Joanna Pupa, Lab Technician 2 at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
Class of 2017
Double major in Chemistry and ESES
What is your current job title and what do you do on a normal day?
My current title is Lab Technician 2. There are quite a few tests that we run in the laboratories and we tend to switch every week. Some of our analyses are calculating suspended solids within samples, calculating total solids within samples, pH, alkalinity of samples, biological oxygen demand of samples, total nitrates, total phosphates within samples, etc. Every day we receive samples collected at various plants of the Greater Chicago area, then we test them according to their requested analyses. We then create a lab report and our results are sent to the EPA to make sure that the plants are running smoothly and meeting set discharge limits.
What do you like about it?
I really like my current position because I'm using both of my degrees every day. I come to work to do my laboratory work, and the goal is to make sure that clean water is released back into the environment. I feel the impact of my job every day.
By what path did you get to your current job?
A few years ago I interned at the District. Unfortunately, there's a huge wait to get employed. I had to wait a year and a half in another laboratory position in order to gain experience. Once the position opened, I had to pass a chemistry test in order to get interviewed. I passed the test and got my interview and the rest is history.
What was your favorite thing about the ESE major?
My favourite thing is how varied the major is. My experience in ESE is different from every other person's. I focused on chemistry and the science of the natural world, while also dabbling in environmental writing and GIS. The ESE major shaped me into a critical thinker and a problem solver which is helping me immensely in my professional life.
Do you have any advice for ESES students as they explore career options?
My main advice is to not give up. I had to take a few stepping stones to get to where I currently am and that's ok. It was discouraging at times and I felt like I was stuck, but my persistence and hard work is paying off. Another good piece of advice that everyone gives is to get an internship. It makes it so much easier to step into a career if you can experience just a taste of a full time job for a couple months, instead of being pushed into one for the next 45 years of your life. It's obvious advice, but very important. Even if it's just one internship for one summer, it can make a world of difference.
Brooke Wallery: JD Candidate, University of Illinois
Concentration: Society and Environment
How did you decide to go to law school? Is it something you always wanted to do?
I did not know I wanted to go to law school until after my first year of college. Over that first summer, I interned at my local Environmental Services Department in Texas and learned a lot about how environmental laws impacted policy at the local level. That first year I also learned a lot about environmental justice movements and creative ways environmental lawyers could use the law to improve communities and promote equality.
What do you want to do with your JD?
Honestly, I am still working to figure that out! With my background in environmental studies, of course I am very interested in environmental law. However, I am also just generally passionate about making the world a better place- whether that be physically in the environment or in more social spheres. I am looking forward to gaining more experience with different areas of the law and types of practice through internships and externships so that I might have a better answer to this question soon.
Do you think ESE helped prepare you for law school?
ESE was a wonderful pre-law major for me! I really benefitted from the flexibility of the major in a couple different ways. I was able to graduate a year early in the ESE major which meant I will only end up paying for six years of school rather than seven. I was also able to take a lot of interesting courses in a wide variety of disciplines. I took a lot of writing heavy courses, particularly with my concentration in Society and Environment, and this was good preparation for writing in law school. ESE also taught me a lot about how to craft arguments for environmental issues and this translates well to crafting arguments in general.
What was your favorite thing about ESE?
My favorite part of the ESE major was the flexibility. I was able to explore issues I was interested in– including the law, but also environmental health and environmental justice issues. I really liked that I was able to take courses in a diverse variety of disciplines. I graduated with some background in how GIS works and mineral identification, but also cultural shifts worldwide in reaction to climate changes and best practices for teaching children about nature. This ability to integrate different kinds of thinking has been really helpful in law school and really allowed me to explore as a curious learner.
Do you have any advice for students who want to go onto law school from ESE?
I really recommend joining pre-law organizations and taking full advantage of the pre-law advising services. The one disadvantage to having a more unique pre-law major is that you may not meet many other pre-law students or have specific pre-law programming within ESE. The pre-law advising service puts on really great programming and can help you with the specifics of achieving your goals for law school. I would also recommend taking full advantage of the flexibility of an ESE major. There are so many law related courses offered at U of I that you can totally take advantage of. You should also challenge yourself to take upper level courses that are interesting you. Starting to work at that higher, graduate level really helped me prepare for the academic challenges of law school and got me thinking about higher level issues and practicing writing skills.
You can find more information about our law school here.
Reginald (Reggie) Jones
Graduated: 2015 (Summer)
Concentration: Science of the Earth System
What is your current job title and daily duties?
Allison Bate: Resource Education AmeriCorps Member Great Smoky National Park
Concentration: Science of the Earth System
Minor: Geography & GIS
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
My day-to-day changes on a seasonal basis. However, to sum it up, I teach and develop field trip and classroom programs. In addition to that, I am helping to create several multimedia projects focusing on safety and conservation within the national park.
What was your favorite thing about being an ESE major?
My favorite thing about ESE major is the versatility it allows. I transferred into the major late and was able to take both science and communication classes, increasing my interest in connecting the two fields.
What was your pathway to finding this job?
I spent two months after graduating refreshing a few different job boards twice a day. Suddenly, this opportunity popped up! Because I was looking in the environmental field, I looked mainly at environmental job boards. However, AmeriCorps members serve all over the US, and there are plenty of opportunities to get all kinds of experience through serving.
Once I discovered which AmeriCorps position I was applying for, I went to their online application, filled it out, and submitted it. It was straightforward, and I was quickly contacted by my future supervisor.
What’s your favorite thing about serving in AmeriCorps?
One of the great things about serving as an AmeriCorps member it that you qualify for an education award after completing your term. This award can be used toward student loans or future tuition costs.
Allison has her sights set on graduate school in the next few years using the education award to get her Masters in Education. She plans on pursuing environmental and conservation education.
Interested in learning more about becoming an AmeriCorps member? Click here.
You can follow Allison’s AmeriCorps adventures on instagram: @allyoftheparks