Meet Environmental Studies Students

Justin Bogda, ENST '14

The unique thing about the Environmental Studies major is that it does not draw from just one subject; it is an interdisciplinary study of all the science, policy, economics, and humanities that shape the environment in which we live.  After two completed years of study, it has become strikingly clear that while the environment is the one thing that unites the entire world, it is our greatest divider when exploited as a resource rather than protected as our life source.  As a junior double majoring in Environmental Studies and International Relations, I hope to work on shaping policies and enacting change that will ensure environmental protection on an international level.

In my second semester at USC, I had the incredible opportunity to receive my AAUS scientific diver certification and travel with a group of students and professors to Guam and Palau to conduct research in Palau’s Ngederrak Conservation Park marine protected area.  We also looked at different policies and means of environmental protection, comparing Palau’s pristine marine ecosystems with many of Guam’s degraded marine and terrestrial environments, a result of American foreign security needs in the Pacific.

The environment is delicate, and with a growing age of international mobility, humans can quickly and easily destroy it.  This summer, I am interning with the Catalina Island Conservancy, and one of our jobs is to help with the removal of invasive plant species on the island.  With foreign plants from all over the world degrading the delicate ecosystem of Catalina, it is some of my first real life experience with how closely international development affects the global environment.

I am also currently working with the USC Office of Sustainability as the Communications and Marketing Lead, working to promote awareness of our campus’ sustainability efforts, and am currently working on establishing an “eco-tour” on our campus, the first of its kind.  After my undergraduate work, I hope to pursue a law degree, and take the steps necessary to work in environmental law.  My ultimate goal is to work in environmental international policy and law, and merge the two fields that I believe will be increasingly relevant to our ever-expanding society’s threatened environment. 

Makena Crowe, ENST '14

When most people find out that I’m a junior double majoring in Environmental Studies and Archaeology, their first reaction is “Cool!” Quickly followed by, “So are you going to be the next Indiana Jones or save the world?” My reaction: Why not both? 

At USC it’s been incredibly exciting to be able to combine both my majors through the PWP (Problems Without Passports) and the Environmental Studies Program.  Last summer I had the opportunity to participate in an extremely fascinating and very “hands-on” field program ENST 485.  My classmates and I went to Belize to study the collapse of the Mayan civilization and the role of the environment on its downfall.  It was an incredible experience. During the day we would hike over the ruins and even through several caves and at night we would learn firsthand from the archaeologists and researchers excavating the sites.  Being able to go on field programs like this has really inspired me and allowed me to see for myself the different opportunities that are open to USC students like me!

And it’s not just field work. During the school year the Environmental Studies classes are engaging and the opportunities are endless. In my spare time I also volunteer at the Natural History Museum (across the street) in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department, which is amazing. This summer I am interning with the Los Angeles Water Board which I found out about through the USC ENST Career Network.

Alice Hall-Partyka, ENST '14

With double bachelor's degrees in Environmental Studies and Global Health, I hope to pursue a career in international environmental health policy. I plan to attend law school after receiving my undergraduate degrees, and I want to address water quality issues, among other environmental topics, in underdeveloped regions of the world.

During the summer of 2011, I participated in the field course in Belize, examining the role of the environment in the collapse of the Ancient Maya. I specifically researched how changing climatic and population trends may have increased disease spread and subsequently caused the collapse of the civilization. My favorite part of the trip was teaching adorable five-year-old Mayan children in the service learning component and playing endless games of “London Bridge” with them!

I have also had opportunities to gain a deeper perspective of environmental issues through internships and research. During my sophomore year, I interned at the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, evaluating projects with potential impacts to federal jurisdiction waters. Currently, I am designing and implementing an exposure assessment study with the USC Division of Environmental Health that involves measuring ultrafine particles in various campus buildings. In addition, I am spending three weeks this summer in Peru volunteering in a medical clinic and working with disabled children.

Connor Jackson, ENST '14

As a junior with a concentration in “Sustainability, Energy, and Society," the USC Environmental Studies program has proven to be much more than a science-based curriculum.  I can explore the roots of environmental problems from a much broader perspective, including economic and policy-based approaches.

After just one year of study I had participated in hands-on research opportunities including a research trip to the islands of Guam and Palau to conduct reef surveys.  Beyond the scientific research, we also analyzed the policies behind the proposed Apra Harbor expansion.  My experiences in Guam and Palau were not only some of the most fun I have ever had, but opened my eyes to the power that young scientists such as ourselves have in influencing environmental policy.  

