Alumna Profile: Regina Lyons | WSSS | Tufts University

Alumna Profile: Regina Lyons

by Libby Mahaffy

WSSS Alumna Regina Lyons

From her office in downtown Boston, Regina Lyons was interviewed by Libby Mahaffy about her time at Tufts and the WSSS program. Ms. Lyons graduated in 2008 with a Masterís degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) with a WSSS certificate. She is currently employed at the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Libby Mahaffy is a graduate student in the UEP program and an intern at the Tufts Institute of the Environment.

Learn more about Regina here.

Libby Mahaffy: How did you decide on the WSSS program?
Regina Lyons: I did the WSSS program my first week at Tufts. I originally came in thinking I was going to do a dual degree with UEP and Biology. My advisor [in UEP], Rusty Russell, gave me the WSSS pamphlet and I started reading up on it a little bit more and realized that [WSSS] was something I could do without adding to my course load. In a dual degree there are a lot more requirements, more courses. With WSSS I was able to take classes and do other things I wouldnít have [been able to do] with just UEP or even with UEP and Biology. It fit all my needs, so I signed up with it from the very beginning Ė week one.

LM: Something about WSSS you never expected?
RL: With WSSS, suddenly youíre not with only UEP, like-minded people Ė you have conversations with engineers, public health or nutrition students, or students from the Fletcher school. When youíre sitting in class thereís a little more back-and-forth. People are coming from different areas, which broadens the discussion.

I think itís going to be different every year because of the mix of students and levels of involvement from the participating schools Ė that changes the dynamics. Even person-to-person Ė if youíre sitting in class or a seminar with someone who is outgoing and willing to argue their point of view, youíre going to have a different conversation than if you didnít have that person.

LM: What was your favorite part(or parts) of the WSSS program?
RL: Working on the advisory committee -- I was the WSSS UEP representative. I really had a good time with that because I was able to shape the program a little bit and provide my feedback.

We also had a good practicum. It was a little different than how itís structured now; we had a little more freedom, but we still got to do a place-based project. [Our practicum] was with the Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge -- the ABC -- group. We got out in the field and tried to make a difference with an interdisciplinary project. Working with the engineers and public health people was very valuable.

All the connections that you make was another great thing about WSSS. It broadens the horizon of whatís available to you and who you get to know, like professors from other departments. If youíre only connected to UEP people you may miss out on different opportunities.

LM: What was the most challenging part of WSSS for you?
RL: It was a little tough to meet all of the requirements at first, but that was when the practicum and the UEP field project were separate courses -- I had to do two different, very intensive projects in the same semester! That was a little overwhelming, but we worked to change it. Itís one course now, so that was a great improvement.

LM: What advice would you give to an incoming WSSS student?
RL: Get involved; get involved early. If I wasnít in the WSSS program I donít know if I wouldíve gotten what I wanted out of graduate school. For me it had the right mix of different courses, especially coming from a science background.

I would make connections, I would go to conferences, I would present your research when youíre at that point. I was able to present my thesis at the Maine Water Conference and then the Coastal Zone 2009 National Conference held here in Boston. I took advantage of it and made the connections that I needed to. You have to get your name out there when youíre graduating or close to graduating. Volunteer and help out on projects when itís needed -- youíll get more value out of [your experience].

LM: If WSSS were a Jelly Belly, what flavor would it be?
RL: I would have to go with blueberry or something blue, because when I think of WSSS I think of water and how waterís connected to everything Ė everything I do at my job, but everything else too!

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The Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) program is a graduate research and education program that provides Tufts students with interdisciplinary perspectives and tools to manage water-related problems around the world.

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