College of Liberal Arts alumni speak to students on careers in sustainability

By: Nick Santangelo

With commencement fast approaching, 2019 College of Liberal Arts (CLA) graduates will soon fully turn their attention fully towards their careers. Some of our graduates will focus on making a global impact. Others will focus on impacting businesses. Others still will search for ways to make a sustainability impact.

For this last group, CLA's Geography and Urban Studies Department and Temple's Office of Sustainability recently held a panel featuring four grads from the last five years working in the field of sustainability. They were peppered with questions about how they made the transition from students with dreams of furthering the cause of sustainability to professionals with the power to do so in their careers.

Sandy Vogel, CLA '16, said it's important for students to be active rather than wait for someone else to present an opportunity for them to contribute to a sustainable future. Drexel University's Lindy Center for Civic Engagement Program Coordinator (and former leader of the Temple Community Garden) noted that the word "sustainability" doesn't appear anywhere in her job description, but she still feels like she's doing sustainability work.

"Any job can be sustainable—I mean, any job can be civically engaged," she asserted. "You don't necessarily need to be a public servant to feel like you're working in sustainability."

It was a message that seemed to resonate with students, but they wanted to know what type of coursework was vital in preparing themselves to take that step. Will Fraser, CLA '15, pointed to what he learned about climate change as an environmental studies major. It's something his current job as Transportation Outreach Coordinator with the Clean Air Council focuses heavily on.

"A Temple environmental studies education set the groundwork for me and gave me a very holistic worldview as far as international and national issues," said Fraser.

Darion Porter, CLA '17, also majored in environmental studies, but it was his geographic information systems coursework and the broad knowledge base earned through a liberal arts education that had the strongest impact for him.

A Temple environmental studies education set the groundwork for me

The Public Health Management Corporation Research Assistant has learned in his young career that public health is intertwined with sustainability and environmental justice. His education and experience working on Temple Office of Sustainability research projects prepared him to view these kinds of interdisciplinary challenges from different angles.

"I think it's a strength where even if you're not necessarily working in the environmental field or urban planning or something like that," explained Porter, "you can still bring your knowledge to pretty much any job."

But what if that job doesn't come immediately after graduation? Some students were concerned about how to navigate the first few months after commencement if they don't land a job right away. Porter reassured anyone who has doubts that things will eventually work out.

"It's all right to not know," he said. "I thought I had it all figured out as a student. I didn't. It's kind of scary, but that's how it is."

Fraser and Bianca Santos, CLA '14, however, urged students not to wait to get the ball rolling on figuring things out. The alumni stressed the importance of visiting the Career Center and CLA's Professional Development Team for help with resumes and cover letters.

"They were super helpful," Santos said of the Career Center. "In like 15 minutes they told me what to add to my resume and what to take away."

Vogel and Porter, meanwhile, suggested students also look to their professors for help. The two recommended staying in regular contact with faculty, letting them know ahead of time what students think they're planning for down the road. This, they claimed, makes it easy to follow up later to ask for a recommendation or advice when needed.

One last bit of advice came from Geography and Urban Studies Student Services Coordinator Liz Janczewski. She wanted students to know that they can continue turning to alumni for advice even after the panel ended. 

If you want to connect with Geography and Urban Studies or Environmental Studies alumni for informational interviews or career advice, please email