Emily Dirksen '15

  • Statement: Keeping our environment healthy
  • Profession: Environmental scientist, Method Products PBC
  • Major: Environmental science
  • Graduation: Class of 2015

Gaining experience as a research assistant, competing on the crew and cross-country teams, working part-time, and carrying a full-time course load—Emily Dirksen successfully juggled it all at Mills. “The campus community helped me to be a well-rounded student and to be my best self,” she says. “Professors were willing to work with me, employers allowed me to be flexible with my hours, teammates would encourage me in and out of practice, and friends would study with me.”

Before she started college, Emily had never played a team sport or held a job. But when she attended Preview Day as a prospective student, she realized Mills was a place where she’d be inspired and supported to participate fully in campus life. She recalls, “I felt excited to be a part of the Mills community—and I met one of my closest friends. We joined varsity crew together and were roommates in our senior year.”

In her classes, she says, “I got individual attention that allowed me to gain confidence. Mills helped me build presentation skills and taught me to speak up; both have been essential for my success in a male-dominated scientific field.”

Her summer job as a research assistant for her environmental science professor boosted her resume and helped her land an internship, which led to a full-time position as an environmental scientist. She conducts soil sampling, groundwater sampling, and other tests that can identify environmental contamination at sites proposed for residential or commercial development.

In the long term, she says, “I hope to work for a regulatory agency, like the Environmental Protection Agency, that brings issues such as climate change, waste, development, and land misuse to the forefront of public consciousness. I feel a responsibility to keep our environment healthy and inspire the change our earth desperately needs.”