Our Students

Marissa L. Jones

ENS Student Marissa Jones working in the field
ENS Student Marissa Jones

Name: Marissa L. Jones

Hometown: Girard, IL

Degree you are seeking: M.S.- Environmental Planning & Management

Expected graduation date: May 15, 2021

Why did you choose this degree at UIS?

After earning my B.A. in Environmental Studies from UIS in 2019, I wanted to continue to explore my environmental interests. I chose this concentration because it offered opportunities to build and apply valuable skills, such as using Geographic Information System (GIS).

What is your experience like as a graduate student?

My experience as a graduate student and Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has been more rewarding than I ever imagined. I have been able to apply learned GIS skills to my current GPSI position at IDNR helping to map and record data that relate to endangered and threatened species, as well as natural areas, across Illinois. I am also grateful to have built personal relationships with professors  due to the small class sizes and engaging course activities.

What do with your degree?

I have recently accepted a position at Lincoln Memorial Garden, as the Apprentice Gardener for my first year, then will be taking over as the Head Gardener in May 2022. I am very excited for this opportunity and I am hopeful I can continue work with UIS through these new channels.

How is this program assisting you in reaching your goals?

This program has challenged me to explore my environmental interests. Partnered with the GPSI program, these two years at UIS have allowed me to build a strong environmental skill set suited for office work and outdoor tasks, form meaningful relationships with environmental stewards and partners alike, and most importantly, solidify my understanding of my personal and career interests.

Advice for future students?

My advice to future students is to take opportunities to explore their interests. I recommend enrolling in the graduate and/or GPSI program at UIS to take advantage of an unmatched opportunity to expand upon your current skill set, work in a government agency, and above all solidify your interests or future goals!

Angie Katerine Quiroga Torres

Hometown: Bogota-Colombia

ENS student working in the field, holding a salamander
ENS Student Angie Quiroga

Degree: MS- Environmental Planning & Management

Graduation: Summer 2021

Why did you choose this degree at UIS?

UIS provides the best internship opportunities related for my field. I like that UIS has the option to pursue a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems, which is highly desired in the environmental field.

What is your experience like as a graduate student?

It has been great. I have the opportunity to create my own projects and have more personalized classes. In comparison to an undergraduate degree, graduate students  take fewer classes per semester, thus allowing us to focus more on specific topics.

What do you want to do with your degree?

I want to to create my own non-profit organization that focuses on helping low-income communities in South America. I want to support communities that are trying to protect the environment from mining, deforestation, and poaching.

How is this program assisting you in reaching your goals?

This program has allowed me to intern at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency where I can learn how state government agencies work and also how regulatory agencies protect water resources. In addition, I have learned a lot from my professors and classmates in all my graduate coursework.

Which has been your favorite class in graduate school and why?

So far, my favorite class has been Remote Sensing. I learned how satellites work and how people can gather and analyze data from them. I also had the chance to use a drone for the first time! Dr. Zhao was very patient with the entire class, and he allowed each one of us to pilot the drone.

Do you have and advice for future students?

Take advantage of all the resources that the university provides! Research and ask questions. There are various research programs in the Field Station at UIS, Emiquon, and with each professor.  The Graduate Public Service Internship program provides a great opportunity to gain work experience while getting your degree.

Anna Vancina

ENS undergraduate, Anna Vancina, at work as a member of AmeriCorps in North Carolina

I started at UIS in fall 2017 as a transfer student, and I feared that my experience would be less enriching because I had attended community college first. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I connected with my professors and formed friendships with my ENS peers. My growing interest in sustainable agriculture was solidified when I took Dr. Styles’ Sustainable Food Systems course my first semester, and my professors gave me the freedom to focus on this interest in other classes. My best piece of advice for any undergraduates would be to bridge the gap between your interests and classes that aren’t directly related to those interests. Find creative ways to make those connections and you’ll gain new, valuable perspectives!


Denise Coogan

Online student, Denise Coogan

Denise Coogan gradated in 2018 with a Master of Arts degree.

I am the Environmental Partnerships Manager, Subaru of America, Inc. In this position, I assist the national parks in becoming zero landfill. Subaru is helping the national parks reduce their waste and improve their recycling. We have started with three (3) pilot parks, Denali, Grand Teton and Yosemite. The three parks are doing very well implementing the new program and there has been a reduction of waste per visitor, as well as an increase in the amount of waste being recycled. The Subaru of Indiana manufacturing facility has sent nothing to a landfill since May 4, 2004. We have taken our expertise in the field and are gifting it to the national parks.

I’ve always been proud of the degrees I obtained at UIS (BA Biology ’93). I believe my education in the sciences has helped me throughout my career. The instructors at UIS are very knowledgeable and always pushed me to do my best. I especially enjoyed my final capstone project and working with Dr. Styles. She believed in my project and was a support through the process. I really didn’t think I would be able to finish, but her course was well-organized and the assignments were all structured in a way that allowed me to build on the final report.

I have taken other courses in other universities, some of them online, and my experience was not positive. Coming back home to UIS made me appreciate just how lucky I was to earn my degree from such a reputable institution.

Stacey Thomas

Stacey Thomas was a MA student in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development option. She was a GPSI with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

  • I was attracted to the Environmental Studies department at UIS because it is designed to give students an understanding of environmental issues within a larger societal context. The Master of Arts program seemed like a good fit with my undergraduate background in environmental history. My placement as a Graduate Public Service Intern at the Illinois EPA adds to my professional experience while I earn my degree at UIS – and provides a tuition waiver

Stacy ThomasI am interested in increasing community knowledge of environmental issues in order for people to make a positive connection between protecting the environment and increasing their quality of life. I believe environmental issues are community issues because the environment provides a literal common ground for people to come together and work to protect.

As an Americorps volunteer with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, I talked with elementary school classes and lake associations about how to reduce non-point source pollution around their homes and neighborhoods. As the Environmental Affairs Coordinator for Southeast Chicago Development Commission, I often served as a liaison between local citizens, businesses, and government agencies on environmental justice issues in an industrial neighborhood.

Other Student Highlights