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Student Profile: John Alessi, Environmental Science and Policy MS

John Alessi is a Graduate Environmental Science and Policy Student. He is a recent Class of 2021 graduate.

 Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree at Northeastern University? What did you feel this program had to offer to help further your career?

“The most important aspect of my education was the co-op program. I finished my undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy at the University of Vermont. I completed several great internships during my time there. Still, one of the things I looked for in a graduate program was an environmental policy and science education coupled with professional experience. Additionally, this master’s program is multidisciplinary and offered a balance of strength in expertise. So, if a student is more adept in one area and lacking in the other, this program provided the means to help the student strengthen the area—for me, this was science. When I looked at programs, I realized that if I wanted to be an environmental professional, I needed to be fluent in two languages; I needed to be able to speak to the policymakers but also the scientists and researchers.”

Could you tell me about your overall experience as an Environmental Science and Policy student?

“I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of the program that accommodates students desired learning outcomes. This program allows students to explore various interests and subsequently learn more from being exposed to new areas of research and coursework.”

What research and internships have you experienced?

“I have primarily focused on my co-op at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in the secretary’s office as the mobility coordinator. I started in June 2020 and have continued working there since. My co-op was supposed to end in December of last year, but they asked me to continue working through June 2021. In this role, I create transportation options to accommodate more people. Working with the director of sustainable mobility, I focus on a variety of projects to develop new transportation policies for the state, act as a program manager for various MassDOT programs, and expand access to walking, biking, and public transportation in the state. Although I finished research projects in class, this co-op is the most significant part of my Northeastern experience.”

Why did you choose to complete your coop at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)?

“During my co-op application experience, I had to choose either a co-op in the private sector or the public sector. When it was time to make a final decision, I thought about which co-op was more meaningful and where I could have the most significant impact. The state agency was a great way for me to continue meaningful work and to help expand sustainable transportation options for people. I use biking as my primary mode of transportation in Boston, so I have a genuine personal interest in this and want to help others find access to public transportation options.

What does a regular day of balancing work and coursework look like for you?

“Because I work 9-5, I need to have effective time management skills. At the beginning of the week, I schedule out all the tasks and assignments required of me for MassDOT and then the coursework. I use a calendar to block out time designated for co-op, the time designated for school, and personal time. In my position at MassDOT, I have many meetings to attend, so the calendar has become a hub to balance my work and social life. I would recommend that those who need to visualize their week try something similar, but this organizational style is not for everyone. Understanding work expectations and time management are the most efficient ways to balance work and coursework.”

How do you think your experience at MassDOT will impact your future plans? What lessons did you take away from this experience?

“Although I am currently working in the transportation sector, I didn’t know this was the path I would take when I first came to Northeastern. Despite this, I am thrilled to be serving in the public sector, and I hope to continue my work in transportation-related fields when this co-op ends. Looking to the future, I would like to work in transportation for state government, local government, or an agency, or use the data to understand the transportation sector. As I obtain my environmental degree, I understand how difficult it is to pass legislation or widespread policy to bring about positive environmental changes. Through my co-op, I’ve learned that the best way to do this is to decarbonize a part of society that omits so much carbonation through the transportation sector. I believe the route of transportation planning is an effective way to achieve sustainable environmental goals.”

Marine and Environmental Sciences