McKenna Davis had never thought of her passion for the environment as a career option, but now that she's had the chance to do environmental policy research, she's found a way to turn her passion into a career.
As a child growing up in California, McKenna Davis spent nearly every weekend at the local wildlife rehabilitation center, a facility devoted to rescuing injured wild animals--bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions--and nursing them back to health. At the time, she volunteered simply because she enjoyed working with the animals, but since then her interest has matured--into the beginnings of a career in international environmental work.
This evolution was nudged along by a grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), a University program that provides undergraduate students the opportunity to work side by side with accomplished faculty members. Davis chose to team up with a sociology professor she met when she took his class on globalization. For a semester, she joined a few graduate students in "studying environmental organizations around the world, and how factors like their political history and international aid affects them," she says. Davis's research contributed to at least one paper published during their collaboration.
While Davis savors the fruits of her research, she's even more enthusiastic about how the skills she's gained will be useful down the road. One of the major benefits of the program, she explains, "is the practical experience you get. I learned about all the steps in getting a paper published, and I got to work with graduate students."
What's more, by demonstrating her capabilitites to a professor already established in the field, Davis earned herself a powerful reference when it came time to apply to graduate school.
After graduating last spring, Davis enrolled at the University of Freiburg in Germany, where she's pursuing a master's degree in environmental governance. She hopes to work one day for an international environmental organization such as the World Wildlife Fund. With the experience she already has under her belt, her dream job could be just around the corner.