Bright Ideas: Spotlight on Monique Gagne

16 Mar

As a CEEDS intern, one of my favorite topics to blog about is students focused on the environment. It is always interesting to see how they have woven their passion for the environment into their liberal arts education. Lucky for me, this campus is filled with confident, conscious women who are well on their way to changing the world. I met Monique Gagne, ’13 on my recent trip to Washington, D.C. and was impressed by her activism and dedication to environmental challenges like stopping the expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. She is not shy about standing up for the environment. On the trip to D.C. she was also one of a small faction of traditional-age students, or “trads” as we Adas call them, that went out of her way to make me feel comfortable, as I didn’t really know any of the students on the excursion. I liked her immediately.

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As we talked about what fuels her passion for the environment, I learned that Monique is a former intern for the Office of Environmental Sustainability, also located here in CEEDS. Having that in common, her interview became more of a conversation. It was wonderful to chat about her experiences and how she plans on continuing to link her past, present and future to address the looming environmental concerns that face this planet.

Monique is an engineering major with a minor in landscape studies. As she began taking classes at Smith, she realized that the environmental engineering track was the one that appealed to her the most. She focused on the petroleum industry early in her studies, but was intrigued by advanced topics in water quality.  She began to delve deeper into the issue of water quality and the concerns that are certain to arise when water becomes scarce. Monique followed her new-found interest into a PRAXIS funded internship this past summer, which allowed her to work with sustainable water systems.

Ms. Gagne has already secured employment at Lutron Electronics after she graduates this year. This innovative company has been on the forefront of sustainability by using smart technology to save energy. The dimmers that Lutron creates use daylight to determine just how much light is necessary in a space. This simple element lowers energy consumption, which is a central step to creating energy efficient spaces. As we were talking, Monique pointed out Lutron technology in the lighting system above us in the Campus Center. Their energy-saving products are also in some of the other high performance buildings on campus, like Ford Hall. Monique will be able to use the know-how and environmental awareness she learned here to carry into her life after Smith.

How has her liberal arts education prepared her for her future? Monique noted that because of her Smith education she can no longer see the world through just an engineering or a landscape lens. Instead, she sees the nature of the world as multidisciplinary, which allows her to be creative as she seeks to effectively engage environmental issues– and life.  It is comforting to know that there are students like Monique here at Smith who care about the fate of the environment and who are thinking about what happens to the next generation as well.

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– Liz Wright, ‘AC

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