After graduating as a Biology and French major, Lauren Watka ’09 searched for exciting opportunities that blended her love of scholarship with joy and adventure. Luckily, opportunities were fairly easy to find.
For the first year after graduation, she excelled at an internship with the National Marine Fisheries Service along the Gulf Coast, worked with a New Bedford research team for 40 days at sea, and taught both math and science to a homeschooled student.
“After having worked so hard for the last sixteen years, I wanted a year of adventures and received just that,” said Watka. “These experiences helped to lay the foundations for my love of marine science and teaching.”
Success at Brown University
Now, Watka serves as the Assistant Director of Experiential Education for Pre-College Programs at Brown University. She designs curriculum, coordinates administrative support, hires and trains staff, and works with local affiliates to run transformative learning experiences.
Branching from her love of science, Watka utilizes place-based lessons to explore environmental subject matter from a variety of perspectives.
“Every summer, I get to see over 100 high school students create deep friends across cultural, geographical, and socioeconomic lines,” said Watka. “It’s wonderful to witness high school students realize they're passionate about creating alternatives to our industrial food system, promoting freshwater conservation, or creating more equal and just access to clean air.”
Opportunities as an undergraduate at UMass Dartmouth
As an undergraduate student, Watka utilized every opportunity that she could to learn and grow as a Biology student, and that eventually helped cultivate her interest in sustainability.
She was one of the first to form the campus’ Green Navigators program. She also completed a research-based internship at Dartmouth College and a fellowship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
“Each of these opportunities shaped my skills as a scientist,” said Watka. “Whether through refining my experimental design creativity, communication skills, collaboration and teamwork, or ability to cope with failure, these experiences all gave me real-world learning opportunities.”
Mentored by dedicated professors
Watka realizes that her success stems from her dedicated Biology professors at UMass Dartmouth who perform their own research and apply it to their instruction in the classroom to engage students.
“I was able to learn the fundamentals of biology from thinkers who were applying these concepts to their daily work,” said Watka. “They had opinions on current events in science and were very glad to spend time engaging a curious undergraduate like me.”