Recent Graduates

Mariah Gill, B.S. ENST '12

Growing up in Lahaina, Maui, my world pre-Los Angeles consisted of the West Maui Mountains, Launiupoko Valley, maybe a few thousand people and, of course, the ocean.  Imagine my dismay when millions of people and miles of cement met me in LA! Overwhelmed, I stumbled into Dr. Jim Haw’s office my sophomore year and made possibly the best decision of my life.

With an “Ocean, Life and People” concentration, I have been part of the inaugural group of students to participate in a special block semester on Catalina Island.  I also was in the first group to complete the AAUS scientific diver training and travel to Guam and Palau to study biodiversity and the impact of the Navy expansion in Guam.  My research has been in Marine Protected Areas and the public’s interaction with them.  To date I have completed two individual research projects on the topic and presented my findings at two symposia,  one the UC Berkeley National McNair Symposium.

This fall I will be attending Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for a Master's in Environmental Management with a focus on water management. This is a two year master's program that will open up doors for a career in environmental management or a PhD in Coastal Resource Management. I am very excited for this opportunity and can not thank Dr. Jim Haw, Dr. James Fawcett, Dr. Lisa Collins, Dr. David Ginsburg, Naomi, or the Dornsife School enough for supporting me here at USC.

Sarah Wescott, B.A. ENST '11, M.A. ENST '12

A Southern California native, I came into USC with no major and little direction - frankly, I was interested in too many things to decide. Once I discovered the Environmental Studies program, though, I knew it would be a perfect fit. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allowed me to study a wide range of topics: architecture, politics, biology, geology, social sciences, and planning, all while providing me with ample opportunity to get out in the field for some hands-on learning.

Part of the group of students participating in a block-style semester in Spring 2010, I  lived at the Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island for a month where I completed a directed research project on biodiversity and the threat level of invasive plant species between different habitats. I also traveled to Belize for the "Problems Without Passports" course studying the role of the environment in the collapse of the Ancient Mayan civilization with four fellow students. This course was truly a once in a lifetime experience - that is, until I was asked to come back the following year to assist Dr. Collins, since the course had grown so popular that student enrollment had nearly quadrupled!

I am currently an Environmental Studies Master's student through the Progressive Degree Program, which allows students to complete both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in five years. As I finish my final year, my focus has been streamlined toward sustainable urban planning, which I hope to pursue as a future career.

Brian Rodysill, B.A. ENST '12

I graduated from USC as an Environmental Studies major with a minor in Natural Science.  I have an intense respect for nature and the environment coupled with a perhaps greater appreciation for personal wellness and health.  I think that the two are intrinsically linked as particularly energy and water play essential parts in any person’s life.

I spent a summer researching in a Liver Transplant laboratory at Mayo Clinic.  Utilizing Immunohistochemistry, one of my tasks was to stain and image specific cells within tissue samples. I plan on using my skills learned in the lab for future research in medicine and other disciplines. 

Also, the summer before my senior year, I spent three weeks studying the collapse of the Mayan civilization by taking ENST 485 in the central American country of Belize. Truly a life-defining experience. The paleoclimatological tools that current researchers use to reconstruct past temperature, rainfall, soil erosion and biological characteristics like diet I found particularly fascinating.

During my senior year I researched organic-polymer based solar cells with the USC Department of Chemistry.  Organic solar cells represent an opportunity to manufacture flexible, low cost photovoltaic devices that can be easily integrated into current infrastructure. 

Since graduation, I have been working as a volunteer delivering healthcare in central America.

Christine Sur, B.S. ENST '12

After my freshman year, I participated in my first "Problems Without Passports" summer program to Belize. The time spent in the field was incredibly exciting and sparked my interest for research. The following summer, I was part of a brand new PWP to Guam and Palau. After a month of training and SCUBA certifications at Catalina, I headed off to Micronesia for the trip of a lifetime, conducting research on the beautiful reefs of Guam and Palau. Spring semester of my junior year, I was fortunate to dive along the Queensland coast, from Brisbane up to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as in the pristine waters of Fiji. And, as a senior, I undertook an independent research project, investigating a Marine Protected Area and diving at the USC Wrigley Institute on Catalina. 

I graduated this last spring with an Environmental Studies B.S. degree with an Oceans, Life, and People concentration. I was one of ten graduating seniors in USC Dornsife to be named a Dornsife Scholar, which are awarded based on a variety of factors including academic achievements, research experience, and a desire to make positive impact in the world. This fall, I will be at UC Davis to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology with a focus on marine ecology.

Jay Creech, B.S. ENST '11

I entered USC as an engineering student looking to find a major that would allow me to pursue interests my interests in the environment and energy. After two years changing majors within engineering, I decided to join the ENST program so I could have a more well-rounded major that balanced my interest with science, policy, and business. I enjoyed my time with the ENST department and went on some great field trips, pursued an individual research project on energy storage, and studied sustainable development in Costa Rica for a semester. 

