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Why I Majored in Environmental Analysis

Emma Hsu ’20

I chose to major in environmental analysis after I interned at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where I developed an interest in the intersection between policy, technology, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. The EA program has given me the opportunity to explore these fields through an interdisciplinary lens -- I have taken courses in politics, ecology, economics, and urban design. The program also embodies Pomona's focus on a liberal arts education: this semester, I am studying abroad at the University of Cambridge, where I am taking supervisions in philosophy, architecture, and law. When I return to Pomona in the fall, I will be completing the environmental policy track, a track I was able to personally customize due to the flexibility of the EA program.

Above all, the major's hidden gem is the faculty. My professors support me academically, professionally, and personally, encouraging me to interpret what I have learned in the classroom and apply it in a world deteriorating from environmental threat. They helped me understand that these applications do not necessarily have to be on a global scale in order to be effective or rewarding; last summer, I worked as a research assistant for Politics Professor Heather Williams through the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). My research revolved around Prof. Williams' book project, which looks at why the Santa Ana River, Southern California's largest river and most crucial source of water for urban residents and regional farms, is all but invisible to the people who live in its very reaches. Through analyses of historical and current groundwater and wastewater legislation, as well as geographical analyses of Superfund site violations along the river, I was able to evaluate an issue in a multidisciplinary manner and assess how Southern California residents' accessibility to a basic human right, clean water, remains affected by the river's inextricable relationship to politics.

Upon completing SURP, I started a partnership between Pomona and a startup called Rain Systems, whose patented technology reduces water irrigation requirements by up to 50 percent. I was fortunate to receive a grant from President Gabi Starr's Sustainability Fund to implement a pilot project on the Sontag Greek Theatre lawn, where I will be collecting and analyzing data this summer. In the fall, I am excited to work with Rain Systems and Environmental Economics Professor Bo Cutter on the project's case study and an academic paper on the financial, social, and environmental impacts of bringing water and energy efficient technologies to educational institutions. 

Perhaps what I appreciate the most about the major is how much Professor Char Miller, along with other EA professors, values the EA alumni and student community. Prof. Miller has organized panels and webinars in which alumni can share their experience as EA majors at Pomona, career development, and other advice with students. The opportunity to build relationships with alumni has led me to connect with one of my wonderful mentors, Alex Tran '09!

I attribute much of my personal and academic development to the EA program and its amazing faculty and alumni!


Jordan Grimaldi ’20

I chose to major in environmental analysis (EA) because I have always been very passionate about the environment. The EA major was one of the main reasons why I decided to apply to Pomona because I really appreciated the structure of the department (it is split into two concentrations: “Science and the Environment” and “Society and the Environment”) and how interdisciplinary it was. I really felt that it would allow me to explore other aspects or disciplines of the environment that I had never considered before.

One thing that I appreciate the most about the EA major is its faculty. I have really enjoyed working with all of my professors in EA and all of the diverse perspectives that they bring to my classes. They are extremely devoted to their students and have helped me a lot with learning more about EA study abroad programs and research and job or internship opportunities. I also really appreciate that the EA major has a listserv that is always keeping me up to date on fun events, speakers on campus, job opportunities, etc. – the department is very well connected! Lastly, one of the main reasons I was drawn to the major was how flexible it is. There are suggested tracks, such as Sustainability and the Built Environment or Environmental Policy, but students are also encourage to create their own track!

Last summer I completed an independent Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURP) on “The Role of Coalition Building in Achieving Urban Green Space Equity in Los Angeles” with the guidance of my faculty mentor, Joanne Nucho, who was my professor for Anthropology of Environmental Justice course. I think this is a perfect example of how interdisciplinary the EA department is because Prof. Nucho is in the Anthropology Department and provided me with anthropological tools and techniques that I could apply to my study on green spaces. This summer, I will be conducting another independent SURP on the International Living Future Institute’s Living Community Challenge Program, with the guidance of my faculty mentor and advisor, Professor Char Miller. Since all EA majors complete their theses in the fall and do a capstone project in the spring, the summer going into senior year can be a great way to get started on thesis research. Thesis can be very overwhelming but Prof. Miller is great about starting the process early so that no one feels like they are scrambling when the fall semester starts and your thesis can be as positive and rewarding an experience as possible.

Chris Clark ’21

Before coming into Pomona, I was fairly sure I was going to major in biology because of my interest in ecology and conservation. I eventually decided to major in environmental analysis (EA) because the way the major is designed, I would have a lot more flexibility to take the classes I wanted, both biology and not. Through classes I have taken in both departments, I felt as though biology was learning to further human knowledge and understand the world around us - which I love and think is very valuable and important - whereas the in EA, we are learning to help people improve life on our planet, which aligned more with what I want to do after school.

This major and department are very interdisciplinary. Every EA class I have taken has had people of different foci: biology, politics and econ, architecture and sustainability, CS and almost anything else you can think of. I really value this because I feel like I learn so much not only from professors, but from my classmates, something I think is pretty unique to such an interdisciplinary major at a liberal arts school. 

For my Conservation Biology class, we have been working on individual grant proposals all semester, which is a lot of work, but also an extremely useful skill to have. Though we are not actually submitting them to any foundations, the opportunity to research and design an experiment about something I am interested in is very cool. I am writing about how to determine the most effective restoration techniques for Indonesian mangroves. In my Environmental Science class, we also wrote project proposals, and then actually carried out all of the research. Learning about grant writing in Con Bio really helped me to write a strong proposal and to have an idea of how to design good methodology. In this project my partner and I took water samples from the lake at the Bernard Field Station as well as on campus and analyzed them for microplastics. I think these two projects show the overlap between biology and EA, and allowed me to explore different areas of interest while learning valuable skills I can use in a potential conservation career.