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 Ann Gisinger Ann Gisinger, G10

Ann Gisinger (G10) completed a master’s degree in biology as well as a certificate in Management of Community Organizations through Tufts’ Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) program. She met with TIE intern Libby Mahaffy in January 2011 to discuss the newly-formed Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter and her role on the TEA steering committee. The following is an excerpt of their conversation.  

Libby Mahaffy: How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your current work?
Ann Gisinger:
I took a lot of classes based around conservation ecology and environmental policy. Last summer, I worked as a naturalist for Crane Beach in Ipswich. I ran their brand-new programs — we developed and implemented them. The basic biology knowledge I gained in undergrad and at Tufts was very important in figuring out how to plan and execute a program.

The things that you learn in graduate school — both as a biology student and as a management student — are research tools and techniques as well as basic biological knowledge. I needed those skill sets for planning, developing and then implementing programs at Crane. The management certification taught me about about financial analysis, budgeting, and program evaluation, which is helpful when you’re trying to come up with how much you need to make for a program, how much you should charge, and how you should evaluate people’s satisfaction with the program.

What drew you to the steering committee of the Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter?
It’s nice to have a community of people to talk to about environmental issues and policy, especially those who have an academic background–or at least a vested interest–in the environment, and to be able to bounce ideas off of them. I thought it would be a nice opportunity to meet other people in a range of stages in life, doing a range of activities. I’m the only one on the steering committee who has a hard science/biology background. Most people have social- or policy-related backgrounds or are engineers.

What do you bring to the chapter?
I hope I can bring the biological side of the equation. I have connections in interesting places like Crane Beach and the New England Aquarium. If somebody wanted to do a small TEA event or program that’s more biologically-focused, I could facilitate that. I’m an enthusiastic planner and I enjoy bringing people together around a table.

What are the next steps for the steering committee?
Planning bigger events that are more well-publicized and attract a greater number of people. We had a small happy hour in the fall, but we’ve found it takes a long time to get the ball rolling. Hopefully this semester we’ll be able to do a smallish after-hours tour of the Genzyme building, which is LEED-certified. We just booked P.J. Simmons to come speak in May. He’ll do a lecture for us and we’ll have a networking happy hour afterward. We are hoping to have our signature event at the same time every year so everybody in the area can come join us. We want to provide the opportunity for people to get together to chat and learn from each other.

If you ended up moving away from the Boston area, how would you want to stay connected with Tufts?
The bigger the alumni associations get, the more possible it is to have satellite associations. I know for Rochester, my undergraduate university, there is a Boston chapter and they organize events. It’d be nice if TEA could do the same thing.
If I moved away it would be more difficult to be a part of the steering committee but it’s nice to have the e-newsletter – it has job postings, not just for Boston but for the nation; interviews with people; interesting book reviews. A newsletter is a useful way to get to the people who’ve moved away.
Conferences happen all over the country, and internationally too, so having small reunions at conferences that are environmentally-focused is an idea we’ve been considering in the steering committee. If I were to move to, let’s say, San Diego, and a conference shows up that I’m going to be a part of, I would host a little TEA event. That would be a nice way to connect.

Why would an alumnus want to be involved in the Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter?
I think the biggest thing is to have a community of fairly like-minded people who share an interest in the environment but maybe have different viewpoints. It’s interesting to talk to somebody who has a different background than you who can expand or challenge or agree with the way you think. It’s also a great way to meet new people who are in a different industry that you might want to hop over to or just learn more about. It would be really awesome if, as an alumni and a part of TEA, you could advise or mentor undergraduates or participate in a career panel.. TEA allows you to be involved with other alumni in an environmentally-focused way, to expand your network and your knowledge. And it’s nice to go to an event every once in a while.

What do you think the TEA mascot should be?
A turtle would be nice. Turtles are slow and steady, but they win the race. (laughs) Plus Jumbos aren’t exactly fast, so turtles and elephants go together. On top of all that, turtles are environmental indicators – if they’re present in an area you’ve got a healthy environment; if they’re not, then something’s going wrong.  Turtles are sensitive creatures.