Headshot of Ashley McCoy

Major: Environmental Analysis, emphasis in Design
Profession: Environmental Planner, Psomas, Pasadena, Calif.​
Hometown: Ontario, Calif.

What are you doing now?

I’m an environmental planner with Psomas, a private engineering firm that also provides survey, construction management and environmental services. As an environmental planner I work on the environmental assessment of development projects through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process. These development projects are located in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties and include residential, commercial and institutional developments as well as general plans and specific plans. I’m a CEQA generalist, so my job is to provide project management with research and analysis of all environmental topics covered under CEQA (i.e. aesthetics, biology, geology, etc.) as it pertains to each development project.

In addition to working at Psomas, I am also on the American Planning Association (APA) Los Angeles board as the web director. I’ve been serving on the Los Angeles chapter’s board since January 2018 and was on the Orange County chapter’s board in 2017.

How did you get there?

As many Pomona students have experienced, I’ve had a pretty unique path to where I’m at now. During my senior year at Pomona, I decided to change my major emphasis from math to design. As I didn’t quite have enough credits to complete the design emphasis by the end of my senior year, I had to petition for an extra semester. During my extra semester, I researched my career options and shadowed a few architects through the "Shadow a Sagehen" program. Although architecture seemed pretty awesome, I was also exposed to what urban planners do and realized that making awesome architecture work for the public and looking at the larger scheme of things was way more appealing!

After graduating in December 2010, and while I was studying for the GRE and applying to graduate programs, I continued to work at the Coop Store for quite a while and also held two other part-time jobs. I ended up at UC Irvine’s two-year Urban and Regional Planning program in 2012, where I became interested in transportation planning. I interned at Metrolink at LA Union Station for the entire two years of grad school. I attended a transportation conference after grad school, where I met my first employer—VCS Environmental. Here I was in charge of their marketing, but I was also given a taste of environmental planning and regulatory permitting. I spent about 1.5 years at VCS Environmental before joining my current firm.

How did Pomona prepare you? 

My time at Pomona was not academically easy. I was on academic probation for the entirety of my freshman year and for a bit of sophomore year. My advisers were extremely supportive (special shout out to Professors Chuck Taylor and Char Miller) and helped me navigate classes in order to find a major that I would truly love, which eventually led to my career in planning. All faculty, especially those professors for the classes I did particularly poorly in, were very helpful and wanted to help me out as much as possible—whether that be meeting outside of class or helping arrange tutoring. For my math classes, the students and teaching assistants that would congregate in the math building to work through homework and study for tests were also very helpful. All of these things helped me to understand that it’s okay to ask for and accept help, and that when life places hurdles in front of me, I can leap right over them.

Beside preparing me for life’s hurdles, Pomona also heavily prepared me for other aspects of life and for my future career. I studied abroad in New Zealand during spring semester of my junior year, which was the first time I had been on a plane, the first time being away from my family and the first time I’d been outside of the country. My study abroad program included an environmental field work component, which required us to do a research project. Study abroad also helped me to be more independent and really brought me out of my shell. During my senior year I was given the opportunity to work with the Draper Center on a food security project. This project eventually led into the Mellon grant research that I conducted in the summer of 2010, which also led into my senior thesis. These opportunities, along with study abroad, helped to form my research skills and my ability to work well in groups, skills which have been used both in grad school and throughout my professional career. As briefly mentioned above, I also took advantage of Pomona’s "Shadow a Sagehen" program, where I was able to shadow architects and interact with urban planners. This helped me to decide on an urban planning graduate program and future career.

On top of all of this, I was lucky enough to form a great group of friends at Pomona. During high school, I was part of the first class of the Summer Scholars Enrichment Program (SSEP [now PAYS]) at Pomona where I met many amazing people—four of which I ended up attend Pomona with and a few more ended up attending the other Claremont Colleges. During college, I made many more friends in my hall during freshman year, in my classes, through work at the Coop Store, and through other friends. These friends that I made in college were an incredible support group that got and still get me through school, work, and life in general.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As of right now, my goal is to be in a CEQA project management role… but who knows where life will take me!

Any advice for prospective or current students?

You don’t have to go into college knowing what you want to do. Especially at Pomona, you can explore your options and you should! Take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities at Pomona. Study abroad! Join different groups on campus! Work on campus! Also, make sure you use all of your resources, like tutoring and office hours. Seek out all of the help you need, even if you think your questions or concerns are silly. Most of all—ENJOY YOUR TIME AT POMONA. Academics are important, but your mental health is way more important.