Landing a New Career
“I never liked physics, chemistry, math, engineering, or anything else to do with sciences,” admits Ava Watts (M.S. ’21). “What I do like is a challenge. Sometimes people face their fears by doing extreme things, so I decided to go into Environmental Science.”
Going back to school is a big decision in most circumstances, and for Watts the decision meant major life changes. At the time, she was running two successful businesses in her native Trinidad—the larger of the Caribbean dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago—and raising two children on her own.
“I came from a family of entrepreneurs and started my first business at 21 years old,” she says. “One day, I just thought, ‘This is too easy. I want to be educated. I want to challenge myself.’”
She took that self-imposed challenge head-on, diving into the sciences to earn her undergraduate degree in natural resource management at The University of the West Indies. And to her surprise, she liked it. She liked it so much that she decided to pursue a graduate degree so she could pursue the field as her new career. In 2021, Watts graduated with her master’s degree in environmental technology and sustainability.
“New York Tech was offering everything I was looking for in a master’s degree program,” she says. “Internships, apprenticeships, financial support—anything you could need and want as an international student.”
Watts took full advantage of her time at New York Tech, working in the Academic Computer Labs (now part of Information Technology Services) and engaging in a research assistantship with David Nadler, Ph.D., then chair of the Department of Environmental Technology and Sustainability. When she wanted to engage in volunteer work but couldn’t find the right opportunity, she decided to create her own. Watts approached the Office of Student Engagement and Development and noted that there were no positions available to help young students learn about sustainability. She then designed her own curriculum based on the three R’s of sustainability—reduce, reuse, recycle—and with New York Tech’s support, brought it to the Building Young Professionals program in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I created an opportunity for myself, but New York Tech jumped on it,” Watts says. “Other universities might have shut it down, but New York Tech is so supportive of students’ goals.”
Since graduating, Watts moved to Allentown, Pa., to work with PennJersey Environmental Consulting as an environmental scientist. In this role, companies or clients go to her for environmental assessments. Whether doing field work, report writing, or site assessments, Watts says her time at New York Tech prepared her well for the work, and her professors were instrumental in helping her land the job.
“I had a wonderful letter of recommendation from Professor Nadler,” says Watts, who was also prepped with a mock interview with former Associate Professor Sarah Meyland, J.D. “I benefited socially, emotionally, and professionally by attending New York Tech. My connection with professors and the school made me feel very supported.”