Figuring out what you want to do after graduation is hard – really hard. Sometimes, it can feel like all your hopes and dreams for ~adult life~ can be too lofty (a NYC apartment I can afford? A job I love? Is it at all possible?). As a political science student, I can attest to how difficult it is to pick a path – from law school, to governmental agencies, to nonprofit work, it all sounds fascinating. There is no advice more valuable on how to navigate this time than someone who has been sitting exactly where we all are. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to have dinner with and attend a lecture by Marist alumna Bridget Burns ‘07.
Burns’ lecture was the second installment of the Danielle Langfield Global Politics Lecture Series, which was sponsored by the Marist chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA), the national political science honors society. Currently co-director of the Women’s Environmental & Development Organization (WEDO), Burns has had a long career in global environmental politics. As a member of PSA, I had the privilege to attend dinner with Burns, liberal arts faculty, and three other PSA members before her lecture. Not only did I get a free dinner at Cosimo’s (which for a hungry college student like me, is like Christmas) but I had the invaluable opportunity to learn from Burns firsthand. It was also really fun to sit at the same dinner table as professors I admire and be able to casually talk to them about all things politics. Burns reminisced about working at River Station Restaurant, shared her sentiment for the old Gartland housing, and having revelations in Dr. Myers’ classroom.
After dinner, we made our way back to campus to the Henry Hudson Room in Fontaine for the lecture. The room was already full of eager students when we arrived. Burns began by highlighting the importance her Marist education has had on her career. She noted that before she took Dr. Eckert’s class freshman year, she was actually a Communications major. Her semester abroad with the Hansard Program in London actually led to earning her M.A. in Gender, Development, and Globalization from the London School of Economics after graduating Marist.
In her lecture, she described the important work her organization WEDO does everyday and how connected the NYC-based nonprofit is to the rest of the world. WEDO emphasizes the interconnectedness of women’s rights and environmental policy, something I (naively) never considered before. For Burns, gender must be the lens in which we understand environmental policy, and ultimately advocate for an increase in women’s participation in the lawmaking process. From training women to take leadership positions in international climate delegations, to drafting policy positions, WEDO is at the forefront of creating a global change in both women’s participation in lawmaking and environmental policy.
For me, the experience felt like one big sigh of relief. Burns once sat in the same classrooms of Dyson as I do now and has led an interesting, successful, and impactful career. When discussing her path from student to WEDO, Burns accredits a bit of luck, but more importantly intention. You might get lucky with an opportunity, but you must seize it with hard work and tenacity to make the most of it. So, yes, it is possible for a Marist grad to find an apartment in Manhattan and the perfect job – and now I know I can have that, too.