M.S. in Sustainability, 2012
St. Louis, Missouri
While working at the Virgin Islands Energy Office as an electrical engineer, I began thinking about enrolling in a sustainability-related graduate program. I came across a press release about the new Center for Sustainability at Saint Louis University. After considering other schools, I chose SLU to be part of shaping a brand new program and because of St. Louis' small-town feel.
The people in the community and at SLU are accessible and available, and the university has good connections with other higher education institutions in the area, including Washington University and Webster University. St. Louis also has many opportunities to get involved in sustainability initiatives through startups, nonprofits, incubators, and other programs.
During the latter part of my studies, I became interested in sustainability policy. The Tragedy of the Commons and its relation to the political economy really opened my mind to various thought processes, including systems thinking. Sometimes even a simple problem has many dynamic variables that must be taken into account to arrive at a fair and inclusive solution.
In my capstone research project, I looked at the burden of using charcoal as an energy source in Haiti from a policy and engineering perspective and suggested that cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane bagasse could be used as an alternative feedstock. The majority of the Haitian population lives in poverty, but the sustainability program at SLU taught me that good governance, improved infrastructure, and other societal mechanisms can considerably improve environmental, social, and economic circumstances.
As an electrical engineer at Ameren, my job is to design the transmission infrastructure and make the grid in this country more stable and reliable for our customers. Electric companies must design systems that transport energy from where it's generated to where it's needed, which is becoming more complex as additional renewable energy sources are coming online.
The program at SLU taught me a lot about not only sustainability-related issues but also the importance of having personal and professional contacts. My advice for potential students is to find a professor you can connect with and who is willing to guide you to additional sources of information. Also, read as much as you can, run with interesting ideas, and get involved outside of the classroom. You get out of the program what you put into it!