Wizard in Training

Guest blogger: Andrew Cawley (MESM 2017)

To: Ian
From: Andrew
Subject: HELP!

This was not the email I wanted to write for a lot of reasons (see: pride, violating rules of summer vacation, etc.) but it happened during my second week.  I had been asked to do something in ArcGIS so complicated I didn’t even know how to google it, but by the time my brain figured that out, my mouth had already reverted to intern autopilot mode and responded with “Absolutely! I’ll have it by tomorrow.”

Hence theIMG_20160719_150915154_HDR panicked email to Ian, one of many resident GIS wizards at Bren School of Environmental Sorcery & Magic.  But I followed it 5 minutes later with another one: “Never mind, I figured it out.”  Which I hadn’t, but I knew I could.

My internship so far has been everything I wanted.  Which is a little surprising for me: I’ve never had a desk job in my life (I turn 29 in September) and, since undergrad, I have led a life centered on tour guiding, moving every 6 months, and avoiding Excel like it’s….. Excel.  But I’m having fun here!  I’m working on two projects big enough that they could be master’s projects in themselves, but more importantly, I’m contributing meaningfully to their execution.  The first project tackles both sustainability and environmental equity by showing how, when cities invest in green infrastructure development, they can simultaneously create green collar jobs for low income communities.  The second project is evaluating if it’s economically feasible for Clackamas County, Oregon to start the nation’s first large scale urban timber harvest operation to try and reduce Portland’s demand for traditional forestry products.

So far, I’ve learned to use new environmental and economic modeling programs like (*jargon warning*) iTree, Fusion, and UFORE, expanded my abilities with software I learned at Bren (think R Studio and GIS) and, although I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’ve also begun to enjoy using Excel.

And it’s been great.

And, I think a lot of the reason why these things haven’t freaked me out is because I feel The Bren School prepared me for them.  Not for every problem (hence the email to Ian), but for the biggest problem: how to feel confident about, and excited for, entering into the professional workforce after graduation.  The value from my first year wasn’t in the specific tools I gained but from earning the feeling that I am qualified to solve whatever problems school couldn’t teach me about.  Which is what I did with my GIS problem last week (I did solve it in the end. Hint: it involved “as_null”), and it’s why I’m getting such satisfaction out of my experience this summer.

Ian did write back to me the next day, by the way, willing and eager to help.  It started something like this:

To: Andrew
From: Ian
Subject: OK!

For as much as I just waxed poetic about how Bren has prepared me for the working world, it’s still nice to know help is an email, or an Accio!, away.

Andrew Cawley is specializing in Economics and Politics of the Environment.  He is conducting economic and environmental analysis this summer with Ecotrust, a Portland based non-profit that invests in people to create economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental wellbeing.  He’s learned a lot this past year – including too much jargon to repeat here and the glory of stack overflow – but hasn’t forgotten how much he loves camping.  In case you couldn’t tell, he is also currently re-watching the Harry Potter movies.


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