sound, progressive environmental policy. For my senior thesis, fellow CES students and I formed an informal research group in which we synthesized our own individual concentration foci, but applied our research to interconnected land use planning issues in Rhode Island. This type of academic forum is a hallmark of CES. It provided an ideal setting for me to learn with professors and students, collaborate research and execute my academic vision in a manner that is second to none at Brown University.

I recently finished a research assistantship at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, in Cambridge, MA. I am currently tutoring students at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and am looking for work in the field of urban design/planning.

 

Nathan James, 2001

I chose Brown because of the opportunity to define the classes that would make up my degree.  Looking back on the process of selecting courses as an incoming freshman, I often wonder what made me choose the introductory environmental studies lecture.  As it turned out, there was no other department that so clearly embodied the principles of the New Curriculum – academic rigor, personal exploration, and gifted advising – than the Center for Environmental Studies.  CES encouraged undergraduates to explore their interests in environmental issues through primarily hands-on, local research while offering classes that combined and blurred the distinctions between traditional academic disciplines.  That I received credit toward my degree for coursework in urban studies and architecture exemplifies the multidisciplinary logic behind Barry Commoner’s first law of ecology -- everything is connected to everything else.   For my thesis, I worked along side other students undertaking similar projects to assist Rhode Island towns and nonprofits with land use planning.  We didn’t have an agenda except for our advisors’ questions.  We didn’t have funding except for small expenses.  But we saw a contemporary problem at the intersection of state policy, academic theory, and local practice.  From the first ES class -- where we taught environmental issues in Providence middle schools – to my thesis, my work was more than just an academic exercise.  In ways that probably won’t be apparent until well into the future, CES was the highlight of my time at Brown.
 

Jeff Klein, 2001

Only recently, while beginning my Masters' study in environmental studies, did I understand the full impact of the interdisciplinary education the CES has given me.  My new advisors met to discuss what courses I should take as a supplement to the research I'd be doing.  They found, however, that the CES courses I had taken had already addressed social research, both statistical and qualitative, media and communication, science, policy, and economics.  Putting such skills into an engaging variety of courses allowed me to truly absorb this material, far more than if I had simply taken economics or policy in a separate and unrelated capacity.  The CES has given me the knowledge and background to truly understand the complexities of the environment, and I'm lucky to have learned among such unique and brilliant faculty and students in a one of a kind program.  Friends of mine from related programs (i.e. biology, public policy, urban studies) throughout the university confided in me senior year that they were jealous of the interaction and structure of the CES, and that they would have been a part of the program if they had discovered it earlier.  I'm proud to have been a part of such a program.

Currently, I am beginning an MS program in Natural Resources at Cornell University.  I will be studying private forest management and looking for creative ways to bring sustainable income to logging towns in upstate New York.

 

Patrick MacRoy, MA 2001

Working as an epidemiologist studying the relationship between the man-made environment and human health has given me a deep appreciation for the education offered by the Center for Environmental Studies.  Certainly elements of my jobs have required a knowledge of pure epidemiologic research methodology, which the flexible curriculum of the CES program allowed me to obtain.  However, being able to prove a relationship between an environmental exposure and a human health impact is only a small part of the skill set I need to make a significant contribution to my field.  Putting the results into the larger context of problems in the urban environment and being able to propose concrete and viable policy solutions are key in order to move from uncovering a problem to the ultimate goal of effecting change.  For me, learning how to approach a problem holistically with the goal of finding a solution that is aware of social and political, as well as scientific realities, was the hallmark of my CES education.  In addition to the cource work in fields ranging from urban history to policy analysis, the uniquely CES thesis required me to walk through a real problem from the perspective of both a research study to quantify a relationship and a policy paper, documenting the political and social elements that generated the problem and impacted the potential solutions. This comprehensive analysis of a problem and requirements to frame it in a manor directly relevant to "real-world" decision makers mirrors well what I'm now being asked to do professionally as we try to develop strategies and programs to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.

