I graduated! Now what?

March 18, 2013

A rather large, non-legible sheet of paper arrived at my doorstep recently, reminding me of an important feat I recently added to my repertoire – a diploma for a Masters of Science in Sustainable Design from Philadelphia University. Yay! I completed my degree in early December, with a whopping 90-page thesis I still cannot believe I’ve written (this includes the title pages, images, and bibliography in there to sound extra impressive, too). But… now what? No more can you simply graduate and get a job in your studied field. You have to network and do free internships and apply everywhere. It’s exhausting. Additionally, I’m tasked with answering the question on everyone’s mind… “What exactly is ‘sustainable design’?” To which I have a standard answer to give inquiring friends and family alike: “It’s environmentally-friendly building methods and materials.” Simple enough, eh? I often get responses such as, “Like LEEDs [sic] and stuff, right?” from contractors or, “I love reclaimed wood and vintage things!” from starry-eyed mothers and aunts. Yes, yes. It IS those things… but so much more to me.

I started graduate school rather impulsively. After becoming a mother and looking for something more “green” in my field, I joined a young professional committee at a local USGBC chapter. I knew no one and wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but it found me. A chance meeting with someone who’d been in my shoes before led me to applying for the graduate program. A week later (I kid you not), I was in classes and still not sure what the hell I was doing. Most of my classmates were like me – needing a change from jobs that had nothing to do with sustainability, or wanting to advance their knowledge beyond the aesthetic green movement. The rigorous program really helped us focus on the aspects of sustainability that were important to each of us. For me, I realized that my passion for residential interior design and sustainability inspired me to know more and be more for my community. My thesis, entitled, “A Sustainable Home in an Age of Consumption,” initially grew out of a challenge from my professor to demonstrate that meaningful homes are inherently sustainable. I became consumed with the academic research on the topic, ranging from environmental psychology journals to US Census data to social impact business models. Today, I’m literally writing the book on my passion: the real value of home.

Now that the sting of all-nighters and PowerPoint presentations is safely in my past, I’ll have to indulge you on some interesting concepts soon. However, I’d love to hear your thoughts on family, food, traditions, and what is important in YOUR home. Leave a comment here or send an email to hello@generalmerriment.com.


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