I have worked as an International Environmental Program Specialist in EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs since 2003. For the last 8 years, I have been the project manager for international environmental cooperation with Andean countries, particularly those with which the United States has free trade agreements (Colombia, Chile and Peru). It has been very rewarding to oversee and coordinate capacity building and information exchange efforts with our international counterparts, helping them raise their environmental standards and, therefore, protecting our shared environment. When I see the enthusiasm and dedication that my counterparts show for improving their capacity, promoting environmental and human health, and improving their enforcement and compliance of environmental laws, I feel like my job makes a difference.
It all started with a dream to become a lawyer. As a high school senior, I wasn’t sure about my college major until I sat with my mother and went through a catalog of degrees available at the University of Puerto Rico. I was extremely lucky to have involved parents, particularly a mother who knew how important it was to find something meaningful. The more I read about all the disciplines involved, the more I was convinced that environmental science would perfectly blend my interests and skills. Somehow, even back then, I knew I wanted to work for the EPA after I finished my education.
In a funny twist of events, my first job after law school was at EPA, not as a lawyer, but as an environmental scientist. While I realized that environmental policy fits better with my personality, I have discovered that I still tend to see the issues I deal with at work through a legal lens.
Through the years, my passion for my job has grown and, as a mother to a boy and a girl, I find my job is even more important. Now I find inspiration when I think of the world I want them to inhabit, of the values I want them to hold dear and the environment I want them to be able to enjoy. When I take my 4-year-old daughter hiking, I want her to breathe fresh air and think of how she can help, even as a little girl, to protect our environment. She already knows about recycling! And when my son asks for scientific books, I beam with pride because he understands our interconnectedness to everything around us.
My job here has perfectly blended my science and legal education with my endless curiosity and respect for the environment. I look forward to continue reaching new people as I undertake new projects, and setting an example for my children to take care of and appreciate the amazing environment we live in.
About the author: Nadtya Hong has worked in EPA’s Office of International Affairs since 2003. She has a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a J.D. in Law from the George Washington University Law School.