Andrei Pinkus ‘21 is a communications and data support resource assistant at the US Forest Service. During his time at Wesleyan, Andrei was a recipient of a 2020 COE Summer Research Fellowship. He graduated with a BA in government and environmental studies.
Why did you choose to be an environmental studies (ENVS) linked major here at Wes?
I’ve always had a passion for environmental issues. Even as a kid I was aware of the negative ways humans influence the environment; I made a habit of turning off lights, taking shorter showers, and never wasting food. So, in that way, I suppose I’ve always been environmentally conscious. Only at Wesleyan, through my ENVS classes, did I realize just how intersectional (and important) the field was. The environment is everything, and without it we have nothing. Although it sometimes feels like an impossible quest, I want to dedicate my career to doing whatever is possible to make the world at least just a little better than when I came into it. That’s why I chose to be an ENVS major.
While here at Wesleyan, you were awarded a COE summer research fellowship. What was your project and what was that experience like for you?
The summer after my sophomore year, I scored an internship at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), an environmental nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia. I used the COE fellowship to support myself while working. I rented an apartment in DC and commuted to work every day. I like to think of it as my first “real adult” experience, and it was foundational to the development of my career.
You are currently the communications and data support resource assistant at the US Forest Service. Tell us about the organization and your role in it!
The US Forest Service is a massive agency within the Department of Agriculture. I work remotely on the Volunteers & Service team at the Washington, DC, office. In that position, I do many things to support volunteerism and service programs and partnerships that the Forest Service offers across the country. In addition to social media, newsletters, and website support, I am the agency liaison for volunteer.gov, a public website that allows people to find volunteer opportunities with the Forest Service, Park Service, and other land-management agencies. Eight months in, I have learned a lot about the agency and being a government employee.
You’re interested in international policy, development, and sustainable building and design. Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
This is the type of question I’ve always had trouble answering. I may not have a clear path laid out, but I’m pursuing different opportunities that could lead to many incredible career paths. I recently passed the Foreign Service Officer Test, so I could be on my way to becoming a representative for the US government abroad. My interests are broad, so I’m casting my net wide to see what sticks. In 5 years, I could see myself living abroad and working (either for the government or another organization), giving a field position a try somewhere out West in the United States, or back in school pursuing a second degree.
What advice do you have for Wes students considering an ENVS linked major or applying for a COE summer fellowship?
Do it. If you’re at all considering an ENVS major, then it’s probably a great path for you. The ENVS linked major leaves a lot of room for studying other subjects–your experience can be whatever you make it. Same with the COE summer fellowship; just go for it. The worst-case scenario is you don’t get it but are better prepared to apply in the future and for applying to things in general. The best-case scenario is that you get paid to do incredible work or an awesome project. The COE fellowship supported me through my first major internship, and the connections I made there led me to where I am now. I don’t know what my life would look like now if I hadn’t taken advantage of the fellowship, but I’m grateful that I had that opportunity.