February 7, 2018
All things in life start with a choice. Despite knowing this, I am still amazed by the fact that while everything in my life right now is happening because of my choice to attend Drexel, I had no idea where that choice would lead me when I first arrived on campus in 2011. Like many students, I learned a lot about myself and what was available to me at this institution I was going to call home for five years; I'd say I took full advantage of the most unique opportunities Drexel has to offer. I began my journey at Drexel as a design & merchandising major, eager to study fashion, anticipating field trips to New York City, and aspiring to become an international buyer. However, one look at my LinkedIn profile would have you asking how in the world I ended up working at the Philadelphia Water Department today.
Soon after my freshman year in the D&M program, I found that none of my goals and interests were being realized in the major I chose coming in. I have always had a personal interest in sustainability and environmental issues, but came to realize that my passions and my studies were at odds. I became increasingly aware that successful merchandising only resulted in more consumption, which goes directly against the principles of sustainability. Luckily, soon after this realization, I stumbled across the Custom-Designed Major program, which allows students to combine multiple areas of study and create an interdisciplinary major that encompasses their diverse interests that wouldn't otherwise be fulfilled by a traditional major. This program allowed me to flesh out the belief in my head that there was a gap to be bridged between the things we buy and the environmental costs associated with them.
I created a major called sustainable product development, a curriculum focused on eliminating social and environmental injustices from product supply chains and communicating the philosophy of conscious consumption to the public.
I created a major called sustainable product development, a curriculum focused on eliminating social and environmental injustices from product supply chains and communicating the philosophy of conscious consumption to the public. Think: preventing child labor in the mining of materials for electronics or reducing air pollution due to emissions from manufacturing. From there, my choices acted as stepping stones that each led to an opportunity that further shaped my personalized experience at Drexel. I took up Japanese language study with the hope of exploring product supply chains in Asia, where many of our things come from. After years spent dreaming of living in Japan, this was made possible via the independent study abroad option at Drexel, landing me in Tokyo for a semester at Temple University's Japan Campus. This experience planted a seed that made me determined to return to Asia someday.
Any Drexel student would agree that where you choose to do co-op greatly defines your future. For me, this was especially true being a student in an untraditional major; I needed experience that showcased the strengths of my degree beyond the classes I took. Because of Drexel's extensive database of co-op offerings, I was able to gain experience in three different areas of sustainability that got me to where I am now, without a doubt. For my first co-op, I worked at a small sustainable waste management consulting firm — highlighting the importance of considering what happens at the end of a product's life cycle. My second co-op provided the opportunity to return to Asia and a global perspective on social and environmental injustices in product manufacturing while organizing Thomson Reuters' Anti-Slavery Summit (formerly Trust Forum Asia) in Hong Kong. Finally, my third co-op at the Philadelphia Water Department not only allowed me to communicate environmental issues to the people of my city through local government, but also turned into a full-time job opportunity. Even though my plan didn't work out the way I imagined initially, it's safe to say that my choice to attend Drexel was the right one.
Maura Jarvis is a Philadelphia native, full-time sustainability champion, and part-time superhero. You can find her fighting pollution as Water Woman at the Philadelphia Water Department.
- Major: Custom-Designed
- College: Pennoni Honors College
- Class of: 2016