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How FIU in D.C. helped hone my career path

How FIU in D.C. helped hone my career path

November 27, 2023 at 3:40pm

Earlier this month, FIU hosted a contingent of students with an interest in both environmental science and advocacy. FIU's center in the nation's capital, which serves as a hub for education as well as a place for convening leading voices on the most important issues of the day, brought the students together to hear from researchers and stakeholders about the challenges facing the Florida Everglades and introduced them to government officials, agency heads and tribal leaders currently working on behalf of restoration. FIU's decades-long water monitoring of the wetlands serves as a critical guide for that restoration and has put the university at the forefront of saving the threatened River of Grass. Senior Amanda Di Perna participated in the three-day series of events designed to inspire students to take up a cause on which our lives depend.

In the closing chapter of my undergraduate journey at FIU, I once again found myself navigating the bustling streets of Washington, D.C. This was my second FIU in D.C. Fly-In, and this time, the experience carried the weight of culmination. As a marine biology student on the brink of graduation, these three days were more than a mere expedition; they were the synthesis of my academic voyage and a glimpse into what my future held.

Alongside 18 fellow students, I recently immersed myself in an experience that transcended the conventional boundaries of academia. FIU in D.C.’s fly-in experience, a premier opportunity, offered unique and personalized encounters, crafted by FIU in D.C. and Campus Life to align with the aspirations of each participant. These three days deepened my understanding of the intrinsic connection between science and communication, guiding my path toward creating lasting conservation policy. This experience refined my desire to make science accessible, ensuring the urgency of environmental issuesresonates beyond academic discourse.

The Everglades, an ecological treasure at the crossroads of beauty and vulnerability, was the heart of our discussions. As we contemplated the grim possibility of Florida’s wetlands vanishing, we confronted the urgency of Everglades restoration and resilience.

A pivotal moment unfolded as our cohort sat down with Tori Linder, who helped produce the movie “Path of the Panther.” The documentary helped make the case for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which became law in 2021 with unanimous bipartisan approval.

Linder’s journey illuminated where science communication and advocacy converge. The realization dawned on me – my dream job wasn’t waiting for me; it was a creation of my own design, a synthesis of science, communication and policy. I understood the power of storytelling as a catalyst for policy change and a bridge between science, communication and education. The fly-in experience, beyond being a culmination of my academic journey, has become the fuel for my mission to create a ripple effect of positive change.

As I approach graduation, I am actively seeking roles that allow me to bring this interdisciplinary approach to life. I aspire to work in positions where I can leverage my scientific knowledge to inform and shape policies related to environmental conservation. This could involve roles within governmental agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Through FIU in D.C., I was connected to the National Weather Service Communications team, and this is an opportunity I strongly want to pursue. I am also exploring opportunities within nonprofit organizations that focus on environmental education and advocacy, such as the Everglades Foundation.

The fly-in also facilitated meaningful engagements with champions of Everglades restoration. Our meeting with leaders of the Miccosukee Tribe showcased their profound knowledge of the Everglades, enabling them to predict weather by scent and discern seasons through water level observations. Advocacy for the Everglades is embedded in the Miccosukee constitution because decisions made regarding restoration will affect their day-to-day lives.

I also attended the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force meeting at the Department of the Interior and gleaned valuable insights from experts of the Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District. This meeting shed light on the status of Everglades restoration projects and offered a glimpse into the budget outlook for 2024. Witnessing these crucial discussions about the Everglades beyond Florida borders emphasized that the Everglades belong to everyone.

As I stand on the precipice of graduation, I reflect on how FIU in D.C. has been my compass through uncharted waters. The program not only broadened my horizons but also equipped me with the tools to navigate the intersection of science and policy. My journey is a testament to the invaluable support FIU in D.C. provides, propelling students towards meaningful careers and instilling the confidence to create our paths.