As students navigate the start of the school year, we always welcome reflections on how students found their way to study environmental sciences at Emory. Their stories and experience are often a balm for freshmen wondering how their own Emory experience will unfold. Often students arrive uncertain about what to take and what it means for the next four years. For Tessa Cafritz (C’17), the ENVS seed was planted early and took root as a passion for environmental education. Tessa used her time at Emory to explore courses and experiences that took her from Washington, D.C. to Greece to explore her passions of art, education and environmental sciences.
Tessa fully embraced her Emory experience and the opportunity to engage across academic disciplines. Working with local Atlanta printmaker and fiber artist, Jerushia Graham, through Emory’s Center for Ethics Art and Social Engagement program, Tessa worked with the artist to promote Wholesome Wave, an organization that works to create affordable and accessible fresh produce to families in need. Seeing this real-life connection between art and environmental science illuminated how “multifaceted environmental science can be and how it can connect local communities.” These kinds of connections between the environment and resources were given further academic context in Professor Yandle’s ENVS 225: Institutions and the Environment. Bringing academic and experience together was ENVS 497: ENVS Undergraduate Internship:
The undergraduate internship course for the major is the most transformative class I have ever taken. It really showed me how to make my major a career and how to approach the professional world. The course also gave me the opportunity to network with individuals in related careers around Atlanta – some of whom I still keep in touch with!
Tessa’s Emory experience was truly shaped by the work that she did through a variety of internships and research experiences. Starting the summer after her freshmen year, she worked in pollinator research with the Society for Conservation Biology in Washington, DC. The following summer she worked with the Great Gull Island Project as a research assistant analyzing population dynamics of the Common and Roseate Terns on Great Gull Island. But it was her position as an undergraduate researcher the summer before her senior year with the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center that was the most influential. Her research focus on spring peeper frogs exposed her to a variety of other reptiles and amphibians and something just clicked – she had to do more! Upon returning to Atlanta for her final year at Emory, she sought opportunities to fuel her growing interest and luckily came across the Atlanta-based organization The Amphibian Foundation.
Throughout all of this, Tessa’s touchstone was Emory’s Career Center and Paul Bredderman, Associate Director at The Career Center. Paul’s expertise has helped hundreds of ENVS students navigate career options and opportunities in the field of environmental sciences. He is available to help current students and alumni identify internship and career opportunities.
Life as an Emory alumna has been busy for Tessa. Her defining passion is the melding of education and environment and she recently got a new job as the Guest Engagement Coordinator at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. Before New Orleans, Tessa was the Lead Interpreter at the Alaska Sea Life Center having cemented her work bringing the environment to the public as a winter and summer naturalist at the Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, Colorado. Her first internship out of college was with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as an Environmental Education and Animal Husbandry Intern.
It is exciting to see how much Tessa has accomplished in the short time since she has graduated. She embodies what we hope students will experience when they study environmental sciences at Emory – embracing the opportunity to engage across a variety of disciplines and using experiences outside of Emory to more fully illuminate the learning that takes place in the classroom. When asked what she enjoyed most during her Emory undergraduate experience, Tessa is quick to talk about her time abroad in Athens, Greece:
I was able to full heartedly embrace my Classical Civilization major while also finding ways to connect my ENVS major. I took a wonderful course called the Ecology of Greece where I was exposed to ways in which antiquity and environmental sciences met. Additionally, I met some of my best friends during my time abroad.
As always, we hope to stay connected with ENVS alumni throughout their careers. We would love to stay in touch. Please reach out with an e-mail or connect through our ENVS LinkedIn Group. We are wishing Tessa the best as she moves from the cool temperatures of Alaska to the heat and humidity of New Orleans!