Alumni Spotlight: Emily Onufer, '17

Emily spent a lot of her undergraduate time honing her passion for environmental justice and often finding herself volunteering her time with William Byrd Community House, Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, and UR Downtown. Emily used her undergraduate experiences and life long passions to get herself to where she is now, working as an Environmental Specialist at ATCS, PLC.

What inspired you to pursue a career focused on the environment?

I wanted to go into the environmental field in the first place because of my mom - she's an environmental educator, and has always been one my biggest inspirations. Plus, I love our planet and the natural world, and wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to play a small part in protecting it for future generations. But as I continued my studies and completed internships, I realized that people-focused considerations have to be integrated in any decisions we make about the world around us - and that led me to my current job in environmental and emergency management planning.

What community engagement work did you do as a UR student?

While a student at UR and a member of the Bonner Scholars program, I volunteered at multiple sites - as a farmers market assistant at William Byrd Community House, a mentor at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, a student curator at UR Downtown. I completed internships with an environmental education nonprofit and a conservation-focused NGO. I had a wide range of experiences across the environmental sector, and that really helped me to figure out what my interests were and what type of work I would be happy doing post-graduation.

What advice would you give to UR students pursuing this field?

Do a lot of research and try as many things as you can. The environmental field is incredibly varied - rehabilitating wildlife, studying plants in a lab, creating climate predictions, and designing resilient infrastructure all fall under this environmental umbrella, just to name a few. Seek out people who are in careers that you think you might enjoy, and talk to them - find out what their real experience is like, day to day. Finally, be willing to try things that are outside of your comfort zone - a little willingness to jump in and figure it out goes a long way.