ATLANTA — When Kelsi Broderick (B.S. ’23) entered Georgia State in 2018, she was thrilled to attend Georgia’s largest R-1 research university and excited to live and study in downtown Atlanta. But after changing her major twice and dropping out of all her classes, this award-winning, first-generation college graduate seriously considered pursuing full-time employment rather than finishing her degree.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and classes went online.
“I decided to give Georgia State one more shot,” Broderick said. “I did really well in online classes, which finally gave me that drive for learning. I switched to policy and loved the classes. I was really engaged at that point, and it went from there.”
Broderick has long felt passionate about figuring out how to solve public problems and implement policies that help people. Her interests in sustainability and the environment germinated during the pandemic. Even as an undergraduate, she hoped she could participate in research in some sense because she was attending Georgia State.
Her desire culminated in a research-oriented study abroad led by the university’s Geosciences Department during spring break 2023. With her project, “Wastewater in Quintana Roo: How Inequitable Development Affects Sustainability,” Broderick won both Sustainability and Signature Experience awards at the 2023 Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference (GSURC).
“In Cancun, Mexico, wastewater leaches into the water supply,” she said. “Access to clean water and sanitation for everyone is one of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, so I decided it would be interesting to examine this issue from both the sustainability and policy areas.”
For her research question, Broderick explored the policy failures leading to Cancun’s widespread problem. She did some fieldwork while touring one of the region’s major wastewater treatment plants and made conclusions including some solutions that could be implemented to fix it.
“Study abroad offers students a lot of good experiences,” she said. “This one trip gave me a lot of new knowledge I was able to use in my internship as well as my research.”
Broderick described her research experience when she applied for a summer 2023 sustainability internship with Fulton County. She was hired, and for three months worked on energy management projects with Jessica Lavendar, the county’s energy and sustainability manager, as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Fellowship Program.
“I learned a lot about how the county is trying to implement different sustainability strategies, like electrifying their fleet,” she said. “It’s nice to have those internship experiences where you can see how things work day to day. You can read and study, but it’s different to see it in person.”
In January, Broderick will enter the Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in energy and environmental policy. After she earns her master’s, she’ll see how she feels about pursuing a Ph.D.
“I’m thankful for Georgia State’s online learning opportunities,” Broderick said. “They gave me a different perspective. And my favorite thing at GSU was participating in the study abroad. I’ve found out by talking to other students that many don’t know we have it. The opportunity is there, though, and can bring anyone a lot of good experiences.”