Where They Are Now – Trisha Crowe, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Assistant Environmental Manager, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Trisha received a B.A. Environmental Science and Criminal Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters of Landscape Architecture from Chatham University, Pittsburgh PA. She has been in her current role and organization for 3 years.
What was your career path to get your current role? Finding my way to this point has definitely involved more time off the beaten track than on a true path but I wouldn’t change a thing. After I graduated from Pitt I was not sure what I wanted to do. My creative side was calling and I became a floral designer for three years until I decided I wanted to get a graduate degree. I still was not sure what kind of career I wanted to pursue so as an alumnus I met with a career counselor at the University of Pittsburgh Career Services office. Ironically, a position at the front desk in Career Services was open; being hired in this role was the beginning of a remarkable journey. I began as the receptionist and eventually through internal development became the Special Events Coordinator for the office. I continued my development and became the career counselor for students in the School of Engineering, and then finally became the Employer Relations Specialist/Internship Coordinator. It was at that point that I became involved with EACE as a local liaison for the annual conference that was being held in Pittsburgh PA. While working at Pitt I took classes but remained unable to identify what I wanted to be doing long term. Through a lot of conversation and exploration I decided to get a master’s in landscape architecture to focus on sustainable/green design and zoo design. Because this was not a degree that Pitt offered, I enrolled at Chatham University in their Landscape Architecture program. I also got a job related to the field at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the Community Gardens and Green Space program. Because the graduate program was 96 credits and I was working full time, it took me almost six years to complete the classes and write my thesis. During that time I obtained full time employment at a multi-disciplinary firm and worked in the international landscape architecture department on projects based in Dubai, UAE. When Dubai’s economy crashed our entire team of 40 employees was laid off. I then worked as a construction administrator on site at a project at Carnegie Mellon University. The Gates Computer Science Center was funded by Bill Gates and included five acres of landscaped design, twelve gardens, and multiple roof gardens. The firm that designed the project was based in New York City so I was hired to make sure that the project was installed to meet their specifications. When this 9-month project was over it was the middle of the recession. Due to the limited opportunities directly related to my field, I expanded my job search. That is what led me to become an Environmental Planner at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. I work within the department and with state and federal agencies to secure environmental clearances for transportation projects and make sure we mitigate for any environmental impacts that we have during construction.
What was your first job? My first (unpaid) job was at horse stables exercising the horses, cleaning stalls, etc. and taking care of the kittens and wildlife we found there. My first (paid) job was on the grounds crew at a country club golf course.
Why did you choose this career? As we continue to alter our planet with development we are seeing an increase in negative impacts on our natural world. Employing the principles of sustainable design, development and construction are essential if we want to have a healthy, biologically diverse planet for our lifetimes and for future generations. Regarding zoos, they have evolved from concrete jungles to some of the best centers for education and conservation that we have. They are one of the rare places that people go where they would rather look at what is right in front of them instead of down at their electronic devices. AZA-Accredited zoos are essential to forming a bond between our children and our natural world. We must take the time and make the effort and find the resources to make that connection if we want people to have respect for our natural world.
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? Diplomacy and the ability to collaborate successfully.
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? Practice and yoga. I’m still learning!
What is your biggest career accomplishment? The fact that I eventually identified ONE career path to follow that I love is probably my biggest accomplishment, but I am currently working on a pro bono design project for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. which makes me very happy. You didn’t ask but if I could have any job in the world besides being a distinguished zoo designer I would want to be in charge of planning the Oscars.
How many years were you a member of EACE? Unfortunately only one.
What roles did you have when you were a member of EACE? I served as Site and Hospitality Co-Chair for the 2004 Conference while employed as the Employer Relations/Internship Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. [Note from EACE: Trisha received the Outstanding New Member Award in 2004]
How did EACE help you in your personal career development? EACE exposed me to such an interesting, intelligent variety of professionals that I really felt like I was learning how to be a better co-worker/team member and generally just a more knowledgeable person.
Did you have an EACE Mentor or another member of EACE serve as your unofficial mentor? If so, who? I’m not sure if she was my mentor or if I just latched on to her but Sharon Hansen was a remarkable help to me throughout the event preparation and conference. In addition to being a consummate professional she is also one of the most kindhearted people I met during my careers services days. Thank you Sharon! I also have to say that everyone on the committee was great to work with, so thanks to you ALL!
What is your advice to current EACE members who aspire to your current or a similar role to yours? I cannot imagine that there are any EACE members who aspire to my current role(s), but if there are I would love to talk to them. In general I believe that targeted networking is the best way to get into a field that interests you, especially if it is a niche market. I guess I will also be cliché and say that for some careers/positions it takes a lot of perseverance to get to where you want to be. It is easy to get discouraged if it is taking a long time to achieve a goal, but seek out people who are enthusiastic and encourage your endeavors. Without having inspiring people in my life I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Trisha did visit her career center when she was in college.