alumni Spotlight

July Alumni Spotlight with Miguelina Portorreal, BSPA '17

Environmental sustainability has sweeping benefits beyond the publicly-acknowledged applications touted by marketing companies and food service industries. We speak to sustainability advocate and enthusiast, Miguelina Portorreal about her role with the Park Department’s Sustainability Division and more.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?
During my junior year, I enrolled in a Cities and Sustainability course taught by Samantha MacBride. The perspective she presented, as a Department of Sanitation employee, really allowed me to grasp the unsettling reality of the city’s environmental state within the context of public service. Upon reflecting further on impoverished communities and the environmental injustices they are subjected to, I realized that action must be taken immediately to address the social and health concerns that derive from constant exposure to harmful environmental conditions.

Tell us about your experience with the Hagedorn Internship program.
I participated in the Hagedorn Internship program twice during my final year at Baruch. On both occasions, I opted to intern at Sustainable South Bronx. As a Bronx native, it was really important for me to choose an organization that advocated for the environmental needs of the borough I reside in. This experience truly shaped my understanding of the critical work nonprofit organizations perform throughout the city. It was an honor to work alongside so many wonderful individuals who have committed their livelihoods to expanding the green-collar workforce and creating economic opportunities for those who are most in need.

What do you do with the New York City Park Department’s Sustainability Division?
Our team manages several environmentally conscious pilot projects at the Five Borough Complex on Randall’s Island. We provide an analysis of the real-world applications of different green roofing materials, composting techniques, and so forth. As an intern, I offer suggestions for improvement and oversee the implementation of our experimental projects. I also assist with the upkeep of the green roofs and bee colonies housed on top of the facility.

What drew you to the BSPA program? Did it help you discover anything about yourself or your passions?
Back in high school, I spent a summer interning at a community-based organization in the Bronx. I distributed surveys to residents and a surprising number of people were very vocal and adamant about the changes they wanted to see in their community. This is when I realized that despite having a grand vision for change, oftentimes, underserved communities are not granted the tools necessary to generate large-scale improvements.

When I was accepted into Baruch, I attended the Student Welcome Reception and was immediately sold by the BSPA program’s pitch. The BSPA program offered me a degree that was broad enough to allow me to explore my interests, yet specialized enough to be applicable to real-world challenges and scenarios. The BSPA program has helped me unearth my passion for sustainability and green infrastructure.

A field report I conducted for a Public Communication and Organizations course allowed me to discover the profession of Landscape Architecture. This upcoming fall, I will be enrolled as a student in City College’s Master of Landscape Architecture program.