M.S. in Sustainability, 2013
Environmental Resources Management
I chose the sustainability program at SLU because of its holistic curriculum and the opportunity to engage in sustainability efforts in a city where I could put what I was learning to use.
Most programs focus on one particular aspect of sustainability, but I wanted to enter a program in which I could learn and explore many areas of sustainability.
Available funding was another reason I chose SLU. Other schools I applied to didn't offer graduate assistantships within their sustainability departments. SLU and St. Louis were exactly what I was looking for.
I knew I wanted a career helping companies do the right thing, but corporate social responsibility (CSR) became my passion after taking the Sustainable Business Practices course. For nearly a year, I helped Dr. Nitish Singh with his research on analyzing companies' Global Reporting Initiative reports. I also worked with a local consulting firm to collect data for and write Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program reports for local universities. Because I wanted my capstone project to be something I could put to use at the university, I focused on how SLU could compost more food waste on campus.
The sustainability program at SLU helped me change my thinking on how I approach challenges and analyze risks. The program also opened my eyes to current sustainability work being done locally, nationally, globally and pragmatic ways we can combat the world's sustainability challenges.
My advice for students is to have an end goal. Ask yourself where you want to be in five years. I wanted to move to Chicago—a business-based city—so CSR work made sense for me. Location is key. Start searching for jobs that interest you in cities where you want to live. Have an idea of what you want to focus on before you begin the program, and then tailor it to meet your needs.
Also, get involved in research, apply for internships, and volunteer. Take part in anything that gets you closer to reaching your career goals. And network, network, network. I ended up in my current position through a connection in St. Louis.
Make small sustainable changes within your community and take advantage of being a student. Shadow professionals in your field and ask them if you can informally interview them. Employers will be impressed by your degree, but they care even more about your experience and professional knowledge. My research in the Center for Sustainability and my work with a local consulting firm were key factors in my company's decision to even interview me. Lastly, feel free to reach out to me and other alumni. We are here to help in any way we can!
As a consultant in the Sustainability Information Solutions business unit with Environmental Resources Management (ERM) in Chicago, I've helped Fortune 500 companies implement environmental health and safety and sustainability (EHS&S) data management software. I've also participated in sustainability strategy work, helping company leaders understand their current EHS&S processes and improvements they want to see.
As I work with more companies, I see sustainability and CSR positions being filled internally, so work on getting your foot in the door after graduating. Because so much of sustainability and CSR is voluntary, regulations are still the greatest driver for companies to do the right thing. However, this is changing. More and more companies are focusing on sustainability, and there are opportunities with sustainably minded companies out there.