Alumni Spotlight – Haley Waldkoetter, August Mack Environmental

Get to know Haley Waldkoetter!

Haley graduated in 2015 from the O’Neill School with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. She has worked in environmental consulting in Indianapolis for about five years. In 2020, Haley pressed pause on her previous consulting role to pursue the combined Master of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) and Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program with the O’Neill school. Back in 2015, she started out a small consulting company, focusing on contaminated site investigation and remediation. Following graduate school, Haley joined August Mack Environmental, which is a larger firm that has more service areas, but her work still focuses on contaminated site investigation and remediation. She started with August Mack as a Project Scientist and recently became a Project Manager. Haley’s MSES concentration was Environmental Chemistry, Toxicology, and Risk Assessment concentration, which has provided a great foundation for assisting with environmental work that helps to protect human health and the environment at sites across the Midwest.

Current role and a typical workday… Haley’s current role as a project manager includes managing the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites in the Midwest, mainly in Indiana and Michigan but she has done some work in Illinois and Ohio. Most of her sites are chlorinated solvent spill sites, which are generally former industrial properties. Some sites are in the initial investigation stages, some are undergoing active remediation, and others are nearing closure! Haley has multiple projects at different stages at any given time, so time management is key! As a project manager, no day is the same but generally includes reviewing data collected from fieldwork, directing current fieldwork, meeting and communicating with internal and external project stakeholders (including other August Mack staff, clients, and environmental regulators), reviewing reports, planning future work for projects, and managing budgets.

The decision to go back to graduate school… Haley’s decision to pursue her graduate degree was a combination of right timing and the desire to progress in her career. She knew that obtaining a graduate degree in the environmental field would allow for growth in her future career. Overall, the decision to have a couple years of professional experience under her belt before pursuing grad school was extremely beneficial. She made the effort to work in the field and determine that the environmental industry was a good fit for her before putting time and energy into a the MSES/MPA degree program. Haley strongly recommends working before returning to grad school so that you can make sure you’re truly interested in the field before investing time and money into furthering your degree.

Advice for students who want to follow a similar career path… Be prepared to work hard early in your environmental career. The first couple of years in environmental consulting typically include a ton of field work and travel, so be ready to get your hands dirty! This could include long days and difficult working conditions. Cleaning up contaminated sites is not glamorous work, but it’s always interesting!

Haley advises students to get involved while in school, whether that is through internships, volunteering, working in research labs on campus, or teaching assistantships, etc. Just don’t do nothing!

Most important skills for environmental consulting… Communication (both verbal and written), ability to relate to all different types and levels of people, time management, organization, environmental knowledge gained from coursework, ability to ask good questions, curiosity, confidence, willingness to learn, and the desire to step outside of your comfort zone.

Haley encourages students interested in this career path to always put your best foot forward. The environmental consulting community is an oddly small world sometimes. You never know what opportunities could arise, or who could hold the key to future opportunities. Overall, many entry-level environmental consulting jobs give you the ability to explore and try things out to see what you like and what you’re good at!

What drives you to be successful in your job every day? Haley likes knowing that her work ensures that people are protected from contamination. She enjoys working on interesting and complicated problems and figuring out how to solve them!

For current jobs and internships at August Mack, visit their website!

To check out Haley’s LinkedIn profile, click HERE!

By Elizabeth Gawron
Elizabeth Gawron Assistant Director of Career Services