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Alumni Spotlight: Q & A with Alumnus Erin Hill

Posted: November 11, 2015

For this months Student Spotlight, we sat down Erin Hill, alumnus of the ERM program. Erin shared her experience as a student and intern at the AEC. She is currently working as an Environmental Services Trainee at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
Erin teaching youth about water quality during her time as an environmental educator.

Erin teaching youth about water quality during her time as an environmental educator.

Q: Name, Major, Minor(s), Year of Graduation, Hometown

A: Erin Hill, Environmental Resource Management, Minor: Sustainability Leadership, 2015, West Caldwell , New Jersey 

Q: How did you choose environmental sciences as a path? What was your favorite part about being an ERM Student?

A: Growing up, I always enjoyed playing outside, exploring the neighborhood, and I was amazed at the wonder my surroundings brought. In school, I gravitated towards the sciences to explore and further understand the earth. I believe this life on Earth is such a wonderful and beautiful thing and that we should do our best to protect and sustain it.

My favorite part of being an ERM student were the variety of classes related to the environment that were offered. Because of this, I was able to receive a well-rounded understanding of the environmental field. I really enjoyed the different field trips and real life case studies that helped enhance our education and understandings. 

Q: Can you tell me a little about what you did when you were an intern at the AEC? What professional skills did the AEC internship help you develop?

A: As an AEC intern I was a main contributor to planning and implementing the first Centre County Watershed Summit, along with hosting “Homeowner Guide to Stormwater Management” workshops followed by a community rain garden planting at Easterly Parkway Elementary School. As an intern, I gained great communication and organization skills and learned how to execute a successful outreach event. Additionally, I got first hand experience on how to effectively build, create and maintain partnerships with diverse stakeholders to help solve land and water issues in a community.  I increased my networking skills and teamwork skills as well how to communicate and educate community members both young and old about watershed issues. 

Q: What are you doing now, post-graduation? How did the major prepare you for this field of work? 

A: This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work as an environmental educator summer intern at the Hudson River Park, in New York City. As an educator, I increased the awareness of the Hudson River’s estuary sanctuary through educational outreach, public programs and stewardship projects. I taught K-12 educational programs as well as engaged a diverse age range of park goers via public programs. One particular public program I lead was community beach cleanups where we evaluated plastic debris to asses the amount and types of plastics in the river.

My major and specifically interning at the AEC greatly prepared me for being an environmental educator because I was comfortable interacting with community members about watershed issues. Additionally, I have gained excellent teamwork and communication skills with my ERM degree that has prepared me for the real world. I am able to assess all sides of environmental issues, interpret data, legislation and research. Overall I feel my ERM degree has given me a well-rounded understanding of the environment that will translate to various fields of work and future career endeavors.  

In fact, I will soon be starting a job as an Environmental Services Trainee at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection within the division of Energy and Sustainability.  Although a lot of my past experience has been related to water and watersheds I am excited to expand my horizons and explore the governmental side in the energy and sustainability field.

Q: What advice do you have for current ERM Students? 

A: Don’t be afraid to try and explore different classes or internships, even if it is out of your comfort zone. You may find you love it, or that it is not for you. Take advantage of all the opportunities Penn State has and the variety of environmental clubs and organizations there are, get involved! I would highly recommend doing an international experience, either study abroad, a week trip, or immersive course.

 Q: What is your dream job? 

A: This is a hard question for me, I am still figuring out what it is I exactly want to do because I have a lot of interests. I really enjoy engaging and educating others on environmental issues and feel like environmental education could be a great path to peruse. But in general, I would love to work for a meaningful non-profit organization or government agency that engages the community in environmental protection and sustainability.