Meet Student Success Story Kerrin Kinnear!

Kerrin Kinnear

Major(s): Environmental Studies

Minor(s): Geography

Class Standing: Senior


Describe your history at UConn.

I came to UConn totally unsure of what I wanted to study.  I started as a Psychology major, switched to Marketing, and finally landed on Environmental Studies my Sophomore year. I had always been passionate about environmental issues, and was excited for the new major since it combined the science and social sides of environmental issues.  Ever since then, I have immersed myself in environmental issues on campus, joining the EcoHusky student group and working at the Office of Environmental Policy.

What interests you about your major?

The environment is interwoven in every aspect of our lives.  It provides the resources for our clothing, shelter, food, and water.  Consequently, environmental degradation (especially with respect to climate change) adversely impacts crop production, causes drought, perpetuates poverty, reduces biodiversity, contaminates water supplies, exacerbates social conflict, spreads disease, and increases storm frequency and flooding.  I find it fascinating to learn how all of these issues are connected, and enjoy taking courses that help me to understand how we can prevent these issues by protecting the environment through policy, science, and writing.

Can you tell us some of the things you were responsible for as a Research Intern at the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR)?

At CLEAR, I was responsible for a study focused on assessing the state of low impact development (LID) in Connecticut.  The study consisted of two parts.  First, I read through over 30 municipalities’ land use regulations, searching for the presence of 16 different LID strategies.  Afterwards, I interviewed 50 town planners, engineers, zoning enforcement officers, and more to gain firsthand accounts of the actual implementation of these policies and any environmental initiatives not outlined in the regulations.

What was your favorite part?

My favorite part of the internship was learning the intricacies and complications of local policy implementation.  Reading an environmental policy on paper is incredibly different from hearing firsthand accounts from enforcers about the pros and cons of policies in practice.  It helped me gain insight into what makes effective and ineffective policy.

What was the most challenging part?

The most challenging part was figuring out what approach to take when interviewing a variety of personalities across the state.  I really had to think about what sorts of phrases and attitudes helped people to feel comfortable being interviewed over the phone.  Definitely a lot of trial and error!

What was your internship at the Oklahoma City Zoo like?

Interning at the Oklahoma City Zoo was like nothing I’d ever done before.  In the Conservation Education Department, I taught and assisted with many wildlife-themed day camps for children ages four through fourteen using the entire zoo as my classroom.  On top of that, the staff in my department trained me in proper handling of animals like ball pythons and chinchillas to be used interactively during camps.  Every day, I had the privilege of witnessing my campers’ eyes light up when they learned something new about animals.  I also had the opportunity to learn hands on which strategies were best for effectively teaching different age groups.  Perks: I spent most of the day outside and at the end of my internship I got to feed an Indian rhino!

How did you obtain that position?

I got this internship by reaching out to the Volunteer Coordinator and expressing interest in learning more about conservation education.  She told me to send her my resume for the internship position and soon after we had a phone interview.  During the interview, I really tried to demonstrate my knowledge of animal conservation by talking about my Intro to Conservation Biology course and going into depth about a leatherback sea turtle poster project I did during the semester.  This definitely helped me stand out as an applicant.

Can you give us some background on EcoHusky and the role you play as Co-President?

EcoHusky is the environmental student group at UConn.  We focus on promoting a mindset of sustainability by doing eco-outreach projects on and off campus.  As Co-President, I serve as a communicator with other environmental organizations by interacting with ECOalition members, USG, and other groups beyond UConn’s boundaries.  I also supervise group events like trail clean-ups, food waste studies in the dining halls, and composting promotion at the Hartford Marathon.

How did you become involved in it?

I became involved in the club by attending meetings my freshman year, going to EcoHusky volunteering events, and taking initiative on outreach projects like an eco edition of the Stall Street News.

What have you found to be most rewarding from your on campus involvements and internship experience?

The thing I’ve found most rewarding is having the opportunity to meet tons of different people with unique perspectives and thoughts.  It has been fantastic making all kinds of new friends while learning how different mindsets work and how to work together to successfully accomplish tasks in a group setting.

How has the Center for Career Development (CCD) helped you in achieving your educational and career goals?

The CCD has helped me in countless ways.  Coming to UConn, I was fairly lost about what I wanted to do.  The size of the campus and extensive range of activities was pretty overwhelming.  I met with Beth Settje, the Associate Director at the CCD, in October of my freshman year.  After learning of my interest in the environment, she suggested I join EcoHusky.  My involvement in the club really helped me realize that I wanted my career to be environmentally-focused.  Since then, the CCD has continued to be a huge help, reviewing my resumes for Career Fairs and job applications, and helping me gain presentation skills through the Reverse Career Fair & Internship Showcase.

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

Wow!  Tough question.  As of right now, I am really hoping that I will be immersed in the environmental policy process, whether that is at the local, state, or federal level.  That being said, I’m interested in working for the government, an environmental lobbying firm, or even a think tank focused on eco-issues.

What has been your favorite part about being a UConn student?

My favorite part about being a UConn student is the awesome sense of community on campus.  Whether attending a basketball game, going to a club meeting for the first time, or studying with classmates, I have always been met with fantastic personalities and an overall sense of friendliness.  UConn has definitely become my home.

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give your fellow students?

Based on my experiences, I would urge my fellow students to take risks and try new activities and job positions that push them out of their comfort zones.  It is only when you feel uncomfortable or out of place that you truly learn and grow both as a person and as a job candidate.

By Brittney Austin
Brittney Austin Communication & Marketing Intern