Immediately after graduation, I was employed as the Epidemiologist for the Office of Environmental Health Risk Assessment at the Rhode Island Department of Health.  Since January, I've been managing the Surveillance and Evaluation unit of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

 

Nguyet Tau, 2001

While my endeavors since graduation in 2001 are not so obviously related to my environmental studies, the memories I have taken from my years away from campus, and away from the CES, have been fond. Without the interdisciplinary education I received, I doubt I would think or approach any issue (be it environmental or otherwise) in a multifaceted manner. The classes I took at the CES taught me more, both educationally and personally, by far than other classes throughout my years at Brown. If it were not for classes that taught me to see that everything plays a role in any issue-be it economical, environmental, social-that even I, as the researcher, the observer, the student, can affect the very issue I am trying to better understand and solve, then I would be a lesser person without the interdisciplinary education I received from such classes and professors.

Although my current dental grad classes are a long way from my major at Brown, I often keep up with what's going on in the world and take on the approach, using the tools, handed to me from my CES classes in my assessment of current local and world affairs.  Hats off to the CES, its faculty, staff and students! (and alums).

 

Christine Coletta, 2002

Environmental Studies, for me, isn’t only about rainforests or global warming. I love cities, urban planning, and the complex ways in which the urban environment impacts the lives of city-dwellers. The Center for Environmental Studies allowed me to take an interdisciplinary approach to my academic interests, assembling skills from a variety of disciplines – environmental and urban studies, political science, American history – to evaluate and address urban environmental issues. If you ask anyone at Brown what is unique about the CES, it is the strong community and supportive network of professors, undergrads, grad students, and alumni. Part of the reason I chose to study in the CES is because of the Center’s meaningful involvement with local community group leaders. My Brown education was balanced by the opportunities I had to conduct original research, spend one-on-one time with professors, and to engage with my classmates (both graduate and undergraduate) in team projects and research groups centered around our integrated academic interests. One such collaborative project that came out of the CES “Urban Group” allowed us to work with political leaders in the City of Providence. This resulted in a paper that we published in a national planning journal and then later presented at the national conference of the American Planning Association in Chicago, Illinois. I’m grateful that the CES was my academic and personal training ground; it was there that I learned the value of balancing several academic disciplines with strong community involvement, which has significantly impacted the way I tackle urban issues today.

Currently I am working for the City of New York’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development. I am working on a series of research and applied projects related to the creation of affordable housing in New York.

 

Lindsay Haddix, 2002

As a member of the graduating class of 2002, I am so thankful for my CES experience. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allowed me to take classes as diverse as ES153 "Property rights and environmental policy" and AC153 "The automobile in American life" and then synthesize the knowledge I gained from several different fields into a succinct senior thesis. I had the opportunity to acquire practical skills in web site development and GIS mapping, while simultaneously being a part of arguably the closest departmental community on the Brown campus. Because CES allowed to me to explore so many topics within the environmental field, I now feel confident in choosing a career that suits my best interests. Evolution in departmental structure is natural, but throwing away all that has been proven successful would be a mistake.

After traveling around the world for six months, I have applied to serve with the Peace Corps and expect to have much success with this endeavor due in large part to my CES training.

 

Kelly Huennekens, 2002

I graduated from Brown University just over a year ago, and fond memories are still fresh in my mind. I gained so much from Brown, both personally and academically, and I credit a large part of that to the Center for Environmental Studies. It served as a figurative and literal meeting place for students, professors, and community members, and encouraged dialogue and shared learning. I learned as much from my peers as I did in class, and the community created within the Center facilitated that through seminars, informal gatherings, and the UEL and MacMillan workspaces. In addition, I feel that the CES program of study was essential to developing a comprehensive understanding of environmental science. While allowing each individual to choose her own area of focus, it ensured that students gained a broader base of understanding through an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. Interdisciplinary education is essential in this field because the science and policy are inextricably entwined. One must understand policy in order to contextualize the science, and an understanding of the science is essential to policy studies. Through courses that a "hard science" concentration might not ordinarily include, such as Environmental Policy and Environmental Theory, I gained perspective and was able to approach my studies in physical sciences in a more holistic way. Serving as a teaching assistant for the introductory Environmental Studies course (ES 11) for two semesters reinforced the importance of understanding the broader context in environmental studies/science. My interactions with other students brought to my attention the essential connections that must be made between science and policy and between different environmental issues in order to truly understand any one environmental issue.

