The basement of Hackman was a great place to spend my academic career. While I was waiting for meetings outside Rich Pepino’s office (because he was inevitably running late, usually because he was helping a student get a great job at the EPA), I could hear Jim Strick’s booming laughter from the next office or would run into Chris Williams with a new batch of samples to analyze in the lab. These professors had a profound impact on my career path and helped shape my character as a young professional. During my time at F&M as a joint major in Environmental Studies and Public Policy, I had the opportunity to attend several conferences and trips sponsored by the department. The first conference I attended was the National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment where I heard nationally-known figures discuss issues ranging from climate change to lead poisoning to urban sprawl. I distinctly remember sitting in an auditorium next to Dr. Strick and hearing his insights on the speakers, giving me a deeper understanding of the issues. After learning about the intersections of human health and the environment, I thought, “This is what I want to do with my life.” I brought back a renewed enthusiasm for my academics and enrolled in Professor Pepino’s class, Health Risks and the Environment where I was first introduced to environmental justice. I quickly became a staunch advocate for health equity and environmental justice and under the tutelage of Professors Pepino and Williams, wrote a case study of mountaintop removal coal mining for the capstone course in Environmental Studies. In this context, I was able to attend Pennsylvania’s First Annual Conference on Environmental Justice in the spring of 2009. Through connections I made at this conference, I was offered an internship at the Maryland Department of the Environment, where I worked closely with the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities (CEJSC). After my internship ended and I started graduate school, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed me to serve as a member of the CEJSC.
Now, I am an Association of Schools of Public Health Environmental Health Fellow working in the Office of Children’s Health Protection at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, still working on environmental justice issues and very thankful for Professors Strick, Pepino, and Williams and the support of the ENE department. In addition to my phenomenal education in the classroom, I participated in several extracurricular activities at minimal cost to me. When I considered how to direct my annual gift, I renewed my membership to ENE’s Founders Society and dedicated the funds to student trips and conference registration. Students in ENE will continue to be challenged in and out of the classroom by exceptional professors and advisors and will be able to take advantage of the same opportunities provided to me while I was a student. I am extremely grateful for my F&M education and the professors who were there to guide me along the way.