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Environmental Studies Alumni Make a Difference

Monday, June 11, 2018

Three alumni have achieved success by pursuing their passions for sustainability and environmental preservation. Michael Andranovich ‘16C, Joseph Costa ‘17C, and Kimarie Yap ‘18C have all pursued exciting professional and academic opportunities after getting their start in St. John’s Environmental Studies program working with Laura Schramm, Ph.D, Associate Dean and Professor of Biological Sciences, on undergraduate research.

Michael Andranovich ‘16C

After graduating with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and minor in Computer Science from St. John’s, Michael Andranovich ‘16C joined volunteer organization AmeriCorps and completed 1700 hours of service within a year in Cape Cod, MA. His efforts toward invasive species removal, shellfish propagation, shelter preparation, and community organization aligned with AmeriCorps’ four pillars: natural resource management, disaster response, environmental education, and public outreach.

Mr. Andranovich, whose hometown is Milford, CT, then went to work for the Connecticut Audubon Society as an educator leading environmental education programs beginning September 2017. In February 2018, he took on an additional role there as Shorebird Monitor, monitoring beaches as birds migrate for breeding between March and September. While currently serving in this role, Mr. Andranovich is undergoing the hiring process to become an Environmental Conservation Officer, a rigorous testing and screening experience that will prepare him to enforce hunting and fishing regulations, address wildlife issues, and monitor park security in the state of Connecticut. He is also about to embark on a Master of Environmental Science and Management program at the University of Rhode Island (URI). Eventually, Mr. Andranovich wants to apply his interests and expertise in conservation biology to non-profit ecology initiatives.

While an undergraduate in the Honors Program at St. John’s, Mr. Andranovich was inducted into the Skull and Circle Honor Society in his junior year and received the College’s gold key in his senior year. Together with Mr. Costa and Dr. Schramm, he worked on research using digital maps to correlate heavy metals in soil samples with incidences of prostate cancer on Long Island. Both this research opportunity and St. John’s location helped to advance Mr. Andranovich’s environmental career. “St. John’s is the perfect mix of being close to the city but not overwhelmed by it,” he said. “You have the wonderful environmental resources of Long Island and Jamaica Bay very close by.”

Joseph Costa ‘17C

Joseph Costa ‘17C is now Sustainability Projects and Program Coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA. In his role there, he works to improve VCU’s sustainability efforts by increasing its building efficiency and spreading awareness among students and staff.

Beginning in his sophomore year at St. John’s, Mr. Costa worked in the Sustainability Department and became interested in how buildings run and how to improve spaces for both occupants and the environment. Under the supervision of Director of Environmental and Energy Conservation Tom Goldsmith, Mr. Costa assisted the composting program, introducing post-consumer food waste into the compost stream, and expanding St. John’s garden program. The position provided Mr. Costa with lots of hands-on experience for his current position, as did his internship with the New York State Energy and Resource Authority.

Originally from Saugerties, NY, Mr. Costa is also pursuing a post-baccalaureate graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at VCU. GIS is something he became interested in while doing research as an undergraduate with Mr. Andranovich and Dr. Schramm. “The digital mapping techniques provide a visual picture of problem areas,” said Mr. Costa.

His future plans include focusing specifically on renewable energy technologies: “It’s easy to get disheartened about the state of the environment, but I’m encouraged by how many fantastic people are working in the field.”

Kimarie Yap ‘18C

Although Kimarie Yap ‘18C was only planning to pursue a master’s degree after graduating with her B.S. in Environmental Studies and minor in Social Justice Theory this year, Dr. Schramm encouraged her to apply to at least one doctoral program. Not only did Ms. Yap apply, she was accepted to Fordham University’s Ph.D. program in Biological Sciences with five years of fellowship funding. During the summer of 2018, she will assist a Ph.D. candidate at Fordham with research focusing on native salamanders, how separation affects their genetic diversity, and their conservation within urban New York City.

Over the summer of 2017, Ms. Yap, under Dr. Schramm’s supervision, tested topsoil samples in Alley Pond Park and Cunningham Park for pH levels, soil moisture, and temperature to identify differences according to sun and water exposure. She mentored a local high school student during this research project, with the goal of improving policies to protect water resources throughout New York City.

Ms. Yap, whose hometown is College Point, NY, came to St. John’s on a full scholarship because the University’s Mission attracted her. “I love the Vincentian Mission of service because I was already involved with service as a high school student,” she said. While a student at St. John’s, she worked as an environmental educator teaching middle school students at the Detective Keith L. Williams Field House Recreation Center. She also led a fundraiser to provide bottled water for kids in Flint, MI, raising $400 toward that goal.

“One of my best memories from St. John’s is taking Catholic Social Teaching with Associate Professor Meghan Clark, Ph.D.,” said Ms. Yap, who was in the Honors Program at St. John’s. “Her class made me decide to become a Social Justice minor and balance my science courses with sociology and theology. Environmental studies and social justice are inherently intertwined in issues like species preservation and marginalized people. Both fields of study prepare me to protect those who can’t speak for themselves.”