I also had the opportunity to intern in a marine microbial ecology lab, and look forward to conducting more research on Catalina Island at the Wrigley Institute with my AAUS scientific diver training. 

I have a passion for all outdoor activities, especially backpacking and climbing, and have training as a backcountry educator and Wilderness First Responder.  I look forward to combining my knowledge as an environmental scientist with a business background to drive important new initiatives benefiting society. 

Nathaniel Kinsey, M.A. ENST '13

Growing up in the small mountain town of Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains, about 80 miles away from Los Angeles, I was in the natural environment everyday. I would wake up every morning to an 8,000 foot mountain façade sometimes covered in snow, sometimes not. Unknowingly this day-to-day interaction with the natural environment instilled a sense of responsibility for not only my local mountain environment but also the environment in general.

Transferring to USC from California State Fullerton University as a geography student; making the switch to environmental studies was the best decision I ever made. The classes, along with the professors, of this program have changed the way I think about environmental issues and challenged my career aspirations a few times.

In the Spring 2012 semester I was presented with two different experiences that have focused my interests. The first was a directed research project I carried out with Professor James Fawcett.  Through my directed research I looked into Ballona Creek Watershed. Being one of the largest watersheds in the city of Los Angeles I had little knowledge about it. This research culminated with a 45 page research paper looking into the various laws and agencies that are working to clean up pollution in the watershed. The second opportunity was being able to partake in two classes: ENST 298 Scientific Diving and ENST 480 Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia. These classes gave me many unique opportunities including participating in dives at a few of the best dive spots in the world, carrying out dive research at many of these sites and having two blogs published on the Scientific America website. Not only did I learn that a career involving the ocean was in my future but I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

Recently, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and am enrolled in graduate environmental classes for the Fall 2012 semester. I know that this program has and continues to prepare me to address the many environmental issues facing the world today. A huge thanks goes out to USC, Dornsife College, and the ENST department for the wonderful experience they have given me.  Upon completing my M.A. in Environmental Studies I wish to pursue a career in coastal management and ocean conservation.

Letticia Lee, ENST '14

My interest in growing the public’s environmental awareness has led me here – entering my third year and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in both Public Relations and Environmental Studies.

Prior to my Freshman year, I was excited to gain access to USC’s famed network. However, I not only got access to USC’s connections on campus but also overseas. Through the Problems Without Passports (PWP) programs, I have experienced environmental issues firsthand from individualistic and global perspectives.

As a rising junior, I have already completed two PWP courses. Earlier this summer, I participated in a research course held in Southern Belize. While there, my classmates and I focused on the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization. We immersed ourselves within the local culture and learned about current strategies used to sustain natural resources. The summer before this, I became a certified scientific SCUBA diver in order to participate in a research course held on the islands of Catalina, Guam, and Palau. Our curriculum consisted of conducting scientific surveys on the ocean floors off of each island and learning about the importance of preserving marine ecosystems.

My journeys with PWP have defined my career at USC so far. Both incredible expeditions demonstrate this university’s strive to provide its students with the best resources available. The relationships I have developed with ENST faculty continue to inspire my professional goal. Upon graduation, I hope to work in the public relations department of a global environmental agency.

Austin Patrick Reagan, ENST '16

I’d given little thought to pursuing Environmental Studies (or environmental anything, for that matter) until my junior year in high school, when I enrolled in an Environmental Science class. The course opened my eyes to the injustices we’ve caused through environmental degradation, as well as the responsibility that we all share in solving the problem. What I’d previously considered to be an issue that “other people” would deal with soon became a topic that I felt personally compelled to address. The summer before my senior year in high school, I interned with a local firm dedicated to minimizing atmospheric pollution at natural gas refineries throughout Southern California.

In making the decision to come to USC, where I am currently a freshman, I considered the opportunities that would be available to me in my field of interest. The Environmental Studies Program at USC offered me countless resources and options for research. Though I am only in my first year here, I look forward to taking advantage of the USC Wrigley Institute out on Catalina Island, and possibly taking part in the Maymester course offered in Guam and Palau. I also plan to involve myself in the many green initiatives taking place throughout the city of Los Angeles.

I have paired my major in Environmental Studies with a second in Political Science. I see that environmental concerns are quickly becoming a critical piece on the national agenda, and I hope to play a role in establishing environmental policy, specifically with regards to energy and resources.

Daria Sarraf, ENST '14

When people first hear about what subjects I'm studying here at USC, they usually stare blankly at me and then respond, "So, are you going to invent an environmentally-friendly harp or something?" I'm pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance, as well as a minor and Masters in Environmental Studies.  My major combination may not appear to make sense on paper, but to me, they're intrinsically linked. Both music and the environment are my passions, and I've been able to pursue them in an institution that fully supports such a diversity of interests. 

