Department of Geography and the Environment

Sustainability Studies Alumni


Rafael Garcia 

B.A. Sustainability Studies - Sustainable Choices in a Diverse World track, Spring 2019 

Community Leader, Sole Savy and graduate student in the Masters of Marketing Research and Analytics at Texas Tech University 

After graduation I moved back to San Antonio when my lease was up in Austin so I wouldn’t be tied down during the job search. I started a part time job with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority as an Environmental Educator at the Canyon Lake Gorge in Canyon Lake, Texas. There I was able to educate San Antonio area 5th graders and grow my teaching skills. Next I was employed with the City of Lubbock from December 2019 - March 2021, where I educated the public on the ins and outs of the water supply system, water reclamation system, and conservation. Currently I’m beginning a role with a sneaker start-up called Sole Savy, which works to build a community of sneaker enthusiasts who are focused more on the community aspect and less on reselling the shoes for a profit. I’ll be a community leader, in charge of educating new members on tips and tricks, ensuring that members are staying engaged, and limiting member turnover. 

My Sustainability Studies course work helped me understand the complex nature of creating a sustainable future. We all know that a strong focus on environmental issues is needed to achieve this, which I was able to do with the City of Lubbock. With my role at Sole Savy, I hope to foster a strong sense of community that people can carry over into their own environments, and spotlight recycled clothing and companies that are making conscious environmental efforts.  

The liberal arts coursework helped me become a better writer and thinker, which have helped me immensely in my past and current positions. Everyone learns in their own way, and liberal arts courses have helped me with my communication and writing skills to help me teach people who come from different backgrounds. Being able to explain complex situations is something you learn not only from your classes but from observing the way the liberal arts professors teach. 

What I valued the most about the department is that you can tell the professors you interact with genuinely care about you and the subjects they teach. These people will go out of their way to help you succeed and become the best job candidate you can be once you graduate, and the passion and interest they exert in the lectures show that they are invested in what they are teaching you.  

The two regrets I have from my undergrad years are not joining student groups related to sustainability and not looking for internships earlier. Being surrounded by a group of people who are interested in sustainability topics can help you see an issue from a different point of view, which is vital in an increasingly interconnected world. Also, internships may look good on a resume, but they also help you learn what type of workplaces you’ll like and dislike. I lucked out with my internship I needed for SUS 379L Directed Internships in Sustainability being a great situation for me, but we may not all be that lucky. Getting experience and a feel for a workplace can only benefit you the earlier you start. 

Max Morales 

B.A. Sustainability Studies - Natural Resource Management track, Minor African and African Diaspora Studies, Spring 2019 

Environmental Protection Specialist III, Department of State Health Services, State of Texas 

Since graduation, I've moved from working in local government, Travis County Environmental Quality Department, to state government, Department of State Health Services in the Texas Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 

My B.A. in Sustainability Studies helped me break down the complex issues we are facing in the environment and made me think outside the box about creative ways we could find solutions. Through internships related to my field of study, research, and capstone projects centered around the environment I was able to think like a professional and those building blocks assist me to this day.  

Everyone in the Department is there to help you achieve your goal and mold the path that you want to pursue. I wouldn't have made it through college without the love and support that I received from the department and the professors that pushed me in my classes but also cared for my future.  

As a first-generation student who came from an impoverished area of Houston, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into when I came to UT. My dream was to become an engineer but that was quickly stopped when I couldn't pass the basic courses to get into the engineering school. My grades were falling, I couldn't connect with any professors, I felt lost. As I was getting ready to drop out, the Sustainability Studies major was being offered on campus, and it gave me another chance. This major challenged me and kept me engaged. No class was ever the same and I kept wanting to learn more and more. I wouldn't be in the position I am now if it weren't for this department, my counselors, professors, and fellow classmates I met along the way. 

Gabriella Velasco

B.A. in Sustainability Studies and Humanities, Minor Women’s and Gender Studies, Spring 2019

Policy Analyst, The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

I moved to D.C. shortly after I graduated to start my job at the Urban Institute. My time in the Sustainability Studies program allowed me the latitude to explore my interests while simultaneously receiving an in-depth, focused education in critical sustainability and environmental history, organizing, and policy. Through the Department, I was connected with the opportunity to join the Feminist Geography Collective as an undergraduate researcher and benefit from the invaluable mentorship of Dr. Jayme Walenta, Dr. Caroline Faria, and Dr. Pavithra Vasudevan alongside a cohort of undergraduate and graduate students. My time with the Collective affirmed my desire to pursue research, and supported my growth as a critical scholar. Importantly, the internship practicum course I took with Dr. Molly Polk gave shape to my studies, and was extremely important in my process of deciding how specifically I want to contribute to social change. Dr. Polk’s course empowered me to investigate my interests and strengths, and ground both my studies and my internship experiences in a longer-term framework that gave shape to (and continues to inform) my career ambitions.

In my role as a policy assistant in the Research to Action Lab at the Urban Institute, I work as a policy translator and researcher. I believe that my UT Sustainability Studies education was a great asset to me during my initial job search, and know that my strong educational background is what made me feel prepared to confidently jump into my first post-graduate job. The Sustainability Studies program equipped me with the skills and knowledge base necessary to take on a range of projects at Urban focused on housing justice, sustainability policy, placemaking, and environmental justice.

I am extremely thankful that I connected with such a supportive network of faculty mentors through the Department of Geography and the Environment. The consistent encouragement and trust of those mentors during my time at UT allowed me access to invaluable research and professional opportunities, and these relationships have continued into my post-graduate professional life.

Natalie Regennitter

B.A. Sustainability Studies - Natural Resource Management track, Fall 2018

Business Process Specialist, Austin Resource Recovery with the City of Austin

Since graduation, I have been working for the public for Austin Resource Recovery, a department of the City of Austin. My team focuses on Zero Waste policy and initiatives, though I also do work in team development/support.

Through the Sustainability Studies major, I was introduced to how local government and NGOs could influence positive change in a big way. I received the most preparation for the “real world” my senior year, most notably through the required internship course and Capstone course. In the former, I learned how to conduct myself and convey my knowledge in a professional way, and in the latter, I learned about Circular Economy principles—a concept that is essential in the larger policy work my team and department influences—by making it the focus of our Capstone.

I value the dedication and passion of the faculty and staff for their respective disciplines as well as the opportunities I was given to participate in undergraduate research and present at national conferences. I also value the connections I made with my classmates and professors, as they are part of my core network that I lean on as an industry professional.

My email inbox is always open if there are any students/alumni who have questions or would like to chat. Contact through LinkedIn:

  • Department of Geography and the Environment

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