Assistant Plans Environment-Related Events, Writes Grants, Markets Wesleyan Program

Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, recently helped plan and coordinate the local BioBlitz science event in Middletown.
Posted 06/20/07
Q: Valerie, when did you come to Wesleyan and what brought you here?

A: I started as a temporary employee in August 2006 in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. In late October 2006, I became the department’s full time administrative assistant.
Q: Broadly, what is the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and who is able to receive this certificate?

A: The Environmental Studies Certificate Program, known as ESCP, is an interdisciplinary certificate program for undergraduate students that includes but is not restricted to natural science, public policy, philosophy and economics. This program is similar to a ‘minor’ at some other institutions and implies that one chooses a major and then takes a set of additional courses in areas concerned with environmental studies. A certificate is given upon graduation and completion of the assigned courses. During the 2006-07 academic year, we had 15 seniors complete the ESCP, our largest number yet.
Q: Who else works in this program?

A: Currently, this department consists of Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and myself. Together, we are working to expand this department. This summer, we have four interns that are funded by the Robert Schumann Grant and four Hughes/Mellon interns. We will have two other interns in the fall.

Q: The ESCP and Wesleyan was one of the sponsors of BioBlitz 2007. What was this event?

A: For the 180-plus scientists involved, this was basically an exciting event where they gathered together for a 24-hour period on June 8 and 9 to comb the area of Middletown in search of particular species. It may have been fish, butterflies, spiders, bats, moths, spiders, plant pathogens, beetles, fungus, bacteria, or others species. For the junior scientists and teachers, this was a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to hands on science. They had the chance to work side by side and learn with these scientists over the 24 hours. For the general public, this was an opportunity to view what scientists uncovered right in their backyard. The amazing discovery was that there were 2,231 different species found right here in Middletown.

Q: What was your role in planning the event?

A: In October 2006, I was asked to represent Wesleyan on the Bioblitz Steering Committee and report back to some of the key participants within the university. Mainly, the committee would meet once a month to organize all the logistics that would lead up to this 24 hour event. I started as a member and before long, I was one of the principal organizers and coordinated all the logistics for this year’s event. My key roles were coordinating the Friday Night Dinner for the sponsors, scientists, campers and volunteers; working on the press releases to the media and community; assisting with the banners and posters; keeping a handle on the overall budget, which was a major feat in itself; soliciting sponsors and donations; working with the exhibitor committee; organizing the photographer and Wesleyan University video crew, and many of the behind the scene logistics and last minute happenings. I must say though, I enjoyed every minute of it and hope someday to get involved in the next Bioblitz, where ever and whenever that happens!

Q: What are your principal duties in the ESCP?

A: The ESCP is funded by the Robert Schumann Grant. My main responsibilities are to manage the department and its events. I coordinate and manage all the details for major campus events, such as lectures, symposiums, the Earth Day Keynote Address, just to name a few. I design and print posters for these events. I work closely with the press and other universities/colleges in the Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York area by informing them through press releases and e-mails about upcoming ESCP events. I assist student groups with planning and organizing all details for themed events for the program. I work in promoting the ESCP program in order to increase awareness to the Wesleyan University students. I act as a liaison to administration and other Academic Departments. I maintain our department’s budget and website. Currently, I am supervising several interns that are funded by our new Mellon Grant, as well as the students that are working at Long Lane Farms.

Q: What are other events you have helped plan? Are there any up and coming?

A: Over the last year, I had been instrumental in planning, the 2006 Pumpkin Festival with the Long Lane Farm Students, Where On Earth are We Going III, which was our huge Environmental Symposium, various day and evening guest speakers, our Earth Day Keynote Address which was given by Connecticut General Richard Blumenthal and just recently, Bioblitz 2007. Right now, we are in the midst of planning the 2007 Pumpkin Festival and this year’s Environmental Symposium. We hope to have more lectures for both students and faculty over the 2007-08 academic year.

Q: What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

A: When planning an event, it is most challenging to understand what type of audience I will get. Should I plan for 50 or 200? I have had night lectures, where there were very few students and faculty in attendance, but at the same time, I have had daytime lectures, where the rooms were packed to capacity. What I hear is that students love the luncheon lectures and tend to squeeze those talks into their busy daytime schedules more often than the evening events.

Q: What is your educational and professional background?

A: I graduated in 1983 from the University of Hartford. My degree was in marketing and computer science. I’ve worked for Data General Corporation, Xerox, Apple Computer and just recently, The Bushnell. In 1990, I started my own typesetting business out of my home, in order to work and be with my children.

Q: And who are they?

A: Gregory, who is 16 years old and Ryan, who is 13 years old. My family means the world to me. My husband, Richard and I have been married for 21 years. We live a very active life. When we are together, we enjoy vacationing, going to Boston; especially seeing a Red Sox game, visiting my family in New Jersey, socializing with our friends, watching a good movie or going to a theater production. I usually like to spend my free time relaxing, shopping, helping my friend’s plan their Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s, watching a “chick flick”, volunteering, taking walks with my husband or just hanging out with family and friends.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor