"I think what really stands out to me about my time at Pace is how I was able to embrace the challenge of an Economics major and find out ways to apply economic research methods to environmental issues."
– Christina Thomas, Class of 2019
In Washington or New York’s City Hall, graduating senior and dual major Christina Thomas gets things done

You are a dual Economics and Environmental Studies major. What interests you about these topics and why did you choose to study both? 

When I started at Pace, I was solely an Environmental Studies major since I've always had a love for nature and the outdoors. While enrolled in one of the required classes, Microeconomics, Professor Kier Hanratty encouraged me to pursue a second major in Economics. I've never been that good in math, but I decided to give it a shot, especially since economics can be used as a great problem-solving tool when it comes to environmental issues, specifically in regard to calculating costs and benefits of new policies. After taking more economics courses, I realized it was something that made sense to me and that I really enjoyed. While at Pace, I have constantly tried to figure out ways to intersect these two fields of study in the real world.

You currently are working in the New York City Mayor's Office of Resiliency and Recovery as part of a one-year paid internship. How did you learn about this opportunity?

Professor John Cronin helped me find it. A former student who worked as an intern at the Mayor's Office of Sustainability a few years ago found out they were looking for interns, so she reached out to Professor Cronin to see if he knew anyone who would be good for the position. He then contacted me and helped me refine my resume and cover letter for the application, and I was lucky enough to get hired as an intern for the Social and Economic Resiliency team.

What are your responsibilities in this position?

Much of my work is focused on research. The team I am a part of is really trying to figure out ways to help New York City become more resilient, and I help them learn what other cities and countries are doing to combat issues similar to what New York City is facing. I also help conduct research for the Cool Neighborhoods NYC program, which involves analyzing temperature data for neighborhoods in New York City to see which ones are the warmest, and thus, may need more attention than others. It's all been pretty interesting work!

Now a senior, you've been very involved as a student in some major legislative initiatives as part of the Environmental Policy Clinic. What were some of the highlights for you? What results have you and your fellow students seen?

The biggest highlight for me was being able to go down to Washington, D.C. with a group of students to lobby our amendment for the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, establishing anchorages as a major federal action pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, and therefore, subject to Environmental Review. Despite the Coast Guard withdrawing its original proposal, which was our main motivation for doing this, we still wanted to ensure that they never tried to establish anchorages on the Hudson River again without following the proper procedures first. While this issue is still being looked at, it's good to know it wasn't something that was just dropped after one semester and that there are lots of other students who get to learn about legislative procedures and actually try and make real-world changes.

What have your experiences been like with the Economics and Environmental Studies and Science departments?

Both departments have been fabulous to work with from the very beginning! Professor and Chair of the Environmental Studies and Science Department Melanie DuPuis was always helping me find opportunities at Pace. She even helped me get a summer research job on the Pleasantville campus with Environmental Science Professor Matthew Aiello-Lammens after my freshman year. Additionally, Professors Anne Toomey and John Cronin have given me countless opportunities to help them with research and do real-world work that isn't just confined to the classroom, and that has been invaluable to my education at Pace. Finally, professors Kier Hanratty and Todd Yarbrough have been key faculty in the Economics Department who have helped me conduct research and write my final senior thesis, which focuses on bridging environmental studies and economics. I definitely would not be where I am today without all of their help.

What are you most proud of in your academic career?

I think what really stands out to me about my time at Pace is how I was able to embrace the challenge of an Economics major and find out ways to apply economic research methods to environmental issues. As I mentioned before, math was never really my strong point, but my economics classes have forced me to take calculus classes and actually learn that I am capable of solving complicated math problems. Additionally, environmental studies and economics are generally seen as "enemies," so to speak, when looking to pass environmental legislation, but my education in the two disciplines has helped me realize that they can really work together to strengthen a case or a policy for maximum societal benefit.

What advice, if any, would you like to give to current students?

If you find a professor that you really enjoy learning from, establish a relationship with him or her and maybe even help out as a Research Assistant, if possible. It'll give you valuable work experience and help establish relationships for jobs and references further down the road. Also, don't be intimidated - Pace professors are really nice and open to helping students out as long as you get to know them.

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