I currently work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the National Ocean Service's tide predictions group. I am involved with several projects, and my work involves computer programming, GIS (mapping) work, and website design. My education prepared me well for this work, through formal training, problem-solving experience, and broader appreciation of environmental issues. No matter what field of environmental science I pursue in the future, my integrated understanding of the science and policy aspects of environmental issues will provide me with an invaluable foundation. This basis is important in actually doing the work well and with a high level of comprehension. It is also important on a personal level, because I understand the broader context of my work and this allows me to pursue what is meaningful to me.

 

Brooke Myers, 2002

The inter-disciplinary curriculum of Brown's CES department has uniquely and excellently prepared me for my present profession. I graduated in May of 2002, and as is apparent to everyone, in the midst of an economic downturn. In this time of extremely high competition for entry level jobs across the country, I was able to find a job in my field of interest, in a city in which I am pleased to call home. I currently work at Abt Associates, Inc in Cambridge, MA. Our company provides work on a consultant basis to the US EPA. According to the US EPA's central mission statement, their goal is to ensure that "Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive." The kind of academic work I was involved in at Brown's CES program allowed me to market myself as a person who was already engaged in the analyzation and support this sort of environmental policy-making even before I had entered the job market. The collaborative work I participated in as a student and as a TA that was between students and members of the Rhode Island environmental and regulatory community was an excellent example of how this multidisciplinary program prepared me for work in the environmental arena. These "project classes" were absolutely the best way of preparing students for the reality of working collaboratively within the complex arena of environmental policy and doing research in an uncertain, rapidly-changing world. I have yet to meet other students who were lucky enough to have the wealth of practical experience working on environmental policy and conservation that I had during my experience in the CES. In addition, the sorts of practical skills we learned in conjunction with these projects (working with GIS, web design, etc.) have proved to be invaluable in my current work, and never fail to impress co-workers and managers alike. I have also found the CES department, especially, adept creating an academically-rich environment in which students we were able to creatively and coherently create curriculum programs that suited their unique interests and academic pursuits. The multi-disciplinary structure of the CES department has proved to be integral in my professional success. The professors in our program were also amoung the most engaged and accessible at Brown. In no other department were my friends able to enjoy the same sort of personal and academic relationships with their professors.

I currently work at Abt Associates, Inc in Cambridge, MA. Our company provides work on a consultant basis to the US EPA.

 

Kerrie O'Donnell, 2002

The Center for Environmental Studies has helped me to see things as whole. In contrast, most college students graduate with a degree in a single discipline, without intimate knowledge of how other disciplines affect, are affected by, or interact with their own to impact the world we live in. They may go on to become experts without ever understanding how to apply their knowledge and work with other experts to solve the important issues facing society. The interdisciplinary training I received has allowed me to act as a translator or go-between among scientists, fishermen, policy makers and students and has qualified me for a broad spectrum of jobs. The hands-on training I received prepared me to work simultaneously with experts in differing fields.  Whether I continue to work as a interdisciplinarian or choose to focus more directly on one discipline, I will always have a background that allows me to understand the whole only as the sum of its parts.

I live and work on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine as a Fellow for the Island Institute.  I support the town Geographic Information System (GIS) committee in developing a GIS and integrating it into existing town infrastructure.  I also work on marine resource related projects.  I have assisted in a study to determine the impact of dredge material disposal on the local lobster population.  Currently I am coordinating and co-teaching a curriculum centered on raising lobster larvae in the classroom with the 6th grade science class.