     Los Angeles is a vibrant, diverse, musical and progressive city.  In any given week, I've been able to spend a day playing music on the set of Glee or Modern Family, and then spend the next day learning about the way our world copes with environmental issues and what we can do to help.  I'm fortunate enough to be able to chase my dreams with a supportive and encouraging faculty here at USC.  Currently, my plan is to attend law school for Environmental Law, and perhaps invent an environmentally-friendly harp while I'm there! 

Kali Staniec, ENST '14

When I started my undergraduate career at USC, I did not have a declared major and had little idea how I would choose amongst the many areas of study available to me. After dabbling in a variety of subjects and changing my major a several times, I finally came to the conclusion that the Environmental Studies program is the perfect place for me.  The deal breaker in my decision was participating in the Guam and Palau Maymester course, during which I received my AAUS Science Diver certification, conducted research on some of the most biologically diverse and delicate coral reef ecosystems in the world, and contributed to a blog published by Scientific American.   I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of a department that offers students – and undergrads, no less -- so many hands-on, real-life learning and research opportunities.


As I’ve become more involved with the ENST program, I’ve been increasingly impressed with the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum and the vast resources available to students.  For people who have an interest in the natural world and don’t want to narrow their studies to only one subject, ENST is a fantastic option.  I find myself taking classes in everything from marine biology to economics to public policy, with all my professors emphasizing the fact that the challenges facing today’s global environment are multi-faceted and deal with a complex web of connected yet competing interests.  Having access to the USC Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island is another a defining feature of the department, as it gives students a chance to get outside the classroom and gain valuable perspective on the environment about which they are learning.  


What all of these characteristics boil down to is that being an ENST student continues to give me the tools to play an active role in my education and career not just in the future, but right now.  I couldn’t ask for a more supportive faculty and close-knit community of students, and am happy to call the Environmental Studies department my “home” at USC.

Madi Swayne, ENST '15

Spending my days on the beaches up and down the California coast as a competitive surfer instilled in me a strong sense of stewardship from a very young age.

I now have a very keen interest in coastal management and sustainability issues that directly influence our coastlines and waterways. The Environmental Studies department has allowed me to learn about these issues in and out of the classroom.

After my first year at USC I was allowed the opportunity to be involved in the Environmental Studies Maymester course that travels to Guam and Palau after commencement in the spring. While abroad, we studied integrated ecosystem management in a global, hands-on setting. Through this course I earned my AAUS Scientific Diver Certification and am excited to continue diving with USC in my coming years of study.

Though I have just finished my first year at USC, I am excited to continue my coursework in the Environmental Studies department. After graduation I hope to earn my Master’s in public policy and continue on to work in environmental policymaking.

Dawnielle Tellez, ENST '14

Last summer, I did not even know that I would be attending USC for the 2011-2012 academic year.  I was a Biology major at another university where I felt lost as the lone pursuer of marine biology among the plethora of pre-health hopefuls in all of my classes.  I was unsatisfied with the curriculum I was being forced to take; therefore, I transferred to USC as an Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Oceans, Life, and People so that I could actually enjoy all my classes as an undergrad while having a more meaningful educational experience, rather than being coerced into a specific academic track.  I feel that the diverse ENST curriculum sets it apart from other majors that are mainly science centered; having knowledge in international relations, economics, policy, and management are all critical to careers in environmental studies.  For me, the defining factor that makes ENST a great major is the willingness of the professors to collaborate with students to assist them in attaining their academic goals and exploring opportunities that the department has to offer.       

For instance, I have participated in the Guam and Palau Maymester course, becoming a certified scientific scuba diver to conduct research in highly diverse and pristine coral reef ecosystems.  I spent my summer as an ENST intern at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island working closely with several ENST professors and the Catalina Island Conservancy, working on various soil and water nutrient research projects, learning about native and invasive plants, while also experiencing the island in a unique way.  Additionally, I served as a teaching assistant for the 320a field course on Catalina and obtained my Rescue Diver certification. 

Even though I have only been a USC student for one year, I have accomplished many of my academic and personal goals, due much in part to my participation in ENST.  In my final two years as an undergrad, I will continue to take advantage of all the possibilities that being an ENST major has to offer.    

  • Dr. Karla Heidelberg
  • Director
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Social Sciences Building (SOS) B15
  • 3502Trousdale Parkway
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0036