Students in the CCS Masters program come from a variety of backgrounds and investigate the interface between climate change and society at different scales and in different forms. Half of them are full-time students and the other half are part-time.

Certificate Program students include recent graduates of Bachelor’s programs and a number of mid-career individuals from industry leaders such as the Weather Channel.

In their own words


Jarod Bailey

My path to falling in love with climate change is not the typical “since I was a kid” story. In fact, I started my undergraduate degree at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis to become a dentist like my father, uncle and grandfather before me. I thought fulfilling their footsteps was my destiny, but I was never fully committed to dentistry. Eventually I lost all motivation and knew it was time for a change, and after several “what should my major be” online quizzes, I decided to take an oceanography course and see if environmental science was the field for me. Two weeks into the class and I fell in love, however I was too far into my biology degree to switch my major, so I decided to take on Environmental Science as a minor and put all my focus and energy into the Environmental Science Field. I found a passion for studying climate and how it impacts extreme weather events and found myself wanting to tell others about it. I believe I was put on this planet for a reason and because of that, I have an obligation to protect her and to ensure her survival. Therefore, I decided to come to NC State, and I plan to continue my education here and achieve my Ph.D. so I can go on and educate the next generation of climate scientists. In my opinion, one of the biggest ways to mitigate climate change is to educate others and I believe I have an obligation to do so.

Patrick Brien

Before arriving in North Carolina, I worked for a global health NGO in East Africa and was exposed to One Health methodology, a balance between human, animal and environmental health. Seeing the interconnectedness of our broader ecosystem and the role that climate plays in human health, prosperity and equity, I became more and more interested in working in the climate change field. I’m currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Fear Collective, a data science and impact investing nonprofit based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Through this work, I see the effects of climate change everyday, particularly on the most vulnerable populations in the Cape Fear Region. I’m pursuing my Master’s in Climate Change and Society to better shape my understanding of the issues, the science, and how it affects communities, neighborhoods, and people. I’m thrilled to be studying at NC State and I’m looking forward to applying my education to help build for a better future.

Max Cawley
I am an educator, researcher, evaluator, and science communicator with the Museum of Life & Science in Durham, NC. I’m a firm believer in participatory, democratic, and responsible science and dissemination, and I believe that anyone and everyone can, and should, contribute to our growing understanding of climate change and its myriad impacts. I’d like to help build better public understanding, public engagement, and public empowerment to take on pressing socioscientific issues that demand our attention and intervention, and I believe that building a more scientifically and climate-literate public is key to maintaining a healthy democracy into the future.


Samantha Collins
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, I spent several years working for contract positions in a broad variety of settings: cell biology academic labs, industrial agricultural research, and small nature-based pest and environmental control, among others. All of these were valuable experiences, but my lifelong interest in conservation and the wild places of the world, as well as the growing urgency of the greatest challenge of our lifetimes – climate change – convinced me that I needed to refocus the trajectory of my career. I am thrilled to be a member of the Climate Change & Society Program and therefore a proactive participant in building a thriving, sustainable future. This is a challenge that impacts every field, but it is also an opportunity to re-examine our relationships with our institutions and our environment, and one I am excited to support with lifelong curiosity and action.

Tracy DiTucci
My interest in climate change came about through a gradual realization that the natural and human systems I care about are degrading at a pace unparalleled in human history. I am excited to return to NC State as part of the Master’s in Climate Change & Society program so that I can play a more active, informed role in how society responds to our current climate reality. My education and work background centers around international sustainable development, human health and humanitarian response from a gender perspective. More specifically, I received my BA in International Cultural Studies from NC State in 2011 and hold an International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance from Fordham University. I currently work as a Senior Program Manager for an international NGO implementing women’s health programs in West, Central and Lusophone Africa where I work at the intersection of research, policy and practice. Through the program I hope to round out my background by learning the science behind climate change and developing my skill set in geospatial analytics. Ultimately, I’d like to use what I learn to support development of climate adaptation strategies along the emergency response and sustainable development continuum.


Sara Jarvis Earle
Ever since I can remember I have always been interested in how humans affect the environment and their surroundings. Having grown up in Miami, FL and Raleigh, NC I have had amazing opportunities to experience different environments. Once having finished my undergraduate degree in Environmental Sustainability and Public Health at Meredith College I pursued a career in the police department and tried to become a police officer. After my experience with the department I decided to not continue with them and change my focus to more environmental related work. I decided to pursue a master’s degree with the Climate Change and Society program here at NC State University, not only because it is close to home, but because it’s a very unique program which offers the opportunity to make an important impact to the whole world. I would like to be a part of meaningful policy and sustainability changes in the future which will lead to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly world.

