For as long as she can remember, Mariana Surillo Gonzalez has loved nature.
“I’m from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and so I was always exposed to the mountains and the oceans,” she says. “I appreciate that I was able to grow up in that environment.”
After participating in a Greenpeace program as a senior in high school, Mariana’s career goals became clear. “I realized I wanted to dedicate my professional career to the environment,” says Mariana, who graduated from Saint Joseph’s University last spring with bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and economics. “I also knew I loved working with people and wanted to help others.”
Supported by a scholarship from an anonymous donor, Mariana has been able to pursue her passions with the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s global environmental health program.
“I’m interested in global health development, with a focus on environmental issues, like climate change in less-developed countries,” she says. “So when I learned about this program, I got extremely excited. It incorporates everything I want to do.”
She says her scholarship improves her student experience every day. “I didn’t have to take two part-time jobs,” she explains. “I’m able to focus on my school work, explore the city, and have an internship.”
Mariana is a fellow at MBD, Inc., an environmental consulting firm that counts the EPA as one of its clients. At MBD, she regularly uses skills picked up in the classroom. “Every class always has something you can apply to your everyday experiences,” she says. “Lessons from my environmental and occupational health class, for example, I’ve been able to apply to several different projects already.”
After graduation, Mariana hopes to work abroad, where she could complete international research and gain experience in the field. For now, though, she’s excited about being in the nation’s capital. “Every day is an only-at-GW moment for me,” she says. — Sophie Ota, SMPA ’18