Maddy Garcia ’23 was recently interviewed by Dyson College about her experiences in our environmental science program. Read the full interview by Antonia Gentile on the Pace University website.

How did you become interested in pursuing a major in Environmental Science with a certificate in Environmental Conservation?  

Ever since I was young, I have had a strong affinity for the world around me. My Latino culture has allowed me to be a natural caretaker of the environment, and as I grew older, I was able to understand why so many low-income Latino households are coping firsthand with the effects of pollution and contamination. A conversation about our environment would be incomplete without acknowledging the importance of climate education and working towards justice for the people and the planet is a community effort. And so, a big reason for my interest in this field is to enable a space that is inclusive of the voices of those who are most impacted. The opportunity to use my privilege to advance ecological literacy is very important to me, and I’m looking to pave the way for a new generation of activism and change that is representative of the population.

Why did you choose to attend Pace? 

Originally, I had planned to study outside New York State and wanted to find a school that satisfied the major I was interested in, while also catering to my need to grow as an individual. However, after much consideration, I knew that New York couldn’t get rid of me. Other out-of-state institutions were overwhelming–they felt too big to have an intimate experience. After touring Pace, it just felt right, and I knew that I would really be able to grow here. With smaller classroom sizes, I was able to develop stronger relationships and have individualized attention with professors. Pace’s commitment to Opportunitas was what solidified my decision, and I can confidently say that my academic career opened so many doors to different experiences that I could have only dreamed about.

What have your experiences been like with the Environmental Studies and Science Department? Have certain faculty members been instrumental in your academic journey? 

My department has been absolutely instrumental in my academic journey. The quality of the faculty is impeccable, and their passion for the world around us has helped shape me into the individual I am today. Our courses promote hands-on skills that have pertinence for future careers, and faculty connect their backgrounds to real-world issues. Particularly, my mentor, Professor Michael Rubbo, has been the most encouraging in my career. He, along with the rest of my department, has formulated internship experiences for all students, grown our networks, and are building our professional resumes. Professor Rubbo is heavily involved in providing an outlet for students to talk and share ideas with our department and generating a better presence within our campus community.

Have you had internships as a student? 

Pace has allowed me the opportunity to grow both academically and in the field. In 2020, I was the recipient of the Julia and Carroll Environmental Conservation Fellowship and worked as a forestry intern with Teatown Lake Reservation. As part of this role, I monitored permanent forest plots to track forest changes within a five-year period study. The following year, I was an environmental campaign engagement intern with the Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) and worked closely alongside EANY’s campaign team to draft communication and outreach materials for the approved New York Proposal 2, the Environmental Rights Amendment, that ensured “a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment” to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights. More recently, I was a social media intern with the National Park Conservation Association, working independently to curate social media plans that highlighted BIPOC and LGBTQ+ organizations and influencers.

What activities and organizations, if any, have you been involved with as a student? 

I am currently a residential assistant (RA) on the Pleasantville campus, the president of Pace’s NATURE club, an Environmental Studies and Science lab assistant, a member of both Alpha Chi and Alpha Lambda Delta, a former PaceBound ambassador and executive officer of the Asian Student Union, and a participant in the Dyson Scholars in Residence (now known as the Artists in Residence) program.

Are there any challenges you have overcome that you are proud of and would like to share? 

It’s really interesting to watch yourself grow into the person you never thought you would be. The most intricate challenge I overcame was through my own self-image and worth. Self-love is a concept that is finally receiving the recognition and care that it needs, and it is so important for this idea to be more socially acceptable, without feeling as if it might be seen as something negative. I’ve never felt as if I could accomplish something great or be a leader. I would be the student who sat in the back of the classroom, struggled to raise my hand (despite having so many questions or ideas), and, overall, had allowed others to walk over me.

My first semester at Pace carved the path of change. My prior RA had been a huge inspiration for me; as a fellow student in my field, she empowered a sense of pride that distinguished me as a growing individual, something that has helped guide me to be the woman I am today. I engaged more within my campus community, and this, ultimately, led to my success in cultivating my leadership skills, connecting with my professors, and opening the doors to personal growth and academic opportunities. Through her impact, I followed in her footsteps and became an RA as well, and I hope to inspire the same change and growth in others.

What would you like to do upon graduation/what are your career goals? 

I would love to further my education by enrolling in the Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy offered at Pace. As the New York metropolitan area has deep roots in environmental protection and social justice, after my collegiate experience, I would love to work in positions related to environmental communications or as a policy analyst.

What advice, if any, would you like to give to our current students? 

Apply yourself!  In theory, it sounds so simple, and yet, oftentimes, people have absolutely no idea what to do. Reasonable assumptions may be to just be present in class or to keep on top of your work, but this is just the bare minimum, and it’s so important to go that extra mile. The “comfort zone” is such a dangerous place to be in, and in order to improve yourself, it is so important to face your fears, engage positively with others, take risks, and challenge yourself. Pace equips you with the tools, skills, and connections necessary to better your personal livelihood and professional career. Something as simple as establishing a rapport with your professor can lead you to invaluable success throughout your academic and professional career.

I also strongly suggest taking advantage of the student base. Diversifying your communication and establishing strong relationships with those your age is so important. I have met some of the most talented and friendly people and will be forever grateful to those who have lent a hand to me personally, professionally, and academically.

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