Nichole Pease not only earned her Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management (MEEM) degree from the University of Connecticut, but she also earned two online graduate certificates—Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—at the same time and at no additional cost.
“The entire program was well put together and positive. What I learned is very applicable to my job. If you are interested in getting into Environmental Management or Geographic Information Systems, this is the program you need to gain the knowledge, tools, and resources to propel your career.” — Nichole Pease, Online Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management (MEEM), Fall 2021 Graduate
Three in One
Who would ever think that a Bachelor’s degree from a Criminal Justice College would lead to a career in energy crisis management? That is exactly what happened with Nichole Pease. While attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY in New York City, Nichole earned her BA in Fire and Emergency Service with a focus in Emergency Management. After receiving her degree, she worked in a variety of emergency management positions, as well as served in the Connecticut Air National Guard, specializing in Emergency Management and Readiness.
Since 2019, she has been employed by a large power utility in New York State. As a Crisis Management Program Manager, she is primarily responsible for managing the drill and exercise program that helps support the readiness of the agency. “When I took the job, I was particularly interested in working in the energy sector as well as leveraging the GIS skills I acquired in the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Online Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management program (MEEM) program.”
Because Nichole was in Connecticut’s Air National Guard at the time, she was motivated to find a Master’s program offered by a college or university in the state. As she explains, “The Connecticut National Guard offered tuition waivers for Guard members who attended schools located in Connecticut. So I did some research online and found exactly what I was looking for, right here in my home state.”
She applied and was accepted into UConn’s Online Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management program. “I was thrilled,” says Nichole, who began the program in the spring 2019 term. “I was especially taken with the GIS component of the program and the fact that I could choose from nine different electives in the GIS field. I also loved that the entire program was online. I didn’t have to travel to a physical location and was able to work around my busy schedule.”
Nichole decided to take one course to start. “That felt like a good test to see if I would be able to do two courses simultaneously while working full time,” she says. Over the next two years, she completed a total of ten three-credit courses—four in GIS, one in law and the other five in environmental management and sustainability. The law course, LAW 7812 – Energy Regulation and Policy, turned out to be one of her favorites. “The professor provided many great case studies, primarily focused on companies suing the state over the rights to sell energy to other companies. I was able to learn all of the various acronyms and how many regulations became law.”
Other than LAW 7812, which she took on its own, each semester she paired a GIS course with an environmental course. “I liked mixing up coursework that way,” she says and adds: “With the GIS courses, you had to be online for longer durations of time. You couldn’t just work on a map halfway through and walk away. If you did, you’d lose where you were in the program.” And she adds, “I loved how the GIS courses built on each other, getting more and more complex. I now feel skilled in using GIS, which I believe will open up new opportunities at my company.”
Another course that hit home was an elective, NRE 5205 - Decision Methods in Natural Resources and the Environment. In fact, she draws on the knowledge she gained quite often in her job. “For my job in crisis management, when you have an emergency, you have to quickly brainstorm how to respond. The course focused on distinct types of decision-making and how to best present facts as you develop a plan to mitigate damage. It gave me so many great ideas about how to analyze a situation and make more structured and informed decisions. I also learned how to effectively present my solutions to get buy-in.”
In addition, Nichole appreciated how helpful her professors were. “They always gave us enough information to be able to do the assignments. They set up excellent discussion boards and were very responsive whenever I needed help. My advisor, Dr. Chadwick Rittenhouse, also helped me pair up the various courses I would take together, so that I could balance coursework requirements with my work demands.”
Anyone considering a fully online program like UConn’s Master’s of Energy and Environmental Management might wonder if you are able to get to know your classmates. For Nichole, that turned out to be a non-issue, primarily because many of the courses required group work. “For some of our courses, we were paired into one main group of six, then into three sets of two people, with each smaller team working together on a specific part of the project. We would pick a convenient time for everyone to participate in Zoom meetings. We used Google Docs to collaborate on one shared document. I definitely got to know many of my classmates quite well.”
In conclusion, Nichole says: “The entire program was well put together and positive. What I learned is very applicable to my job. If you are interested in getting into Environmental Management or GIS, this is the program you need to gain the knowledge, tools, and resources to propel your career. And everyone at UConn was very responsive. Unlike other programs I have done, UConn made it so easy for me to use my military wavier. And after applying and getting accepted into two online graduate certificate programs—UConn’s Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management and Geographic Information Systems—the credits I earned for my Master’s were automatically applied to those two certificate programs. I completed three programs for the price of one!”