Students network with EPA officials with futures in mind

The Environmental Professional Career Network is the brainchild of Reggie Allen (right), who is finishing year-long stint at Mason as an executive-in-residence. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

It’s one thing to read about what the Environmental Protection Agency does, but another entirely to see the work up close.

George Mason University students get the opportunity to do just that as part of a new mentoring initiative called the Environmental Professional Career Network. The program pairs juniors, seniors and graduate students interested in careers in environmental science, policy, management, engineering law, public administration and many other disciplines with current and former senior EPA officials. The goal is to enhance student networking, engagement and preparation toward a career in the federal government, private and nonprofit sectors.

Students are encouraged to select who they would like to meet from more than a dozen posted profiles. The mentorship can include informal interview coaching sessions, real-world resume feedback and a potential visit to EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Meetings between mentors and mentees can be scheduled in person or via Skype.

“I have been able to work with some of these mentors, [and] it’s been great to get an up-close look at what they do and how they work,” said environmental and sustainability studies major Dominic Straquadine from Marion, Ohio. “I find it to be absolutely crucial to have this institutional knowledge. I definitely think it’s going to pay off for me.”

The program is the brainchild of Reginald Allen, the EPA’s assistant deputy chief of staff and a retired U.S. Army colonel who is finishing a year-long stint at Mason as an executive-in-residence. Allen, who also serves as an affiliate professor within the College of Science’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy, encouraged as many students as possible to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I cannot express enough the importance of developing good network skills,” Allen said. “Research shows that developing professional networks can lead to more job opportunities, knowledge and potentially faster promotions.”

That’s just what David Tolentino had in mind when he signed on. The senior information technology major from San Diego, California, said that he expected the program to reap benefits for him down the road.

“It helps prepare you for after college, talking to someone who knows how things go and has the experience,” he said.

Learn more about the career network by visiting the website.