Name: Stephanie Pinkalla
Undergraduate major: Environmental Studies
Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?
For as long as I can remember, spending time outdoors and embracing a sense of stewardship for those outdoor, wild places has been important to me and to how I was raised. By the time I came to CSB/SJU, I recognized the importance of that and focused in Environmental Studies as a way to help commit myself to protecting and conserving the environment through my day-to-day actions and choices, or through my career.
What activities, courses, and groups that you were involved in on campus did you find most beneficial when applying for jobs/school? What skills were taught that got you to where you are today?
Most everything I experienced at CSB/SJU lended some skills that are important to my job today. I gained valuable insights from all of my ES and Political Science classes. My involvement in the Sustainability Alliance and St Ben's Senate helped prepare me to face challenges of not seeing eye-to-eye with others and working to find compromises to make things happen. Being involved with the Full Circle Greenhouse at St. Bens gave me skills I've needed to organize and work on a team; my time enjoying the events and opportunities of the OutdoorU's Peer Resource Program helped me find ways to integrate fun into my work-even when it's hard!- and to plan events for large groups.
What did you do immediately after graduation (job, internship, volunteer program, etc.)?
After graduating, I jumped into campaign politics during an election cycle, which involved a lot of grassroots outreach and making connections with strangers. That led to working for a private lobbying firm at the Minnesota Legislature, where I learned more about the legislative process and policy issue areas. To boost my experience in the environmental field, I left to work in environmental sustainability before returning to advocacy and lobbying in the environmental sector.
If it differs, what are you currently doing and how did your career path lead you there?
I work in government relations for The Nature Conservency, where I lobby on behalf of the organization's priorities for conservation funding, water quality regulations, and habitat protection. My great interest in preserving wilderness and public lands, a field I explored and honed in the Environmental Studies and Political Science departments' programs, combined with my interest in experience and relationships in state government and politics led to my current position.
What advice do you have for current students when it comes to being successful on campus and in life after college?
Stay grounded- spend time in the arboretum (it's a great place to study!); Treat everyone you meet like they might be the connector between you and your next job- learn about others' careers, their networks, ask for informational interviews, and send thank you notes; Challenge yourself- try things outside your field of study, take more science classes, or shadow a class. After you graduate, let all the people you've networked with know you're in the job market and ask to sit down with them. Every job I have had so far I got with the help of a connection after a coffee meeting or an informational interview.