Name: Eli Typhina
Undergraduate major/minor: Art & Environmental Studies
Year of graduation: 2005
What did you want to do when you started undergraduate school?
I wasn't sure of the exact profession, but I wanted to do something where I could solve social and environmental problems through creative means.
Why did you choose to study environmental studies?
My freshmen year I took environmental ethics with Dr. Charles Wright and read from Dr. Joe Des Jardins' Environmental Ethics book. The stories in the book and the discussions in class brought so much passion from within me I knew that I had found my calling.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for graduate school?
This is harder to explain since I went to graduate school in a discipline different from that of my bachelor's degree. With that said, what helped me was a course I took in communication that taught basic data collection techniques. About four years after I graduated I met an environmental psychologist form Macalester College, Dr. Christie Manning, she let me sit in her course as a guest student. I learned how to use and build social science theory in her course - that experience led me to attend graduate school for an M.A. and Ph.D. in environmental communication.
Did you work, intern, or take time off between undergraduate and graduate school? If so, how was it beneficial? If not, do you feel you were still well prepared for more school?
My senior year at CSB/SJU Dr. Derek Larson told me, "Go out and experience the world, then go to grad school." Of course I didn't listen - LOL. After receiving my B.A. I worked at nature centers and applied for art graduate programs. After receiving rejections for a Master of Fine Arts two years in a row I decided to expand my understanding of environmental communication. I spent 5 years working in the environmental field before I applied again and was unanimously accepted with funding to my two top institutions for an M.A. in communication. And guess what, Dr. Larson was right. The applied experience I gained out of school not only made me more appealing to graduate committees, but it also allowed me to excel in graduate school because I know exactly what research is needed and who to partner with (very valuable and not something you know if you go straight from B.A. to M.A.).
What are you doing now and why is it important to environmental studies?
I'm researching the ways that mobile phones can prompt environmentally friendly behaviors through use of mobile apps and texting campaigns. I'm focusing on how the technology is used and designed, which will assist environmentalists in any environmental area with engaging audiences in creating a sustainable future. I also teach environmental communication to undergraduates at North Carolina State University as part of my assistantship. Teaching is fun because it allows me to explore concepts with a group of inquisitive minds and it's very inspirational to see what students do during and after the course.
How does graduate school differ from your experience at CSB/SJU?
Since I completed my M.A. and I'm almost done with my Ph.D. at research one universities, the differences are dramatic. First off, research is the main driver of academic life and permeates more of the courses and work of professors than at a liberal arts school where teaching is the main focus. Additionally, both the research one schools I attended have at least 30,000 students, which is much larger than the barely 4,000 at CSB/SJU. Both settings have their charms and challenges.
What do you want to do after you earn your Ph.D.?
I would like to continue my research, likely as a professor or research fellow. I aim to publish my work on mobile phones and environmental communication in a book in a few years and possibly put together a book on teaching environmental communication. I hope my work inspires others, like the work of the professors I mentioned that inspired me throughout my life.
What advice/suggestions do you have for current students?
I have two pieces of advice: (1) You always have options! If you feel that you hit a dead end, talk with friends, research things that interest you, ask to sit in on a lecture, eventually you will find a new and better path. (2) Enjoy the road to your goal as much as you enjoy achieving your goal. Even though something is hard, it doesn't mean it can't be fun. Savor the people and the moments you have on your journey because those will be your most memorable moments in life.