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April 13, 2021

Student view: Advocating for the environment

Angela Yuan

Angela Yuan is a senior majoring in environmental studies and sustainability in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The following student view is repurposed content from the Department of Community Sustainability.

My passion for environmentalism arose after reading in high school “Braiding Sweetgrass,” a book written about Indigenous wisdom, plants and science. I began to see the intrinsic value of the environment apart from its use to humans.

This spiritual awakening and my sense of pride growing up in Michigan, home of the Great Lakes, stimulated my interest in environmental protection, specifically water resource protection. It motivated me to take an environmental biology course, a water resource management course and pursue an internship at McAlpine Law Firm working on state and
federal litigation related to the Flint water crisis and PFAS contamination in Michigan.

One of my best experiences while at MSU is working with a group of students on an EPA competition master plan for MSU to address storm water runoff, climate change and water quality in the Red Cedar River. Within this project, I managed environmental research, policy updates and community education.

After discovering the infrastructure and management practices that caused the degraded water quality, we met with students, professors and MSU departments to pinpoint areas of improvement for university policy. Then, we designed a master plan that incorporates bioswales (channels for water runoff), green roofs, bank stabilization and recreational amenities while also repairing outfalls, removing the weir (low dam barrier), and replacing a parking lot adjacent to the river with an artificial wetland.

This plan manages 2.46 inches of rain an hour, decreases the impervious area by 70%, increases infiltration by 159%, increases evaporation by 136%, controls 94% of storm water runoff and projects it could save MSU hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our master plan won third place in the national competition.

After graduation, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in environmental law, hopefully at the University of Texas at Austin. While there, I will also pursue the watershed science interdisciplinary program.

I believe my undergraduate and graduate educational experience will provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the science, community engagement, policy and economics of environmental issues. This will prepare me to work with the heightening complexity and relevance of water issues as climate change and other human impacts proliferate.

My overall career goal is to improve the quality of ground and surface water and promote long-term water resource sustainability. I aim to increase regulations, enforcement, restoration efforts and create more public education programs to protect our water resources and ensure safe drinking water nationwide and for future generations.

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