Hunter Geography Alumni Focus


An Interview with Sahara James, BA, Environmental Studies, 2018
Edited by Christina Santiago, Hunter College, English major

Sahara James graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Earth Science in January 2018. She started as an intern at Athenica Environmental Services, Inc. in September of 2017 and was hired as a full-time Environmental Scientist in January of 2018. She plans to begin graduate school at a program in corporate sustainability, and aspires to be able to incorporate sustainability into business plans and practices or be able to build a business of her own centered on sustainability.

I graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies with an Earth Science concentration. I’ve always been interested in efforts to minimize, stop, and reverse the adverse consequences our actions have on the environment. My curriculum and experiences throughout my undergraduate career at Hunter College helped me realize that I'm passionate about augmenting these efforts while simultaneously addressing social injustices in urban areas. This passion allowed me to pursue various internships such as with NYPIRG as a leader of their environmental campaign, with GreenThumb as an urban agriculture youth mentor, and with Farm School NYC, an urban agriculture adult education program. I’ve also worked as a community ambassador for Tetra Tech in which I recruited families to participate in a city-wide food waste study on behalf of the Natural Resource Defense Council.

I am now an EPA licensed lead risk assessor and I work as an environmental scientist at Athenica Environmental Services, Inc. I oversee and conduct lead-based paint and water inspections in New York City schools and private residences. I particularly love what I do because it directly addresses environmental health issues in public schools. This is crucial now with recent news of sub-par living conditions in New York City public housing complexes involving lead-based paint hazards. I cherish the fact that I’ve been able to accumulate a diverse work experience in the environmental field. This is greatly attributed to being conveniently located in New York City; a large place with countless innovative individuals all working to push this city towards sustainability and resilience.

The connections I made through the faculty in the Geography Department at Hunter College have definitely played a role in propelling my career. Dr. Allan Frei, Dr. Haydee Salmun, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, Dr. Charuta Kulkarni, and Dr. Randye Rutberg have all provided me with guidance, knowledge, experience, and connections that have contributed to where I am now and will continue propel my future. My next step is to be admitted to a graduate program centered on corporate sustainability. I’ve recently become enthusiastic about the role that both large and small businesses play in the consumer’s life, and how that influence can cultivate a more environmentally and socially aware society. I want to be able to build a business or construct a plan that focuses on minimizing dependency on new raw material, recycles waste from other industries, and spotlights ethical employment practices, all while making appreciable profit. I’m interested in tackling this through a municipal organization or through a privately-owned business. Building my own consulting firm to advise larger companies on implementing sustainability into their framework is in my scope of interest as well.

Published: November 30, 2018