By Maria Calandranis
The UShadow program matched me based on my interests and my major to create a shadowing experience that could help me see how the education I am getting right now is used day to day in some people’s lives and how I see myself fitting into the work field. I ended up being matched with the assistant director of environment and sustainability at the city of Miami Beach. I grabbed an Uber early in the morning and went to city hall on Miami Beach at 7:30 am. I went to meet with my mentor, and so began the whirlwind of a day. There was so much going on in this department. Tours, addressing events, meetings speaking about problems with plastic and sewage pumps, and collaboration with the EPA, which is what I sat in on for most of that day. The concepts they talked about practically aligned with my classwork; it showed me how important the things I am doing right now are to real life situations. For instance, the policy process goes from identifying the issue and talking about them within the team, then designing a solution to the problem. Afterwards the plan would be put into place and then continually monitored for success and implementation. The problem addressed with the EPA was the groundwater level rise when there are storms that are more frequent and with more intensity. They used a program to input weather statistics from the past, possible costs of production or damage, certain conditions they want to meet etc. It was eye opening to see the amount of research and numbers needed to create a plan. The process of building a solution made me realize what sort of research I want to do in the future to impact our communities.
The UShadow program gave me the opportunity to see the sort of problem solving that goes on within city halls and how they work. This experience has shown me that I really have a passion for making a difference in communities and finding information that advocates for change within the population and the cities to better our environment and our city. It was the sort of experience I really needed to feel confident about my direction in the widespread field of marine science. And the decision to focus on conservationist/human impact research is still a general section of research I can continue to delve into within my studies at the University of Miami.
In the future, I plan on contacting my mentor again to meet with her and see more of what their division is working on. That day was very beneficial in seeing what my working life could look like after I am done with my education. It was exciting to see what a contributing member of society looks like and feels day to day. I want to continue by exploring some other conservation efforts and what kind of education is needed for doing research in this field. I have refined my career goals and am excited to explore the options even deeper as I go through my years at the University of Miami. I hope to be changing the world’s perspective on the environment and their impact on our future.