Carolyn Talmadge, GIS Specialist, Tisch Library

From Tufts to the Environment

Carolyn Talmadge, a graduate of the Environmental Management certificate program and the Civil and Environmental Engineering masters of science program, talks about why she chose Tufts.

Tufts Grad Programs:

Why did you choose to enroll in the Tufts Environmental Management certificate program?

Carolyn Talmadge:

After I graduated from Susquehanna University in 2009 with my bachelor's degree in Environmental Science, I wasn’t 100% sure on what I wanted to do with my career. I was a bit burnt out on Environmental Science, and I decided to take some time off. I settled into a position with TD Bank as a branch supervisor. Even in this role, side projects with an environmental focus, such as being the bank's “Green Team Leader”, wound up being the most interesting part of my job. So after two years, I knew it was time to pursue my real passion: determining how to protect the health of the environment and create sustainable futures for generations to come. The only issue was that I had spent four years during my undergraduate career studying rocks, climate patterns, and hydrology. However, I had no idea how to actually manage these valuable resources. I knew I needed to increase my education in order to have the skills and knowledge to move ahead in a new career path, but wasn’t really aware of my options. I wanted more exposure to the field of environmental management so I could determine if this was the right path for me; but the idea of pursuing an entire master’s degree seemed daunting.

After many hours researching various programs, I found the Tufts Environmental Management certificate program, housed in the School of Engineering. There was a plethora of classes to choose from that would allow me to increase my knowledge and give me the insight as to whether this was the right field for me. Additionally, because the full-time program was only one year, it meant that I would be able fully immerse myself in the field without being away from the working force for a significant amount of time—not to mention it meant less student debt.

 

Sustainable Interventions

Talmadge is one of the teachers in the “Sustainable Interventions” edX.org Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) launched on September 29, 2015. Her co-teachers are her advisor Professor David Gute in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor Jeffrey Griffiths, in Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine.

Enroll now

Tufts Graduate Programs:

What courses did you find interesting?

Talmadge:

The Environmental Management certificate program only requires five classes, but there are more than 22 available classes in various fields. These range from Environmental Technology, to Environmental Policy, Management and Law, Risk Assessment and even Public Health and Safety. This meant I could really customize the certificate and choose a well-rounded selection of classes which covered all my interests. I didn’t feel “stuck” in one field, but I was free to explore all the different aspects that went into environmental management. This flexibility allowed me the opportunity to try classes I would have never even known about had I gone straight into a specific master’s program.

I ended up taking several epidemiology and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) classes, which provided me with new skills but also sparked a passion for environmental and public health; something I was unaware of when I entered into the program. I worked on several class projects during these two semesters. I completed a GIS project to determine which town in Fairfield County, CT, was the “greenest” based on evaluating a set of several positive and negative metrics. I also completed a project in the Hazardous Waste Treatment Technology class, which examined a new type of green technology for disposing of medical waste.

I also benefitted from the fact that many of the classes were housed in various programs throughout the different schools at Tufts. Some of the classes were from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; other classes were housed in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. I even took a class that was part of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, along with a class in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. These varied courses allowed me to meet and work with faculty members and colleagues from across the university, many of whom I ended up working with as a teaching assistant for in the years to follow during my master's degree program. Had I not had this initial exposure to these various classes and fields, I fear I might still question whether this was truly the right choice for me.

Tufts Graduate Programs:

Who were you excited to work and study with?

Talmadge:

Prior to my acceptance into the certificate program, I researched many of the faculty members in the School of Engineering. I was excited about the number of highly trained and talented individuals within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, many of whom are well known and respected in their fields. I had previously known about University Professor Linda Abriola, who was a pioneer for women in engineering, but many of the other professors were new to me. After exploring their research fields, I hoped to work with Professor David Gute because his research was quite interdisciplinary and focused on the intersection of public health and engineering. I found it refreshing that the faculty members weren’t just experts in one field, but that their interests spanned many disciplines. They embraced working as a team and learning from each other, which made me truly excited to join the program.

Tufts Graduate Programs:

Why did you choose to continue on at Tufts for your master's degree?

Talmadge:

The Environmental Management certificate program opened many doors for me at Tufts, including employment and research opportunities, TA positions, and many faculty, colleague and alumni connections. The certificate program got me excited about learning again, and I felt 100% positive I wanted to continue my education in the Environmental Health program. I had made several connections with the professors during my first year and was offered multiple TA positions for the following year. Moreover, I spent a lot of time working in the Tisch Library Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Center [now referred to as the Data Lab] and was offered a position working as a GIS Lab Technician for the Tufts Technology Services. I felt that my time at Tufts was really just beginning and I was enthusiastic about all the opportunities that lay ahead of me here.

Tufts Graduate Programs:

How many of your credits from the certificate transferred to your degree program?

Talmadge:

All of my credits from the certificate program transferred into the degree program. After the completion of the certificate program, only three classes and a thesis remained in order to earn a full master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. How could I not take advantage of that opportunity?

Tufts Graduate Programs:

What would you say to another student who was thinking about pursuing a certificate program at Tufts?

Talmadge:

I would highly recommend pursuing the Environmental Management certificate program. This was one of the best decisions I ever made for my career and for my life. Not only do you get to live in Boston—a booming metropolis filled with brilliant academics and lots of fellow students—but you’ll get the opportunity to become a part of the vibrant Tufts community. The Tufts student and faculty body is a diverse group of passionate individuals who will open your eyes to the world around you. You’ll make lifelong connections with faculty members, students, alumni and researchers that will help guide your future career  and it will truly be one of the most worthwhile experiences of your life!