“If you can’t communicate the science, you’re never going to make a difference,” says Sumita Gangwani, an accelerated BA/MS candidate in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth, and Environmental Science (BEES).
In a time of increasing focus on the environment and biodiversity, Gangwani says, “Helping people understand a problem is the first step.”
Drexel gives Gangwani access to a depth and breadth of resources, often supported by the generosity of the Drexel community, that ensure that she is well positioned to be able to both communicate the science and to act on it. BEES grew out of the historic partnership, forged in 2011, between Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS), the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the western hemisphere. That merger opened the floodgates to increased collaboration between Drexel faculty and ANS researchers, leading to donor-funded co-op opportunities, cutting-edge instruction, and field work and research experiences for first-year students. The partnership is shaping the education of students like Gangwani in unparalleled ways.
"Field experience, early and often" is an informal motto for BEES students and educators, and it's a perspective that helped launch Gangwani’s first research experiences at Drexel. Professor of Sociology Kelly Joyce took Gangwani under her wing when she was a first-year, hiring her as a Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR) scholar on a project about renewable energy policy. Joyce also introduced Gangwani to the field of science, technology and society (STS) and later to the Master of Science program.
“Understanding and making a contribution to sustainability requires both creative and strategic approaches.”
"Since week one on campus, Dr. Joyce has been with me and has pushed me on an intellectual level," Gangwani says. "She has taught me that there is always a different perspective to consider."
Gangwani continues to grow through co-op opportunities, involvement with student organizations and field work. Her first co-op was with IKEA, the world's largest home furnishings retailer, which led to her second in Washington, D.C., at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Her final co-op was with the innovation group at Exelon, where she worked on electric vehicles and mobility issues. Additionally, she has studied green energy in Iceland and is leading student groups such as the STS Collective and Drexel’s Climate Change Reality Project chapter.
“What I've learned from all of these diverse experiences — studying hard sciences, doing field work, being part of large consumer-oriented organizations — is that understanding and making a contribution to sustainability requires both creative and strategic approaches,” Gangwani says. “I've been able to learn about science, policy and communication.”
Gangwani says she plans to go to law school after she finishes her master’s degree to create policy-related change, but is keeping her options open, including possibly pursuing sustainability management positions in retail.
"People are the driving force of change," she says. "If I am able to inspire someone to take a small step toward sustainability, then I’ll be happy knowing I made a difference."