Alex Santiago: The Eco-biz Extraordinaire
Hey Stony Brook!
This week I would like to feature a tenacious, hardworking–and just plain awesome–Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alum, Alex Santiago!
An Environmental Studies (ENS) major here at the Brook, Alex declared a minor in Environmental Humanities (EHM) during her senior year, after realizing that many of the classes that she had enrolled in “for fun” would count toward the minor–classes like Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s Ecofeminism (WST/EGL 372) course. Alex quickly realized the benefits of studying the interdisciplinary curricula that is the Stony Brook University Environmental Humanities Program. She graduated last year in the spring of 2013.
I had the great privilege of taking an Environmental Humanities course (Dr. Hutner’s Ecology and Evolution in American Literature AKA SBC321–which I HIGHLY recommend!) in which Alex was a TA. Her fierce passion for the environment, creative mind, and super-motivated attitude became readily apparent after just a few class sessions. Alex was always there to help edit and refine students’ ideas or to hook us up with amazing events, people, and internship or job opportunities.
Recently, I asked Alex if she could highlight some of her experiences as an ENS major and EHM minor, and also to update us as to where she is now as a Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program graduate. Excerpts from our conversation follow.
Erica Cirino (EC): Hey Alex! First off, going back a bit, could you please share with us two highlights from the time you spent here in the Sustainability Studies Program? Let’s say…your favorite project?
Alex Santiago (AS): My favorite project had to be SBC 401: Integrative Collaborative Systems Studies at Sylvester Manor. The small capstone class acted as a consulting board to a nonprofit/community farm in Shelter Island called Sylvester Manor. Students came up with individual projects to help Sylvester Manor further their mission. I developed a market analysis of East End restaurants to determine whether they were interested in partnering with a historical farm and if their business would be interested in purchasing local and organic produce. The project allowed each student to take ownership of their work and apply their skills to an actual problem (and hopefully provide a solution!).
EC: Awesome! It must have been great to apply your passion for both business and the environment in your very own project. How about another memorable moment, please?
AS: As far as my most memorable moment goes, Attending the “Design by Nature” Sustainability Conference at the Omega Institute with Dr. Heidi Hutner’s class. The conference was incredible and students had the privilege to personally meet sustainability leaders like Josh Fox and Majora Carter– people we read about and discussed in class! The entire experience was a blessing and I’m grateful I had to opportunity to learn from some of the world’s most progressive and innovative activists/movers and shakers.
EC: An great perk to the Program! I too, so enjoy meeting the real-life environmental heroes that we learn about in the classroom. Speaking of the classroom, how have you applied what you learned in class to what you are now doing in the “real world”?
AS: At the moment, I am freelancing at four different positions in order to explore a number of my different passions and develop additional skills (while having some fun!).
Firstly, I am Events Coordinator at Green Spaces, a co-working space in NYC that is home to a number of small social enterprises and startups This opportunity allows me to interact with entrepreneurs on a daily basis and gain a better understanding of the grit, hustle and tenacity it takes to run a business.
Secondly, I am Events Coordinator of Body Local Socials. Body Local is a startup whose mission is to provide better visibility for local wellness/health resource for consumers as well as connect the NYC health and wellness community.Third, I serve as Community and Engagement Fellow at Imperative, a career services platform that seeks to help people discover, connect and create with their professional purpose. I help create partnerships with organizations and recruit/market to new users.Lastly, I am a Research Assistant to Dr. Malcolm Bowman and the Stony Brook Storm Surge Team, and I assist with managing database, media requests, publications and more.
EC: You are a busy lady! How do you think the EHM minor and Sustainability Studies Program, as a unique interdisciplinary program, helped prep you for these numerous eco-biz gigs?
AG: I believe the combination of studying the environment through both a scientific lens and artistic/social aspect allowed me to develop a very thorough, critical and empathetic understanding/perspective of today’s major environmental challenges. I believe the amalgamation of science and art provided the opportunity [for me to] develop as a stronger leader.
EC: Well-said! What are your goals for the future?
AS: Next year, I am starting a 2-year MBA in Sustainability Program at Bard College.
My dreams include:- Start several of my own social enterprises with my best friend revolving around healthy lifestyle options- Create a movement in University settings that allows students to gain greater access to organic produce/healthy food choices- Travel to new countries to research nutrition, health and lifestyle (and have fun!)-Much, much more to come that I can’t even predict!
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