Class of 1976 Alumna Talks College, Climate Change, and Working for the President at Alumni Event
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy ’76 says she doesn’t consider herself a scientist. But she does call herself a people person. That’s why she studied anthropology at UMass Boston, and why she says she’s able to face the challenges of the top environmental post in the country.
“I've told people I think it was the best education for me because every day you confront people with different opinions, and the higher up that you get in government, clearly the louder those opinions get and the more is at stake,” McCarthy told fellow alumni at a breakfast conversation in downtown Boston on Wednesday.
“And so your ability to learn and listen and understand what's important to people can really be the difference between crafting something that just won't go and crafting something that's balanced enough that it will make a difference. … And I honestly attribute most of that to my years at UMass Boston,” she said. (Hear her other takeaways from her time at UMass Boston in this video.)
The Dorchester native, who previously led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and held key environmental jobs in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has 30 years of experience in coordinating policies on economic growth, energy, transportation, and the environment. UMass alumnus Glenn Mangurian ’70, ’73 led the conversation, which was part of the University of Massachusetts Alumni Executive Series.
Mangurian asked McCarthy about her love for the Boston Red Sox, her hobbies (tennis, swimming, and hiking), and her obsession with the Barefoot Contessa’s cooking show. She also answered a question from the audience about a rule just announced this week that lowers the sulfur content in gasoline and requires vehicle upgrades. And she discussed climate change —the issue she says draws most of her attention these days.
“We have the extreme drought in California and then you've got all the snowmelt that's not there anymore that's feeding the Colorado and Nevada areas,” McCarthy said. “People are really worried, and so if you can get beyond the politics of climate, you do not have climate deniers.”
She also addressed her confirmation process, which took more than four months as a sharply divided Senate questioned her nomination and many of President Barack Obama’s other nominees.
“Personally, I'm relishing this. So even if I'm getting pounded, it's an honor to be part of this process. It's what it's supposed to be. You're not supposed to have people patting you on the back,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s advice to the current UMass Boston students in the audience?
“To me, it's been a wonderful journey and I hope you take it, because I think the lessons you're going to learn at UMass Boston could change the world in a positive way, and I'd hope you'd want to grab that. Public service is fabulous. It has its difficulties like anything else, but you can make a difference and you can succeed.”
About UMass Boston
Recognized for its innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.