Degree: Ph.D. in Planning, Policy, and Design
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
Why did you choose the School of Social Ecology?
I had been a practitioner in my field for over eight years, working in Washington, DC and overseas (Azerbaijan, Thailand). I was fortunate to have had exciting and meaningful professional experiences, including working at USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and Conservation International. I worked on interdisciplinary environmental issues, such as connecting ecosystems and conservation with public health and food security. I was interested in pursuing a terminal degree, but first wanted to get experience in my field. I was also looking for a program that addressed complex, interdisciplinary challenges that are increasingly the reality. The School of Social Ecology’s commitment to trans-disciplinary, inclusive and applied scholarship addressed some of the issues I saw practitioners grappling with in the field.
How did you grow interested in your current field of study?
I have always been fascinated with the environment and the natural world, from a very young age. Over time, however, the nuance of my direction has evolved. For example, after a formative study abroad experience in Kenya, I became very passionate about the links between human well-being and conservation of nature, which then led to certain career choices I made, such as being Manager of Conservation International’s Food Security Initiative. After living in Bangkok for some years, I became particularly interested in nature, green spaces and ecosystem services in urban landscapes, thus my PhD focus on urban social-ecological systems.
What has been your most memorable or significant experience so far at UCI?
I came in with a great cohort so it has been a privilege to go on this journey with some wonderful people that have become friends. Together with my advisor Dr. Richard Matthew, a group of us worked on a book during my first few years here entitled the, “The Social Ecology of the Anthropocene”, as part of an edited volume. Other formative experiences include being a 2018 Pedagogical Fellow, and member of the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In addition, I have enjoyed the “Ph”, or the “Philosophy”, in the PhD experience, learning and reflecting on various philosophies of knowledge and how this can inform a person’s methods and research. Coming from more of the natural sciences, I discovered a whole new world of qualitative research here at UCI and found a new passion.
How do you envision your degree from UCI opening doors for you or benefitting your career?
I envision that the expertise I have gained from UCI, in terms of research, teaching and as a subject matter expert, will make me a strong candidate to join a university as a tenure-track faculty. In addition, my dissertation research has focused on how universities themselves can be better community partners in addressing urban ecology issues and challenges. I’ve been fortunate to gain a great deal of knowledge from my research participants on innovative ideas and strategies that universities can pursue to become better community partners, particularly as it relates to urban ecology/environmental issues. I think that my dissertation research will enable me to help my future institution think strategically, together with partners, about how to be an integrated and collaborative community partner, particularly on environmental and sustainability issues.