What is your current job?
I am the Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland, a nonprofit organization that creates long-term solutions to trash pollution through policy and behavior change. I founded Trash Free Maryland as a volunteer in 2010 and made it my full-time job in 2013.
Why did you choose this profession?
My father taught me to always leave places better than I found them. Through volunteering with the Surfrider Foundation, I learned that people protect the places they love. I led a grassroots campaign to pass a law in Washington, DC to reduce pollution from plastic bags, and discovered an opportunity to activate people in environmental issues through a collective desire to eliminate litter. It's not enough to do stream cleanups. Working on policies and programs to reduce litter allows me to engage with diverse communities to improve quality of life while also addressing pollution in streams, rivers, and the oceans.
What more do you wish to accomplish in your professional career?
My ultimate goal is to bring back (equitable) swimming beaches on the Anacostia River in Washington, DC. If people protect where they play, then restoring recreational opportunities on one of the nation's most polluted rivers--just blocks from the US Capitol--will bring many more people back into an activist mindset and lead to national protection of our environment, and ourselves.
Tell us about a decision or change you made that turned out to be a positive career move.
My brother signed me up for Surfrider to get me out of the house and to meet people. It took 5 years of regular volunteering, and some time thinking about the direction of the organization, but one morning I discovered that I was happy to get up early and make phone calls to people I didn't know and then go to an event where I met a bunch of new people. Because I was flexible, I was able to take over the campaign, and then connect myriad dots to turn that day into what I have now.
How has Haverford influenced your professional career?
My linguistics classes taught me to think about how people hear what you say. The breadth of a liberal arts education has given me awareness of the ways that hard science, social science, political science, and social justice interact. It took me 20 years but the whole Haverford experience is hitting me pretty hard this year...