From SPEA wanna-be to Masters to PhD

So I’m so happy I have this opportunity to share with the world what an awesome life I live here in Bloomington, Indiana, attending SPEA! And really, this blog is about achieving my goals for graduate school!


I came to SPEA from Morehead, Kentucky, where I received a degree in English from Morehead State University and was a literacy tutor with AmeriCorps for a year after I finished school.


Eastern Kentucky is a beautiful place…a place where I often camped and hiked in the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was actually these experiences in nature that led me to SPEA!


While in Morehead, I got involved in a public lands advocacy with an environmental non-profit, Kentucky Heartwood. I had experienced some frustration with the way the National Forest around me was being managed—too much logging and a lack of trail management. I participated in public comments, trying to make a difference, but I knew that to make a true difference, I needed more knowledge in my arsenal!


I began exploring graduate schools, knowing that I wanted to be a part of a program that focused on Environmental Policy and Science. This, of course, led me to the #1 program in the country in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management at SPEA. Here, I combined two major degree programs—science and public affairs—through the “joint degree program,” a combination that is very popular here and extremely unique among graduate schools.


That was in 2005…and this past December, I graduated from SPEA with a Masters in Science in Environmental Science and a Master in Public Affairs in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management!!


The research that I was working on during the Masters programs made me realize that I wanted to keep learning and asking questions and doing research, so last semester, just before I graduated, I applied for the PhD program in Environmental Science at SPEA. I applied to a few other schools, and in doing so, found out very quickly what an advantage I had in applying to SPEA. All of my transcripts and records and letters were all right there in the building; all of the professors that wrote my letters of recommendations were right there in the building; and of course, all of the academic relationships and projects that I had been building over the past few years were right there in the building!


I was accepted to the PhD program, and of course, decided to stay! I’m now working with Burney Fischer, clinical professor at SPEA and former state forester of Indiana. What a world!! I wanted to make changes in the way public lands were managed, and here I am working with one of the major public land managers in the country!


In my next post, I’ll tell you some more about the great research projects I’m working on and the classes I’m taking.


One response

  1. Hi Sara,
    I am getting ready to apply to Environmental Policy Masters Programs and I just came across your blog entry that discusses your experiences at SPEA. I am extremely interested in the joint MPA and MSES program and I was wondering if I could email you a few questions about your experiences with these programs? My email address is and I will email you my questions once I hear from you.

    Thanks for your time and help,

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