Lisa Noriegalisa-noriega
’18 Environmental Science &
Resource Management

By Stephanie Villafuerte
English major, Communication minor
Communication & Marketing Intern

Lisa Noriega felt she was being held back from reaching her full potential in her hometown of Bakersfield, CA. It was part of the reason why she pursued college outside of her bubble and found herself at CSUCI.

“I wanted an opportunity to be independent and surround myself with like-minded individuals,” Noriega said. “At CI, because of the size of the university, I had the chance to get involved and get one-on-one help from professors and teaching assistants.”

Though she enrolled as a Studio Art major, Noriega later switched to study Environmental Science & Resource Management (ESRM) after taking a course with faculty member Linda O’Hirok. The exposure to topics such as climate change and other environmental issues left her shocked. It also opened her eyes in ways she didn’t expect.

“Once I learned of these things, I changed my major immediately. I was especially floored by the effects of climate change on marginalized communities and third world countries, and my passion for these issues grew strongly and quickly,” Noriega said.

Her own lack of awareness prior to CSUCI is what jump started the alumna’s thesis project. Her senior year, Noriega studied inland and coastal communities by surveying the extent of students’ knowledge on the environment. The results were difficult to accept, but not surprising.

“My hypothesis was correct as inland students displayed considerably lower environmental
awareness than did coastal students, and I used my results to support the need for targeted education and programming in inland cities,” she explained.

After graduating in 2018 with her B.S., Noriega worked for CSUCI as a sustainability student assistant. Alongside her was Coleen Barsley, Sustainability & Operations Analyst and mentor to Noriega’s growing career. The two worked on making CSUCI a “pollinator-friendly” campus, which led to the Bee Campus USA designation. They also assisted several ESRM students with projects related to sustainability.

She completed her M.S. in Environmental Policy at Bard College where she worked as a graduate research assistant.

Despite her expanding resume, Noriega credits her time at CSUCI as the reason behind her current line of work, which includes her recent job as Sustainability Data Analyst at Yale University.

“I am indebted to Coleen Barsley, Linda O’Hirok, and to CI for being the launchpad I needed to be here at Yale,” Noriega said. “All of the ESRM faculty helped shape who I am today.”

At Yale, the analyst’s responsibility is to manage all data and metrics related to sustainability for the private university. She also oversees sustainability progress reports, various surveys related to the topic on campus, and does graphic design for the Office of Sustainability.

“I am lucky to be in a role where I can leverage my technical skills gained in CI and grad school while also embracing the arts,” Noriega said.

As for the future, she plans to teach and continue being an advocate for environmental advocacy.

Her advice for those looking to enter the ESRM field is full of wisdom:“Be prepared to be challenged, but let those challenges move you instead of hinder you. You will be faced with climate anxiety and times of hopelessness, but as someone who has seen the value in small-scale impact, it is so worth it to keep your eye on the mission: to serve people and planet.”

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