snyder ’23 engages in green planning

Would you share a bit about yourself, and some of the highlights of your time at Wesleyan?
Hi! I’m Phoebe Snyder, and I am a class of 2023 graduate. I’m originally from New York, but I have relocated to Denver, Colorado, since graduation. There were a lot of highlights of my Wesleyan experience. During my time at Wes I was on the swim team, also part of a co-ed fraternity on campus! I was a double major in environmental studies and government.

Were you involved with research on campus?
Yes, I worked on research with Helen Poulos, who was fantastic and very supportive. I completed a thesis on the effects of thinning on forests to see how it would affect post fire hydrology, with Professor Poulos as my advisor. I researched whether or not this was beneficial for immediate regrowth and health of forests. I didn’t collect the data in the field myself, but reviewed Helen’s data utilizing GIS analysis. I spent a lot of time sorting through the excel spreadsheets to look at evapotranspiration rates, and examined how water was cycling through the ecosystem. The evapotranspiration rates of plants were indicators of how healthy they were.

Did you take any courses at Wesleyan that informed your experience after graduation, or any classes you would recommend to current students?
Yes, I would definitely recommend taking a GIS intro class, because it has informed so much of what I do. It really enhanced my technical skills, and I also used GIS a lot while working on my thesis with Helen. The GIS class at Wesleyan helped me approach data analysis in unique ways, and learn new ways of modeling and presenting information.  It was certainly an extra boost to have those skills on my resume. I don’t use it as much in my current job, but I loved learning about it, and I would really recommend taking this class to other students. It is certainly such a leg up in the workforce, especially for those interested in working in environmentally focused jobs. 

Any advice for making the most of your academic experience at Wes?
I would probably say, take the wacky classes! If they end up helping your resume, that’s great, but don’t limit yourself. At the end of the day, having the ability to adapt and take in brand new knowledge and experiences is much more beneficial than taking courses that you think you are “supposed to take.” These courses can still help you in the workplace. It is exciting to be able to talk about different classes, like intro to dance, or art. Taking such courses shows that you are flexible and open, which are valuable skills. 

What is your current role?
Right now I am working at AECOM as a sustainability planner! AECOM is a company that works on infrastructure planning and development. For the most part, the company works with public institutions and people who want to see certain infrastructure developed in their communities. Many of our projects are based in Colorado, but it’s a wide-ranging company; I just got off the phone with someone from India, and have also worked on projects in other states, including California and Texas. My time at Wesleyan has definitely helped me transition into the workplace. Even the socializing I did at Wesleyan helped me develop intrapersonal skills and conflict resolution strategies that I can implement in my role. It’s not just hard skills that transfer over, but soft skills are often extremely valuable. 

Would you share what your experience has been like moving from New York to Denver?
I knew I wanted a change of location after graduation. My junior year I worked an internship with AECOM in Denver, so I had a sense for what the company would be like. Because I am an outdoorsy person who loves skiing and spending time outside, I thought Denver would be a great fit for me. The environment here is beautiful! I also have some high school friends in Colorado, and knew that when I went home to visit family, I could see a lot of my Wesleyan friends back in New York. I think that after graduation is a great time to explore a new city and take advantage of exciting opportunities. 

Do you have any early-career advice for students?
Network, network, network! Even though it may feel a bit awkward to reach out, or to send that first message to someone on LinkedIn, it is really important. Connections are everything, and even if you don’t have family or friends working in the industry you are interested in, you can still break in through networking. Another piece of advice is that there might be more types of jobs in your field than you realize. While I was a student I found an online list, with connections for internships working in environmental studies, that made me really optimistic, and opened my eyes to all of the different sustainability related roles. Before this list, I had mostly only thought about the kinds of jobs my professors had, because they were the people working in sustainability that I interacted with most. There are so many different kinds of positions you can hold working with the environment! 

Is there anything else you would like to share with current Wes students?
I want to say to enjoy all of your time at Wesleyan! It might be easier for me to say because now I am removed from all of the stress and responsibilities of being a student. But looking back, college is a very unique and exciting time. I remember after submitting my thesis I suddenly realized that I could really enjoy my time left at school, and I wish I had that realization earlier in my senior year. Make sure to appreciate Wesleyan, because it really is a special place!