RealJobs: Katherine Walsh

Monday was an unusual day for me because I didn’t have any meetings, which I was really glad about because I was able to catch up on some program basics… and avoid questions and pity about the Patriots’ loss from co-workers. Ugh L

I typically have between 1-4 meetings a day- meetings with project leaders, prospective applicants, the TGIF Committee, student groups, Campus Recycling and Refuse, Office of Sustainability, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability. Most of these meetings are where we update one another on campus sustainability progress, and have a chance to get innovative, problem solve, and strategize on current and future projects.

On a typical day, the first thing I do is answer all email and phone requests. I remember what is was like to be a student, waiting for responses before I could move forward, so I make it a personal commitment to answer all correspondence within 24 hours, and usually within 2 hours. I will check email in between meetings and daily tasks. I’ve found it helpful to make daily to-do lists, and things that don’t get done on one day become the first tasks on the list the next day.

With no meetings for the day, I spent Monday reviewing TGIF’s expenses and revenues from July 2011-January 2012. This includes student fee revenues (every student pays $5.50/semester into TGIF), operational expenses, and the grant expenses from TGIF’s in-progress projects (currently at 28). By looking at past financial activity, I have to update my financial projections for the remainder of the fiscal year, and create a projected budget for FY13. I pay closest attention to our student fee revenues so I can advise the TGIF Committee on how much they can award for the 2012 TGIF Grants (~$300,000), when they make their decisions in April. I also pay close attention to the grant expenses, ensuring projects are within their budgets and following the terms of their grant awards. It is crucial that TGIF is transparent with its expenses because it is dealing with student fees. TGIF cannot abuse the students’ trust.

Last Friday I finished TGIF’s latest newsletter, so I spent some time Monday publicizing it across campus listservs and websites. I also spent time publicizing news and photos from Saturday’s Zero-Waste basketball game, where Chancellor Birgeneau was awarded a proclamation from the City of Berkeley’s mayor, commending UC Berkeley on its goal to make its new football stadium a zero waste stadium. At Saturday’s basketball, Cal students volunteered at waste stations throughout the pavilion, educating attendees on waste reduction and helping them compost and recycle their materials.

One of my favorite parts of working at a university is the special events I get to work, like Saturday’s basketball game, and last Wednesday’s Student Sustainability Forum. Working at a university is not a 9-5 job; I have to be flexible and willing to attend occasional nighttime or weekend events and travel for conferences.

Meeting-less days are also great for reviewing the currents statuses of all our in-progress TGIF projects. Monday, I had time to review the February project updates of our 28 projects and share those with the TGIF Committee. Some current projects are Compost Alliance, Retrofitting the Rec Sports Facility into a  Human Powered Gym (video), Campus Bicycle Initiative (video), and End the Cycle Sustainable Laundry Campaign.

All the projects have to submit 3 project updates, 1 poster, and one final project during the course of an academic year (the final report is replaced with a fourth project update if it is not finishing within the year). Projects also contribute news, photos, and videos to TGIF publicity efforts, like the newsletters, Facebook page, and blog. Every project also has its own page on the TGIF website. I update all our social media outlets multiple times a week with project news, student internships, and event opportunities. Social media may seem like a silly part of my job, but it is the quickest way to connect with many of the students and other campus news outlets. It is odd thinking about how Facebook was brand new to BC in 2004-2005 and how different the format was back then; now “Social Media skills” and experience with Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, are often asked for in job descriptions.

It’s days like Monday that I also have time to reflect on my job duties and be thankful that I had two career “aha” moments during the two years post-college. The first came about 8 months after graduation, when I realized I was limiting myself to job opportunities by only applying in Boston. Having been born and raised in Boston and stayed for college, I needed to get some courage and apply to jobs all over the country. That “aha” moment tripled the amount of jobs I found in my searches and greatly increased the interviews and job offers, which led me to UC Berkeley.

The second “aha” moment came in summer of 2010. I happened to be getting more interviews, all within short time of each other, and in two different sectors: higher education and non-profit. I began noticing that, despite having worked for two non-profits, I felt more confident, prepared, and qualified during my higher education interviews. I gained some direction and realized I wanted to work in sustainability in higher education, helping universities and colleges reduce their environmental impacts and preparing tomorrow’s leaders to lead sustainably. Hopefully, I will be staying in this field for years to come.

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