Major: B.A. in Political Science 2017; MPA Public Administration and Public Policy 2019
Where are you currently living? Following graduate school, my decision was to stay in Northeast Florida for the start of my career. I currently live in Jacksonville with my fiancée, who is a 4th generation resident of the local community here in Duval County. My experiences at UNF cemented my passion for the local area.
Where did you attend graduate school and what did you study? I attended graduate school at UNF as a full-time student in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program between 2017 and 2019. I studied in the program under a full graduate school teaching assistantship and scholarship, which enabled me to work in the Political Science and Public Administration Department (PSPA) on activities related to teaching and research. My graduate school courses were focused around the domains of public administration and public policy; and I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil towards the end of my degree. In addition to my full-time career, I am now a Ph.D. student in the Urban and Regional Planning Department at Florida State University. My dissertation research will focus on sea level rise planning and community resilience building in Florida. I hope to complete doctoral studies by the Spring of 2024.
Where are you currently employed? I work full-time as Resiliency Coordinator for the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC). The NEFRC is a regional planning agency, authorized by Florida Statutes, that serves 7 counties and 26 municipalities across Northeast Florida. In working to build resilient communities across the region, my current focus is to engage the public, private, and nonprofit sectors on stakeholder engagement initiatives related to adaptation planning, economic resilience, floodplain management, and sea level rise. Most recently, I have been working with elected officials on efforts related to the Special Committee on Resiliency led by members of Jacksonville City Council. I have also worked extensively with partners from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
What Environmental Center programs did you participate? During undergraduate studies, I worked as a Project Leader in what was then the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). I was mentored and supervised by Ms. Maria Mark, former coordinator for the ELP, and Dr. David Lambert, an associate professor and former Director of the Environmental Center. In addition to my work position, my experiences with the Environmental Center extended to other horizons as well. I planned and facilitated UNF camping trips to the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina, was an active member in volunteer activities, and worked with the Environmental Center on efforts related to development and fundraising with environmental foundations.
Also, between 2018 and 2019, I partnered with Dr. David Lambert on a Directed Independent Study (DIS) that enabled me to work with the City of Atlantic Beach, Florida on its pursuit to become a LEED certified local government. In the process, we worked with planners on completing the certification process and then created a case study on the process that is now being utilized by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in statewide education efforts. I was recognized by the Northeast Florida USGBC Chapter as "Green Student of the Year" in 2019 because of this work, and the project team was recognized by the same Chapter with "Innovative Project of the Year" in 2020. Atlantic Beach was the first community in Florida to earn a LEED Silver certification.
What was your favorite memory with the Environmental Center? My favorite memory with the Environmental Center was without a doubt the St. Johns River Experience. For an entire semester, myself and other students were afforded the opportunity to study issues relating to the river, ranging from water quality and pollution all the way to public policy and environmental conservation. In 2017, we spent our Spring Break camping on Hontoon Island State Park, exploring the many springs of Florida, and learning about local environmental issues. The memories made on the trip will last a lifetime and were all made possible by Mr. James Taylor and Dr. Rick Troendle from UNF.
How did your experience at the Environmental Center help prepare you for graduate school and/or a professional career? The UNF Environmental Center provided me with tools, resources, and career lessons that I will keep inventoried for the remainder of my life. The opportunities provided to me in the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) taught me how to lead, work with others, and expand my professional horizons. I also learned valuable lessons in time management, stakeholder engagement, and emotional intelligence. These experiences solidified my professional and academic passions and enabled me to establish a robust network in the local community. This network made my graduate school and career accomplishments possible.
Were there any specific skills or knowledge you learned from participating in Environmental Center programs? In reflecting on specific skillsets that I obtained through EC programs, what was most important were lessons that I learned in 'partnership building.' During my time as a Project Leader, I worked with local governments, nonprofit organizations, and other governmental agencies on community engagement activities. In the present time, this is a huge component of my career and professional priorities — bringing people together to solve complex challenges.
Any other comments on your experience with the Environmental Center? The UNF Environmental Center was instrumental in shaping my professional and academic outlook. Without the opportunities afforded to me by the Environmental Center, it is safe to say that I would not be where I stand today. In shaping the next generation of environmental leaders, the UNF Environmental Center has proven to be an effective mechanism for training leaders, bringing awareness to important issues, and making Northeast Florida a more resilient and sustainable place to live. I am grateful for Environmental Center and aim, at a later point in my career, to give back to the Environmental Center and its programs.