Multi-master’s degree alumna takes a global approach to environmental studies

MES in the Community, Kristen King

A civil engineer by training, Kristen King (MES/MEng/MS ’17) set her sights on a global experience when she came to Penn to pursue a multi-master’s degree in International Environmental Management. “I was attracted to a program that encouraged active learning on a macro scale. The curriculum was sustainability policy and regulation, but the classroom was spread across the globe.” Not only did Kristen spend time studying environmental sustainability overseas, she completed the program with three master’s degrees: Master of Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, Master of Engineering from Tsinghua University in China, and Mastère Spécialisé in Environmental Management from Mines ParisTech.

“Each university is unique in how they approach education in general and environmental studies in particular,” says Kristen. In the first year of the program, Kristen took core classes at Penn. “The courses I enjoyed the most were instructed by professionals who were still actively working in the field and bringing applicable case studies to the classroom,” she reflects. “During my undergraduate studies in engineering, I spent a lot of time solving problems. However, entering my graduate studies, reading and reviewing articles was a new skill I had to learn, and that critical learning has stayed with me.” After her year at Penn, Kristen completed a semester of technical education in China and a semester focused on policy and management in France, followed by a six-month internship that provided the groundwork for each of her thesis submissions.

Now the Corporate Social Responsibility Data Manager at Walgreens—a newly created position—Kristen draws on every element of her interdisciplinary education. “The United States, China, and France have vastly different approaches to work culture,” she explains. “Having that international training has helped me to understand and engage people of different backgrounds in ways that I likely would not be able to without having had that experience.” In her role, she works with investor relations and communications teams to understand what information stakeholders want and to make sure that all of the public information and data points are accurate and updated. “The job merges the technical training from engineering with the ability to synthesize critical information into an understandable format, which I gained in my masters' training,” she adds. “Penn’s multi-master’s degree program expanded the way I talk about sustainability and environmental engineering and helped make me a competitive candidate for this position.”

At Walgreens, Kristen plays a part in defining what corporate social responsibility means to a company. “As a corporation, we have an opportunity to make a big impact outside of the political environment,” she says. “I take a holistic view, looking not just at the business, environmental and social components but the sustainability practices within and connecting those components.”