Grace Egly
I was born and raised in North Carolina and went to NCSU for my undergraduate career as well. My bachelor’s degree is in environmental science with a minor in landscape architecture. My research areas of interest are in sustainable development and the impact of green spaces on gentrification. I am looking forward to a job where I can give back to my community whether that be from working with sustainable energy or policy development.


Kristen Fontana
I always had a passion for conserving and protecting the environment, but it was when I began college that this love really progressed. The moment I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the environmental field was during an intro engineering class at my previous college in Staten Island, NY. When reviewing the different careers in engineering, my professor placed extra emphasis on environmental engineers, stating how these individuals will play a vital role in the fight against climate change. At this point, I was determined to become an environmental engineer and subsequently one of the reasons the planet is saved from disastrous, irreversible impacts of climate change. However, during my first semester at NC State, I realized that although I am devoted to the environment and conserving its resources, environmental engineering just wasn’t going to fulfill these passions for me. As a result, I switched to natural resources with a minor in environmental sciences, where I quickly learned that environmental education and communication are more akin to my interests. When I learned of the Climate Change & Society Program, I jumped at the chance to apply. This program encompasses everything I wish to learn about the climate system so that I can be an effective communicator of the science and hopefully play a role in the fight against climate change. In addition, I am also interested in finding a means to decarbonize the grid fully and effectively. It will not be an easy feat but is a necessary one to significantly reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. The time to act is now, and I know this program will help me do just that.

Kristen is a recipient of our Women in STEM Scholarship.

Kristen Fowler
My background is in Geology and Environmental Science. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; and completed graduate coursework towards a Master of Science in Geology at the University of New Mexico before obtaining my M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Idaho. I currently teach Introductory Geology courses as an Adjunct Instructor for several community colleges here in North Carolina. Before becoming a college-level Instructor, I worked as an Environmental Geologist in the wonderful world of environmental consulting, and even earned my Professional Geologist license. My interests with respect to climate are wide ranging. For one, I am interested in paleoclimate studies to learn and understand ecosystem response to climate change throughout Earth’s long history. I am also very much interested in investigating the feasibility of residential and commercial sectors becoming self-sustainable with the use of renewable energy sources. It is important that environmental policies and business decisions address the issue of climate change. We must never stop working to preserve and protect the natural capital and ecosystem services that we rely on for our economies and our survival.

Oppong Hemeng
A Texas native, Oppong Hemeng received degrees from the University of Houston and University of Florida before starting his career in the sustainability field. As a sustainability professional, Oppong sees the importance of applying sustainable solutions that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially just. Over the past few years, he has worked in sports, entertainment, and higher education all with a sustainability focus. He is currently working as the Sustainability Specialist in the NC State Sustainability Office. Always looking to educate himself with the latest research and information about sustainability, Oppong joined the Climate Change & Society Graduate Program to become a more enlightened leader in the field. His research interests are focused on the intersection of business and climate change while broadening the scope of environmental, social, and governance.

Mirren Hill
I have always had an interest in environmental conservation and climate change. Ever since I was little, I was the girl with the “go green” T-shirt and peace sign necklace. 5 years ago, I decided to take the leap to become vegetarian for conservation reasons. It gives me a little piece of mind knowing that this change in lifestyle ensures I have lowered my carbon footprint. I have also always had an interest in nature, outer space and anything earth science related. I love to travel and it is a goal of mine to visit every US National Park! To follow that passion, I earned my undergraduate degree in Geosciences with minors in Geology and Women’s/Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in spring 2020. While there, I came to the realization that the courses I took on global change and climatology were my favorite, where I felt the most passion. I wanted to pursue that area in my graduate studies so it was perfect that I came across the Climate Change and Society program at NC State. I grew up in Cary, North Carolina so the Raleigh area is already home to me. As I have a science background, I am looking forward to learning more about policy, policy change and how we can implement those into society to really start to see some improvement, as well as communication to the public to make major steps in the right direction

Stephanie Kelly
As a North Carolina native, I was privileged to grow up exploring and enjoying the state’s rich biodiversity and landscapes, while dichotomously, witnessing its rapid transformation in the wake of population booms and urbanization.  This sparked my interest in sustainable design and decision to become a landscape architect.  Once in the workforce, I quickly discovered that sustainability was not widely understood or embraced, so I channeled my passion into creating professional sustainability initiatives and events.  In 2014, I married and moved to the coast, where I have experienced dangerous extreme weather anomalies every year since.  After learning about the Masters of Climate Change & Society and Post-Professional Masters of Landscape Architecture now offered at State, I felt compelled to return to school part-time to pursue a dual-masters, where I am focusing my studies on an interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem service and resilient site design strategies and policies, with an emphasis on coastal communities.  I am so excited to gain the climate change science and communication foundation the CCS program offers, and for the opportunity to redirect my career path, so that I can better serve the interdisciplinary effort in addressing this global crisis!

