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Each semester, the Environmental Sciences Academic Program highlights alumni who represent the diverse and involved alumni population that graduated from our program. This semester the spotlight focuses on, Fiona Baker.

Fiona BakerName: Fiona Baker

Focal Area: Renewable Energy

Minor: Business Administration

Graduation Date: May 2014

1. How did your experience at NC State help you find a job after graduation? What initial steps did you take when you were looking for a job?

NC State helped me find a job after graduation because it offers an endless array of possibilities to get involved and learn new skills. There are a plethora of clubs and organizations focused on every interest imaginable that serves as a means of networking. Getting involved on campus enabled me to meet professionals in the industry and crowd source knowledge across fields of study. When I started looking for a job, I reached out to my adviser, the career center, department head, and industry professionals that I knew. While my contacts couldn’t always provide me with a direct lead to a job, they provided suggestions of individuals to reach out to learn more about the industry and narrow down my job search.

2. Did having a degree in ES and your focal area open the door to more opportunities than you initially expected?

Having an Environmental Sciences degree exponentially increased my opportunities. The focal area enabled me to tailor my courses to my liking, and set me apart from other applicants. While I saw the benefit of taking classes that interested me and diversified my knowledge base from other students, it wasn’t until after graduation that I realized how valuable it was. Time and again I was told by industry members that I was uniquely positioned and that they wished a degree similar to mine existed when they were in school.

3. If you decided to not continue your education upon graduation, do you plan to return to school? If yes, what do you plan to study?

I do plan on continuing my education. When I first graduated, I was leaning towards an MBA, but that changed and I am studying for the GRE and applying to graduate schools! My top choice is currently Berkeley for their Energy and Resources Group.

4. Name a class you took at State that you took the most away from?

I thoroughly enjoyed Joe DeCarolis’ “Energy and Climate” course. It was more engineering based than any other course I had taken and proved challenging at times. The course covered most methods of energy generation in use today and some theoretical ones. While I was primarily interested in Renewable Energy, learning about combustion engines, nuclear fission, and other non-renewable resources allowed for a base of comparison between energy sources allowing for a better understanding of the challenges facing the energy market.

5. While you were at State what was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was probably Physics. I ended up getting a tutor who helped me understand the subject better. While it often kicked my butt, it is one of the classes that I learned the most from. I went in with little understanding as to why I was there, but I have to admit that the course has helped me with the work I do now.

6. What major piece of advice would you give to the freshmen class?

My advice to the freshman would be to get involved. Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do, getting involved helps you transfer knowledge from the classroom to the real world and interact with professionals and students who can provide advice. NC State has a massive student body and can be intimidating. Getting involved helps you meet students who share interests but you might not have met otherwise.

7. Why did you decide to be apart of the ES program? What attracted you to it?

I joined the Environmental Sciences program after trying out two other majors. I was drawn to it because I knew I wanted to be involved with moving towards a sustainable world, but I chose it because of the people. The ES faculty and staff are second to none. If you reach out to them, they will take the time to get to know you and help guide you. The program feels like a family as you share classes with other ES students who might have a different focal area but are working towards the same overall goal. The focal area gave me the ability to tailor my courses to my interests and to where I want to be in the future. I did not feel like one of the crowd, but more like I was forging my own path. Joining ES was a turning point in my educational and professional path and is easily the best decision I made.