Kathryn '01BA '02MATESL Returns with Tips on Sustainability

What was your major at Simmons and what is your current job title?

I was a double major in French and international relations with a concentration in diplomacy and conflict resolution.

I recently returned to New England after 3 years working as a Sustainability Coordinator for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in California's Central Coast. I am now teaching at the F.A. Day Middle School in Newton, MA -- and running the environmental club after school! I'm also a part-time Contributing Researcher for a French sociology firm, GroupeChronos, specializing in urban mobility and innovation.

What was a typical day like at the vineyard?

There was no typical day. I spent a great deal of time on the road -- traveling between the 4 vineyard locations and 2 wineries, meeting with a diverse group of colleagues. Some days were traditional office days spent collecting data on energy, water and waste -- or writing reports and meeting with colleagues to brainstorm conservation plans. Other days were very hands on where I worked in the vineyards to establish a pollinator habitat, monitored the riverbank restoration project or checked in on our worm composting bin!

What was the job application process like for you?

In no uncertain terms, I would not have been able to make a career change into the field of Sustainability without the help of the Simmons Career Education Center. They sat down with me and listened and helped me revamp my resume.

I spent days researching the company before drafting a cover letter that was incredibly focused and spoke to each quality they were looking in a candidate. I followed up several times to ensure they received my resume and that it had made its way to the "right" person.

The initial interview was on the phone and the second was via Skype. Even though it was via a web cam, I wore a suit, took notes and tried to engage each member of the interviewing committee.

When I received a face to face interview I made sure to speak with the secretary (not sit on my phone) -- and I remembered her name the next time I came in!

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working collaboratively with people from a variety of backgrounds and being able to quantify efficiency improvements.

What was your favorite class you took at Simmons? Why?

International Women's studies with Jyoti Puri -- this class had me on the edge of my seat. It challenged my world view.

How has it been transitioning into a young professional?

"Change is the only constant," is what they tell you when you have a newborn. I feel that is also true for careers these days. I am constantly transitioning and fine tuning who I am and how I want to be contributing to my world.

What advice would you give to the current Simmons undergraduate students?

Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field where women who are good listeners, strong leaders and great collaborators are uniquely qualified to be successful.

When did you know that environmental issues and sustainability were important to you?

I wrote this dedication to my two grandmothers and published it in my Master's Thesis when I researched "the Economic Resiliency of Sustainable Cities."

My sensibilities toward environmental conservation were solidified during my childhood. I credit two women for fueling me with nostalgia for the walkable, vibrant, tight-knit communities in which they both lived; and for imprinting upon me the strong values that have helped frame how I approach the world.

Grandma Gloria Marzelli taught our large and boisterous family the joy of cooking fresh and local foods. Meals were always enjoyed with flowing jug wines and animated debate. She raised her family in an Italian-American community of White Plains, New York. There, the cliché rang true of knowing and trusting the local grocer, baker, and butcher to feed her family well.

Grandma Frances McCarthy Mello taught me depression-era values while epitomizing the definition of resiliency. In 1950, as a young mother awaiting her second child, she became a 26 year-old widow. No one knew better than she how to stretch dollars, food, and materials. By reducing and reusing, running the original zero waste household, she not only survived but persevered thanks in part to the goodwill and solidarity of both her Lowell and Woburn, Massachusetts communities.

What are your top 3 tips for people who want to be more environmentally friendly?

  • Ditch the car whenever possible
  • Put your dollars to work supporting companies with a verifiable record of environmental responsibility
  • Take pride in the little things: get a compost bin, bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, carry a reusable water bottle. You don't need to do HUGE things all the time. Making a series of small commitments adds up. 
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