Stephanie is currently a Global Change Fellow with the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.

Veronika Maynard-Simon
I grew up very close to nature through my family having a vineyard and a large vegetable garden. After I moved to the US, I earned a Bachelor degree in Germanic Languages and Literatures with the concentration of Central European Studies. My husband and I started our first vegetable garden ten years ago and I learned so much about the amazing benefits of gardening on climate change including permaculture, companion planting, and pollinating gardens. Additionally, our no till and hugelkultur practices, also composting and cover crop practices are increasing carbon sequestration, trapping CO2 in the soil. . I also began educating my co-workers at NC State Transportation by planning and leading an Earth Month Challenge for the full month of April in 2019.  As a result, collectively as a department, we reduced our electricity usage and participants became more environmentally conscious in their habits. I continued my sustainability initiatives, which resulted in a surprising NC State Sustainability Award this February. This inspired me to research sustainability master’s degrees and I was very excited when I found the Climate Change & Society Masters’ program. I am looking forward to learning more about how to communicate sustainability initiatives to be able to facilitate long term and deep changes we need.


Brittany Salmons
My interest in climate change began with it’s impact on natural ecological systems but evolved to understanding how much of an impact humans had on the climate and the earth itself. I began my academic journey thinking that I would major in environmental science but I was drawn more to the decisions and actions that humans, throughout time, have taken to improve their own lives and the lives of others. A lot of these decisions, however, were based on a transcendentalist view of nature as infinite and unchanging. This outlook has become even more dangerous with increased development and the burning of fossil fuels. I believe in understanding how humans have understood and utilized the environment in the past in order to educate and improve the environment and how it is used by society today.  With this in mind, I decided to major in history and minor in environmental science in my undergraduate career and am now furthering my understanding of climate change and society through this program.

Brittany is a recipient of our Women in STEM Scholarship.

Nicholas Shanahan
When I started back at college as an older adult, I decided I would chart my academic path by simply following my interests. The first subject to capture my imagination was geology, which sparked a greater love for environmental sciences. At the same time, I began to look more seriously at the issue of climate change, and once I had started I could see the connections and the potential for disruption nearly everywhere. It seemed to me that there was a yawning gap between what the science was telling us, and our collective response to this knowledge. I decided to pursue this avenue further by getting my bachelor’s in Sustainable Development with a minor in Geography from Appalachian State University, where I also worked for the Office of Sustainable Development. When I started my academic career at 31 years old, I was determined from the beginning to see it through to a master’s degree, and the Climate Change and Society program at NCSU seemed tailor made for my interests and aspirations. Studying climate change and its implications for society is a sobering undertaking, yet at the same time I am energized by the timeliness and relevance of the issue and excited to be involved in a field that will allow me to pursue knowledge and understanding for the rest of my career. With regards to the climate emergency, what we do collectively in the coming decades will have reverberative effects for several generations. I can think of no other field to which I would rather dedicate myself.

Addie Thornton
I have always had a love and appreciation for the natural environment and the experiences, resources and beauty it provides. This passion led me to an education and career sustaining our natural resources for future generations to enjoy as I have. Starting with my BS in Natural Resource Policy and Administration at NCSU, to working within the NCSU Forestry Extension Department coordinating natural resource educational events and conferences and now, coordinating the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS). Through SERPPAS I bring together state and federal agencies to make resource use decisions that support military readiness, conservation of natural resources and sustainable working lands and communities in the Southeast. Climate change impacts threaten all of these sectors in varying ways, and I am excited to join this program to enable SERPPAS to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate for a more resilient Southeast Region. I look forward to this degree opening up opportunities for me to continue my career focusing on the most important issue of our time.


Emma Zawacki
Whether it was a desert in my backyard or a breathtaking mountainous valley, I have always had a reverence for nature. Humans being nature ourselves, I have always thought that sustainability is a way of life. Uncertain what I wanted to do with my professional career however, I received my bachelors in communications with a minor in psychology from the College of New Jersey in 2020. But the strong pull to work on climate change persisted and grew. Over the pandemic, I worked at a sustainability themed podcast titled Who’s Saving the Planet where I was introduced to all kinds of professionals who were trying their best in their own sector to reverse climate change and promote sustainability. Eager to join their ranks, I found this CCS program that gives me the science background necessary to combine with my love for communication and launch myself into some of my dream careers. I’m excited to see what this program will teach me about the planet and myself.