It’s no secret that leaving the secluded cow pastures of Storrs, Connecticut for the grit and grime of the working world will be a difficult transition, and figuring out where your life will go is certainly no small task. As the economy continues to change and adapt, finding your place in the working world can seem overwhelming. Everyone wants to be happy and enjoy their job, but everyone also wants to make money.
While we all hope to have a perfect plan post-graduation, this is not always the case. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the path we take to find our dream job may be longer but still lead to the success we so desire. Three UConn alumni are examples of how you can utilize your undergraduate education and experiences to put yourself on this path to success.
In a panel discussion hosted by the UConn Reads Committee in collaboration with UConn Alumni Relations and the Center for Career Development, three UConn alumni shared their experiences in the working world post-Storrs in various green jobs. Moderator Mary Donegan, assistant professor-in-residence of urban and community studies at UConn, was joined by panelists Benjamin Breslau ’18 (CLAS), Eugenia Gibbons ’02 (CLAS) and Nick Addamo ‘14 (CLAS).
All three individuals, though working in vastly different sectors of the economy, work under the umbrella of environment focused careers. The panelists shared their own experiences to offer insight and guidance to students interested in environment related careers that includes much more than you may think.
Gibbons is the Massachusetts Director of Climate Policy at Health Care Without Harm, an international organization that seeks to work with the healthcare industry to reduce their environmental footprint and run as a sustainable field.
“For me,” Gibbons said, “I always knew that I really wanted to be deeply engaged in policy making, even when I was at UConn and was really thinking about sustainability and women empowerment in particular through economic investment. I knew policy was what peaked my interest and could be a real driver for change.”
“I always knew that I really wanted to be deeply engaged in policy making, even when I was at UConn and was really thinking about sustainability and women empowerment in particular through economic investment. I knew policy was what peaked my interest and could be a real driver for change.”Eugenia Gibbons, UConn Class of 2002 Graduate
The path Gibbons followed to come to turn this passion into a career, however, consisted of time spent abroad in China followed by years in environmental consulting and graduate work at Tufts University. Today, Gibbons works to implement climate justice in the healthcare field and develop solutions to aid disparities in the healthcare field tied to environmental crises.
Addamo is a transportation planner for Kimley-Horn of DC, a private urban planning corporation that examines and develops solutions to the challenges faced in 21st century cities, with Addamo’s particular area of expertise being in urban transportation.
“My work is really rewarding for many reasons,” Addamo said. “But I think among the most rewarding is getting to work on designing and building our cities and transportation networks to improve and expand sustainable ways of getting around, like walking, biking, taking public transit.”
While it may not seem that working in transportation and urban planning is environment focused, Addamo revealed this is far from true.
“What a lot of people I don’t think know,” Addamo said, “is that in a lot of cities and a lot of states, the transportation sector is the largest or one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Really getting to focus on that physical design and helping to enable more sustainable travel choices is a really great career path if you are interested in green jobs.”
“the transportation sector is the largest or one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Really getting to focus on that physical design and helping to enable more sustainable travel choices is a really great career path if you are interested in green jobs”Nick Addamo, UConn Class of 2014 Graduate
Breslau, also known as ‘Ranger Ben,’ is an environmental education specialist at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, and works with the American Conservation Experience. Breslau’s career takes him directly into nature, bringing the wildlife and the issues that face wildlife to the classrooms of Philadelphia schools.
While all three panelists lamented that many of their favorite aspects of their career have been brought into the less-glamorous virtual mode, they are thoroughly satisfied with the careers they have and the paths that brought them to this point.
In addition to sharing their own experiences, the panelists offered advice to students entering both the green and non-green careers of the job market, though they agreed that their careers were on the rise in a time where climate justice has increased tremendously in national and international conversations.
“Being able to communicate and collaborate will never go out of style and is probably more important than ever in this more digital age where everything is virtual,” Addamo said.
The general consensus was that the ability to effectively communicate through writing was of the utmost importance in the job market, followed basic technical computer skills, experience in problem solving and utilize network connections. While it may be a difficult path to follow, the end always justifies the means when following the career of your dreams.