EEM Alumni Spotlight: Katie Starr ’16

I have another Environmental Economics & Management (EEM) graduate Q&A for you, this one from a more recent graduate, Katie Starr, who graduated just this past December, 2016.

Katie, where do you currently work, what’s your job title, and what are your overall responsibilities?

I am currently working in Oxford with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. I’m an Environmental Scientist and my overall responsibilities include running air and ozone sampling tests and data collection/analysis. I also handle air pollution complaints and permits for the Northern Mississippi region.

What is a typical day like for you in your job?

A typical day for me is never typical! I could be doing anything from driving to one side of the state to collect data to driving to the other side of the state to investigate a pollution complaint or to finalize a permit for a company that will emit any kind of “pollutant”. I also do a lot of paperwork and data analysis when it comes to permits and complaints. MDEQ has also thrown me into the biochem lab a few times to do some more hands on testing!

How has your background – in particular majoring in EEM – helped prepare you for this experience?

EEM gave me the tools to think outside of the box. I wouldn’t be able to do my job as efficiently if I wasn’t able to look at a problem and think about it from every angle. The analytical skills I gained through EEM have also helped me keep my bearings during our data analysis.

What did you most enjoy about the EEM program?

The thing I appreciated the most about our program was our EEM community. I’m blessed to be able to say that I got to study with some of the brightest students and faculty. Any time I was struggling in a class (or just life in general) there was ALWAYS someone in the department I could turn to; be that study groups and extracurriculars with other students or going directly to the professors. Even now I keep in touch with my old classmates and professors, and I will never be able to thank EEM and the Department of Ag Econ enough for the bonds I’ve made.

What advice would you give to students trying to pick a major or to students thinking about the EEM major?

I was caught between the general business economics and EEM when I first came to Mississippi State. I ultimately chose EEM because the economics was the same (it’s very easy to minor in business econ with EEM) but with EEM you get a deeper look into some of the world’s most pressing issues. Combine the narrowed economic field and the Department’s size and you truly could not get a better program.

Any other comments on the major, your experiences, or anything else?

A++ for EEM (if I were grading)

Thanks, Katie!

EEM Alumni Spotlight: Jonathon Giuffria ’12

Let’s try something new with a Q&A from an EEM grad! Today we feature Jonathon Giuffria, one of our earlier Environmental Economics and Management (EEM) majors, class of 2012. Jonathon has been nice enough to answer a few questions about his experiences in our program and since graduating. (And yes, some of my questions are probably a bit leading…but I did ask Jonathon not to say stuff he didn’t mean! Really, I did.)

Jonathon, what have you done since graduating, up until your current job?

Prior to working with the EPA as an Economist, I traveled extensively overseas, worked with a MS entrepreneur solidifying supply chains, and attained my M.S. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech.

Where do you currently work, what is your current job title, and what are your overall responsibilities?

I am an Economist with the EPA working in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. This office is charged with administering and implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was recently revamped by Congress in 2016. In general, I work with the Economics and Policy Analysis Branch to provide economic and regulatory support to the overall office. On a day-to-day basis, I help conduct preliminary market analysis reports attempting to discover how industry and the public would be affected by proposed environmental protections, such as chemical labeling or restrictions on consumer chemical uses. Learning the framework of the EPA and how to conduct cost-benefit analyses at MSU was paramount for my success here at EPA.

How has your background – in particular majoring in EEM – helped prepare you for this experience or other experiences you have had?

Many of the economic methodologies practiced within EPA were well covered by the Department. Additionally, the flexibility of the program allowed me to take several policy oriented classes which arguably landed me the job here. Had I not studied the statutes that promulgated the EPA’s creation in Environmental Law and Environmental Policy and had I not known known the fundamentals of a cost-benefit analysis, I firmly believe that I would not have stood a chance in getting a job here.

What did you most enjoy about the EEM program?

For one who likes to branch out of his or her immediate discipline, EEM is a great choice. I was ecstatic to have the flexibility to study Ecology and Forestry Economics one semester and then study Environmental Law and Natural Resource Conservation the next. The faculty were all willing to work with each student truly catering his or her course trajectory based upon his or her own unique interests, be it aspirations to practice law, work in the private sector, or advocate for wetland restoration with a non-profit. An important take-away is that my professors wanted me to have this experience – they were all very willing to work with me and carefully consider my educational aspirations.

What advice would you give for students trying to pick a major or for students thinking about the EEM major?

To the student who wants to take 12 hours a semester and show up to class still asleep, I suggest you pursue other options. However, if you are willing to learn and are passionate about environmental or agricultural issues – the next sustainable food system, fishery economics, how can we change the energy grid, or even moving to downtown DC and directly contributing to the environmental policy process – then I highly suggest that you speak with one of the faculty members in the Department of Agricultural Economics about the Environmental Economics and Management degree.

Any other thoughts on the EEM major, your experiences in the program, extracurriculars at MSU, etc. and how it has shaped your life, helped you achieve goals, etc?

As an EEM student, I was always encouraged by my adviser and professors to pursue my interests. Because of their flexibility and openness, I was able to study abroad in Spain, conduct research in Brazil, and even teach English as a Second Language in Arequipa, Peru. To top it all off, my major adviser* and I shared a common interest – we both studied Music as a secondary major. No matter how eclectic or quickly my interests changed, I was always supported by the Department. I firmly believe that my diversity in education and personal experience is one of the strongest assets that I bring to the workplace, and it all started with pursuing a degree in Environmental Economics and Management.

Any other comments?

College is expensive – better make sure your investment is worthwhile.

Thanks, Jonathon!

*Guess who?