After spending the summer after graduation guiding sea kayaking trips, I launched my professional career and joined a team with ICF International and ALL Consulting working on a climate change and sustainability project for the Department of Homeland Security. The work centers around centralizing the utility billing process for accounts across the US to streamline processing and tracking of data with a goal of a 5% cost savings in the first year. As the project has grown, I have developed and designed various energy analysis projects on topics including utility rate optimization, time of use studies, load shifting, duel fuel projects, geothermal and air source heat pumps, and photo-voltaic installation. Overall, I've learned so much about energy and utilities, and this job has given me an opportunity to get hands on experience in the energy and sustainability industry.

I'm not sure what the next career move will be, and I'm still deciding what to pursue in graduate school. But I'm very thankful for the experiences and education I received at USC -- and the opportunities my degree has offered me after graduation.

Elizabeth Scott, M.A. ENST '11

I began my freshman year at USC as a Biology major. However, I soon realized that Environmental Studies was my perfect path. I still took intensive biology courses, but I also learned about alternative energy, air and water processes, politics, and even marine spatial planning.

During my junior year, I developed a course plan for a Progressive Masters Degree and was able to transition seamlessly into a graduate program, while still feeling challenged and excited by the things I learned each day. 

My ENST experiences include working in Australia as a field technician on a National Science Foundation research project and a directed research project comparing rapid methods of testing beach water quality with the slower traditional methods. My hands-on experiences with real research projects were invaluable as I began formulating more solid objectives for my future. I now am a research technician with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.

The USC Environmental Studies Program offers unrivaled opportunities to learn about environmental issues first hand, to work in teams to accomplish specific, often scientific, goals, and to explore the world.

Jennah Caster, B.S. ENST '11

Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, I graduated in Spring 2011 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Oceans, Life and People, and a minor in Digital Media-Based Imaging from the Roski School of Fine Arts.

I returned to South Florida to attend the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, where I am completing a Master of Professional Science in Marine Affairs and Policy, with a concentration in Marine Conservation.

While at USC I took advantage of every unique opportunity that was available to Environmental Studies students. I studied abroad in Queensland, Australia for a semester and I participated in the experimental block semester, which allowed me to spend a month living at the Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island. While on Catalina I completed an AAUS scientific research diving certification. This certification, along with my previous credentials as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, allowed me to attend and assist with the first ENST "Problems Without Passports" course to Guam and Palau.

Not only was I afforded incredible opportunities at USC, but I also made life long friends. We studied, lived, and traveled with one another. Attending USC for my undergraduate degree was the best decision I could have made. 

Daniel Kasang, B.S. ENST '12

Being an ENST student was a fantastic experience. I participated in a number of exciting programs offered by the department. The first offering was the block semester: an immersive experience taking classes with only other ENST majors and a class taught at the Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island. Then I participated in the Guam and Palau PWP with Dr. Jim Haw and Dr. David Ginsburg. One summer as an intern with USC and the Catalina Island Conservancy, I built trails, worked with plant species and restoration, and performed geochemical analysis with Dr. Lisa Collins.

The department provided me with wonderful opportunities to learn about the scope of environmental issues and get hands-on experience in marine and terrestrial conservation. With the great experiences I’ve had in the classroom and field through USC ENST, I feel very prepared to move on to a career and further my education. I am currently taking a bridge year post graduation.

Laura Wang, B.S. ENST '12

As an environmental studies student, I worked on a directed research project with Christine Sur that examined the density and abundance of seagrass in Big Fisherman’s Cove, a Marine Protected Area located on Catalina Island. Functioning as a no-take zone, the cove plays a crucial role in preserving biodiversity. Seagrass is a strong indicator of ecosystem health, as it acts as a nursery for many juvenile species, provides oxygen to water, and stabilizes sediments. Currently, there is extremely limited information regarding the ecosystem health of Big Fisherman’s Cove, and even less available data regarding the prevalence of seagrass. This project aimed to provide data on both the density and abundance of seagrass within the cove. As Christine and I are both certified AAUS Divers, we used SCUBA underwater research methods, including using quadrats as a method of randomly sampling for abundance, and semi-permanent transects to record density and prevalence. The data we gathered will allow for well-informed policy and management options in the future regarding this Marine Protected Area.

Currently I am working as an Intern for National Environmental Policy Act Oversight at the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington, D.C. In the fall, I will be an Executive Fellow in the Capital Fellows program, based in Sacramento. The program gives those interested an inside look into California public policy, and I hope to be placed in environmental policy.


60-Second Seminars: David Ginsburg

60-Second Seminars: David Ginsburg

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