Interview with Dr. Mark McConnell, College of Charleston

Interview with Dr. Mark McConnell, College of Charleston

Dr. Mark McConnell, Program Coordinator
Master of Environmental Studies Program, College of Charleston
McconnelM@cofc.edu

1) What kind of students major in Environmental Studies?

We find that students with an amazing variety of interests, from Art to Zoology, major in Environmental Studies. The ability to focus on those interests while maintainaing a view of the big picture and of the connections between disciplines seems to be one of the primary draws for our students.

2) Is the broad and interdisciplinary nature of an Environmental Studies degree too generalized to have useful applications in jobs out in the field? Why or why not?

That always seems to be a concern that people have, but we're seeing that employers are interested in hiring people who can understand multiple perspecitves, who are able to bridge the gap that exist between scientists and policy makers, and who bring a wide vareity of problem solving skills to any situation. In addition, Environmental Studies students are able to demonstrate their ability to focus on specific issues througth their internship or thesis work while in school. As a rule, the interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Studies degree is what makes it useful out in the field.

3) What kinds of jobs are available to ES graduates? What kinds of companies are specifically looking for ES graduates?

Our graduates are working in private industry, especially with environmental consulting firms, in government, through agencies as varied as NASA and the USDA Forest Service, and in non-profit organizations, such as the Lowcountry Open Land Trust here in Chalseton and the South Carolina Marine Association. Even in a less economically robust time, many companies are looking for Enviornmental Studies majors.

4) How can Environmental Studies students gain an edge in the post-graduation job market? What's the best way to land a job with an ES degree?

Through Environmental Studies, students are able not only to learn about the science behind why things work, but also, with classes in Public Policy, Environmental Law, etc., to learn how to make the system work. We are seeing that employers are excited to find that combination of Science and Policy knowledge in the Environmental Studies students they hire. When employers see that academic background coupled with practical experience gained through an internship experience, for instance, it really gives the Environmental Studies gradautes an edge.

5) Do you have any advice for prospective students entering an Environmental Studies program?

Perhaps the most important thing is to have a good sense of what you hope to get out of the program. Is it to work with birds of prey? To work on greenbuilding and sustainability? Knowing what you want to do will help you find the right program for your interests, and the right career when you graduate.

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