Designing San Francisco’s Greener Future

Jessica Westervelt

Jessica Westervelt, an Environmental Sciences major with minors in Business Administration, Renewable Energy Assessment, and Sustainable Energy, is prepping for graduation. With several hands-on internship experiences under her belt, she feels she’s ready to take on the real world. Find out more about her unique experiences and why Environmental Sciences is the perfect major for students looking for flexibility in their busy schedules.

Jessica WesterveltTell us about some of your internship experiences. I spent five weeks this summer at the University of California at Berkeley participating in one of their summer programs, Design and Innovation for Sustainable Cities, or Disc* for short. Disc* is one of the programs run by Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, which is one of the top design schools in the world, so it was an absolutely amazing experience being a part of this program that takes a multi-disciplined approach to urban environmental problems. There were 30 students participating, coming from 11 different countries and multiple states in the U.S., with majors ranging from environmental science to architecture to urban planning.

We worked in groups to develop a design concept for an assigned neighborhood in San Francisco. Our goal for each neighborhood varied across the 8 teams, but we mainly designed the future of the neighborhood for when San Francisco reaches a population of one million people and has to deal with problems resulting from climate change like sea level rise. Through field trips, lectures, guest speakers, computer workshops, studio work, and digital fabrication, we created striking design concepts that could solve the city’s problems.

Along the way I made some amazing new friends, learned so much about design, and am now quite proficient in computer programs like ArcGIS, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Rhino. I also really enjoyed working as a team with such a diverse group of fellow students as we all brought such different strengths and weaknesses and opinions into our respective groups. Through the Disc* program I gained so much experience on how to tackle some of the biggest problems facing urban cities today, as well as how these challenges can be solved. I know all of the skills I gained in five weeks will be valuable during my last year at NC State and also once I join the workforce.

Jessica Westervelt projectWhy would you recommend your major to incoming students? There are so many reasons why I would recommend the Environmental Sciences major that it is hard to write them all down! One of the best things about my major is how flexible it is. We have the ability to choose a focal area within our overall Environmental Sciences major. This allows all of us to tailor our classes to our own personal interests and steer our degree toward our future career. This flexibility in choosing a focal area and a lot of our classes is really unique to the Environmental Sciences major and is one of the reasons I chose to attend NC State in the first place.

The faculty, staff, and students involved in the program are also absolutely amazing. I have forged so many great friendships with many of my fellow classmates, mainly because of the smaller size of my major compared to others. That allows us to get to know one another better and also meet more people in the major. The faculty and staff involved also do a great job of helping us through the college experience and supporting all of our endeavors and goals.

Any advice to incoming students or students thinking about your major? I think the best advice for any incoming student is to find something that you are passionate about and see what the best path and major is to help you follow that passion. The things everyone enjoys the most in life are things they are passionate about and if you can intertwine your passion with your major, you will enjoy college so much more! I was able to do this by majoring in Environmental Sciences, and hopefully you can too!

What do you plan to do after graduation? I am not sure exactly what sort of job I will be looking for yet, but my dream job is to work for NASCAR Green, which works to make the sport more environmentally friendly. I hope to apply my knowledge of environmental science, business, renewable energy, sustainability, and urban design to help make NASCAR facilities more sustainable.

What organizations or student groups are you involved in? I have gotten involved in a lot of diverse organizations during my time at NC State and it has allowed me to meet so many great people and have a lot of opportunities at NC State. This upcoming academic year I will be serving as a Student Ambassador for the Environmental Sciences program for the third year and a PackAbroad Ambassador since I just returned from studying abroad at the University of Leeds in England this past spring. I also serve as one of the at-large student representatives on the Sustainability Fund Advisory Board, which administers grants to students and faculty from the sustainability fee collected each semester. I am also a member of NC State’s club bowling team. Finally, I will be serving as the President of NC State’s chapter of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars. Academically, I am a member of the University Honors Program and am currently working on my senior research project with the guidance of CNR professor Dr. Jonathan Casper.

Why do you feel Environmental Sciences has prepared you for life after graduation? Through the Environmental Sciences program, I feel like I’ve gained a lot of experience through various opportunities they offer that have prepared me for joining the workforce. The external learning required experience can take a lot of different forms. For me, I did an internship as a research assistant studying the air pollution tailgating at football games with two CNR professors and attended the Disc* program. I also studied abroad at the University of Leeds in England and took environmental sciences classes there that transferred back to NC State. Finally, being able to choose a focal area that I am passionate about has provided me with a lot of knowledge and experience with subjects I am most interested in. Oh, and working with the great faculty on determining my goals and path through the program was infinitely helpful!

Anything else you’d like to say about Environmental Sciences or your experiences? The Environmental Sciences program is really like a big family that is brimming with opportunities and amazing people, faculty and students alike. I can’t picture myself studying Environmental Sciences at any other university, and I am so proud to be a part of such a fantastic program. I’m certainly going to miss it once I graduate in May 2017!