UCLA Bruins are described as game changers with the following traits: optimism, pride, innovation, and excellence. Alumni from the institute’s undergraduate degree program embody these characteristics by moving forward and making a difference. Survey results show that 67% of Environmental Science graduates are employed, with 82% of the respondents in an occupation related to the environment and sustainability. Alumni work in areas such as conservation and ecology, pollution and toxins, sustainable business, climate change, natural resources, environmental law, and energy. IoES Professor Travis Longcore created Alumni Day to coincide with the beginning of the Environmental Science Practicum. He integrated this element into the course so alumni could share their experiences with students in the final year of the program.
All the way from Israel via Skype, Aaron Whitby discussed how he’s transitioned to medical school. Also presenting remotely was Ellen Dempsey, an Environmental Engineer at Alcoa Fastening Systems, an aerospace manufacturing company in Los Angeles County. Her principal responsibilities are to assess environmental impacts and aspects and develop solutions to these issues.
Class of 2013’s Cassie Trickett started as an intern at Soil/Water/Air Protection Enterprise (SWAPE) in Santa Monica and is now a senior scientist. SWAPE provides environmental consulting and expert services to developers, municipalities, industries, law firms, and environmental groups. Cassie advised the students to pursue internships while they were still in school. She emphasized how these opportunities help you get a foot in the door and build a network of like-minded individuals who care about the environment.
In addition to receiving a Bachelor of Science from the IoES, Chay Tang earned a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering, also from UCLA. He is currently an Environmental Engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District and performs environmental site assessments. Chay said the greatest thing about the major is how much you learn.
AmeriCorps member Jaryd Block does outreach in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Coursework in geographic information systems and remote sensing inspired his fascination with scientific data analysis. Jaryd assesses and restores impaired watershed habitats and increases community stewardship by doing ecological monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support.
Following the equator, Serena Lomonico traveled to the Galapagos Islands, through an international volunteer program. As an Applied Marine Research volunteer she observed cetaceans (blue whales and humpback whales). Serena encouraged the undergraduates to explore the world and look for experiences in a field you are passionate about.
Also working in coastal conservation is Lily Tsukayama. Lily is an Angler Outreach Team Member with nonprofit Heal the Bay. She works to raise awareness about local coastal and marine issues in the Santa Monica Bay. It was a stint as a Science and Policy intern at the organization that helped lead to the full-time position.
Improving the City of Los Angeles is alumnae Jasneet Bains, an environmental land-use analyst and legal assistant. She collaborates with government agencies and nonprofits on sustainable city planning and climate action policies. Jasneet urged the class to take up extracurricular activities and stay informed about current affairs.
Recent graduate Mario Colon works for the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science. He helps Director Brad Shaffer with the center’s research and education efforts.
Many alumni continue on the higher education track. Kaitlin Kelly-Reif is a second-year Ph.D. student in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s studying the effect of toxic chemicals on the environment on human health. Kaitlin said the Environmental Science major really helped frame her ideas on science and the world. UCLA School of Engineering doctoral candidate Nancy Tseng is researching how naturally occurring fungi can be used to help clean up the environment.
Other Alumni Day presenters including David Molmen, Warren Tam, and David Hogan told students to concentrate during senior year and seek out campus activities, internships, and networking opportunities. Kate Thomas from the institute spoke at the end about young alumni engagement. She said the IoES is committed to building this community and creating meaningful opportunities for former students to remain connected to the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.