Hunter Geography Alumni Focus


An Interview with Paul Racco, MA, Geography, 2019
Edited by Christina Santiago, Hunter College, English major


Paul Racco graduated with an MA in Geography and a GIS Certificate at Hunter College in the Fall of 2019. Paul is currently working for the MTA in Environmental Sustainability and Compliance department.

Why I study Geography?
I had left a sales job at Yelp and was looking for a career change. In my spare time, I read a lot and it was actually David Harvey that put geography on my radar as a potential advanced degree path. I knew I wanted to couple any additional degree with hard skillset development, so when I saw Hunter’s Geography MA and GIS Certificate, the lightbulb went off.

What is your current research?

I currently manage the Environmental Sustainability and Compliance department at the MTA, so my research-oriented work relates primarily to the avoided carbon impact of mass transit. We know that the MTA avoids around 17 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year by taking people out of cars; allowing for compact, walkable communities; and decongesting roadways. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but one of the best things you can do for our environment and climate is not move to the country, but rather to the middle of a dense city! My thesis included a study on the impact of climate change on apples under extreme emissions scenarios. In post-grad life, I write music and am taking Italian classes.

How has Hunter Geography helped shape who you are today/your future?

It was the greatest return on investment I ever made. CUNY in-state tuition is relatively affordable and I was able to get three internships and a job before I even graduated. The faculty does a great job of networking and creating opportunities for the students.

What was being a graduate student in NYC like?

Very different than my undergraduate experience at University of Massachusetts Amherst; getting a graduate degree was all business for me. With regards to being in NYC, the networking and professional opportunities available due to being in this city are invaluable. At a certain point, I had received multiple internship offers and had to turn some down.

Why is geographic approach important to your research?

Understanding how patterns or issues are revealed dependent on scale is a valuable geographic analysis tool that I deploy regularly at work. For example, we know that mass transit is an overall gain for the climate due to emissions avoided from things like car trips not taken. However, at the local scale, this may be a hard sell to a community exposed to the exhaust from a diesel bus depot. In situations such as those geographic approach is important because it aids in the path we take to deal with a situation and it’s fundamental to be both aware of and sensitive to multiple perspectives.

Published: April 6, 2020