Erin has a long-standing interest in climate issues, so she knew she wanted a graduate program that offered the kind of hands-on, integrative training she’d need for a successful career in the field. WPI’s Community Climate Adaptation degree program offered the academics and field experience she was seeking.
As an undergrad, she was inspired by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report and motivated to take courses in philosophy and the environment and in ecology to continue to learn more. As her interest deepened, she shared her wish list for an advanced degree program during a conversation with Sarah Strauss, professor in the Department of Integrative Studies (DIGS). “She listened when I was still a sophomore, airing my hopes for a program that provided the kind of integrative training I was learning that would be needed for a future career in climate adaptation,” she says. “Her encouragement and the way she leads by example have had a huge impact on my academics and the way I want to interact with the world.”
Erin says developing diverse skills through WPI’s project-based curriculum taught her a lot about how effective and creative interdisciplinary work can be. Those skills, including small-scale construction and the design of accessible educational materials, gave her an essential background that isn’t typically found in courses.
As a research assistant, she enjoys seeing the direct intersection of STEM and social sciences in her work—and she’s equally rewarded by using her calculus abilities to help fellow students as a tutor. She also finds time to volunteer with the Worcester Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collective, a volunteer citizen science initiative that, in partnership with the Worcester Lakes and Ponds Program, monitors the water quality of the various water bodies in the city.
After graduation, she plans to continue her work helping communities prepare for the changes that the climate crisis will bring. She’s particularly interested in the role of food systems and biosolutions in the realm of the climate crisis. And while the scope of climate work can sometimes seem overwhelming, she says Professor Strauss offers grounding viewpoints.
“Her perspectives,” Erin says, “have helped me stay practically optimistic about the gargantuan task before us all.”