Alumni Career Spotlight Series: Rebecca Ciciretti

Name: Rebecca Ciciretti

Degrees: Dual MPA-MSES with concentrations in Environmental Chemistry, Toxicology, and Risk Assessment & Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management ‘14

Position: Latin America and Caribbean Program Specialist, Office of International Programs at the U.S. Forest Service

What is your current position and what are some of your recent projects?

I work at the US Forest Service in the Office of International Programs as the Program Specialist on the Latin America and Caribbean team. I currently manage country-specific programs in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Chile. I also manage two regional programs – Silvacarbon, which involves monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, and SWAMP (Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program), which also involves monitoring greenhouse gases in peatlands and mangroves. My job is a lot of program management, so I manage many of the working parts of the projects. From working with our funders to receive funds, to financial management, to finding technical experts for specific projects, it is an all encompassing job. 

What are the trends in your field and what challenges do they pose for your organization?

Our ability to work in different countries varies based on what is happening in the U.S. and in the world. Under this administration, there were some restrictions on certain countries and projects, which has affected our ability to work and some of our outreach efforts. This pushes us to get creative when we are not able to work in a certain country or certain topic. We have reframed our work around the guidelines our funders have provided us with, while also maintaining the relationships we have built. 

What advice might you offer current O’Neill students in a similar academic track to yours?

When I was in school, I had in my mind that I would end up on a certain path and was very focused on that. The best advice that I can give is to find something you can take away from all of your classes. You might not be able to find the job you want right out of the gate. But everything from what you’ve learned in the classroom, internships, and work experience will help you. You will build upon your past experiences and build up skills that will help you in the future. We can’t always find the perfect fit, but any job will help you gain some experience that you can bring onto the next one. 

What are the most valuable lessons you have learned about your profession since graduating from O’Neill?

I graduated in December of 2014 and starting in March of 2015 I completed a Fulbright in Chile for 9 months where I was looking at the effects of forest fires on children’s respiratory health. At O’Neill, I had done internships in the realm of children’s environmental health, so that was the area I was focused on. My current job wasn’t originally on my radar, but ended up being a great fit. My international experiences helped build upon my existing skills while also expanding my worldview. At O’Neill I was also in the Service Corps Program for a year as a participant, and then managed the Service Corps Program for one year. This allowed me to gain a lot of experience in program management, which allowed me to directly relate to my current job. So all those experiences made me a good candidate for this current job. 

What skills and experiences do you think are important to have before entering the workforce? 

Any real life experiences you can have, whether that is an internship or the opportunity to go abroad, seeing the world outside of the scope you are used to just broadens your perspective. The classes I took have also given me the knowledge I needed for my current job, but knowing about the world and how to better relate to it is also very valuable. I think a lot of people are really focused on going from undergrad to grad or undergrad to work, but I think it is really important to have an experience that is out of the classroom. I spent a year in the Service Corps program while taking classes. Being able to balance working while taking classes made me a stronger candidate for my job. 

What other advice would you share with students? 

I’ve tried to maintain the relationships I’ve built through all the experiences I’ve had. While I’m not actively networking right now, I do think maintaining relationships is really important. You never know when you might need to call on those relationships with former professors or the university.

By Meloddy Gao
Meloddy Gao