Oh, the places you’ll go!

“You’re off to great places! You’re off and away!”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

In Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” the author uses whimsical language and vibrant artwork to illustrate the journey of life and its challenges. On June 16 at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom, graduating seniors and doctoral candidates accepted their diplomas and entered the next phase of a journey that will lead these Bruins in many different directions.


In the student address at graduation, Serena Lomonico used the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste – to describe the dynamic environmental science degree. She will encourage others to employ these receptors to experience the outside world in her next position. For three months Serena will serve as an Applied Marine Research volunteer in the Galapagos Islands. Afterwards she is headed straight to Costa Rica to work in a surf lodge to help with environmental education programs at a local school in Pavones.


Maanya Condamoor, recipient of an Outstanding Service Award Honorable Mention, will travel to Guatemala with Engineers Without Borders. Her team will concentrate on building ferro-cement rainwater catchment tanks for the families there who do not currently have access to clean water. After building the tanks, she will travel to Europe through a University of California, Davis study abroad program, where she will study community development and politics in Italy and Germany. In the fall she’ll start as a consultant with IBM Consulting in New York City where she plans to eventually focus on IBM’s Smarter Planet and other sustainable solutions, which helps companies and cities green their practices.


Heather Burdick has joined the team at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation as a Marine Biologist Project Manager. This local nonprofit organization is dedicated to restoring and enhancing the Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters.  Heather will be flying over the coast conducting aerial surveys of ocean vessels and SCUBA diving to collect data and monitor the Palos Verdes Kelp Restoration Project and Green Abalone Restoration.  She will also be involved in outreach efforts.


Brooke Pickett will continue on the academic track, starting a Ph.D. program in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the University of California, Riverside this fall. Brooke’s studies will focus on plant ecology in relation to soil microbes, particularly how soil properties or other environmental factors can change the bacterial community, and how invasive plant species can affect the types of microbes in soils.  This type of research is used to inform conservation and restoration issues.


Forrest Vanderbilt, one of the first recipients of the Doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering since the professional graduate degree program moved to the IoES, has been selected for a United States Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Community of Practice detail. The mission of the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program is to protect the Nation’s aquatic resources. The Corps evaluate permit applications for all construction activities that take place in the Nation’s waters, including wetlands. The Corps also issues permits for any work, including construction and dredging, in the Nation’s navigable waters. Forrest will be given opportunities to learn and contribute to national policy initiatives benefiting the Regulatory Program.

steve westly

In the commencement keynote speech, clean technology venture capitalist Steve Westly stated, “in the fight for our survival amidst climate change the students in this room will be at the center of the action.” Wherever they go, and whatever roles they assume, the latest cohort of Institute of the Environment and Sustainability alumni are prepped to help protect the planet.

“Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

From the hills of Westwood, to locales across the globe, these college graduates are ready to begin their next acsent. Congratulations to the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability Class of 2013!

View images from the 2013 IoES Commencement Celebration.