Alumni Profiles - Meet Erika Farris
Hometown: Newark, DE
Years of Graduation: B.S. 2006, M.A. 2009 (Urban Affairs and Public Policy)
Majors: Natural Resource Management, Wildlife Conservation
Minor: Resource Economics
Students 4 the Environment, Co-founder and Vice-President of the UD Student Chapter of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), member of the Delaware Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA)
Current Position of Employment or Education:
Environmental Scientist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Describe your best Ag experience:
My best experience through CANR was a study abroad trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We travelled throughout the country, which provided me with a great appreciation for the immense biodiversity of the country. We were also able to experience Ecuadorian culture by staying with host families. The trip produced many lasting memories and friendships and is where I met my husband.
Which Ag course was your favorite and why?
My favorite Ag course was herpetology. The course was both fun and challenging. What I really enjoyed about the course was being able to get out in the field every week to find and identify the reptile and amphibian species we were learning about.
Tell us about your current position or program of study and what led you to that field.
I am currently an Environmental Scientist in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, Headquarters. Several experiences led me to pursue a career in water resource protection. During my undergraduate career, an internship at the Stroud Water Resources Center led me to a specialized interested in the aquatic environment. For my graduate studies, I decided to pursue environmental policy and administration, specializing in water resources, through the University of Delaware’s Urban Affairs and Public Policy master’s program. As a graduate student, I held a research assistantship at the Water Resources Agency, which provided me with applied experience in water resource protection. I worked on a wide variety of projects involving GIS analysis, environmental report writing, watershed restoration initiatives, and community outreach. In addition, a fellowship at the U.S. EPA Region 3’s Office of State and Watershed Partnerships provided me with public-sector experience working on a team and with stakeholders on watershed protection initiatives. Upon completion of my master’s degree, my goal was to work in the public sector on water resources protection. I obtained a fellowship in EPA’s Office of Water, which helped me to obtain my current position as an Environmental Scientist working on storm water pollutant discharge elimination permits and regulations.
How did your College of Ag experiences prepare you for your current job or post-graduate education?
My undergraduate majors in Natural Resource Management and Wildlife Conservation provided me with broad coursework in ecology and the environment, which provided me with many options after graduating. I decided to pursue a graduate program in Urban Affairs and Public Policy, specializing in water resources policy, because I was interested in a career in the public sector working on water resource protection. The scientific and policy coursework in my undergraduate career, combined with my graduate environmental policy coursework, helped to prepare me for my current position at the EPA.
What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
Be open-minded about different opportunities that you are presented with. Even if something does not seem to fit perfectly with your interests, you will probably learn something from it, and may even discover new interests.