Kate Corcoran ’15 Receives EPA's Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship

December 4, 2013

Wellesley junior Kate Corcoran has won a prestigious Greater Research Opportunities fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fellowship, worth approximately $50,000, is awarded annually to 40 promising American students interested in pursuing careers in environmental studies. It supports two years of undergraduate study and a three-month summer internship with an EPA facility the summer after junior year.

Corcoran is the latest in a series of Wellesley students to win the award. Tiana Ramos ’13 received the fellowship in 2011, and used the funds toward her Wellesley education as well as an internship with the EPA in New York City (during which she helped coordinate a tri-city symposium on sustainable LEED construction) and an online course with the United Nations on global sustainability solutions. Ellen Bechtel ’14 became a GRO fellow in 2012; she is currently aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, sailing from San Diego, Calif., to Papeete, Tahiti, with the Sea Education Association Semester at Sea program.

An environmental studies major, Corcoran is particularly interested in issues of water conservation and supply enhancement, an interest that derives from her experience growing up in a small town in West Texas where water is a precious and limited resource. “Where I am from,” she says, “we get an update on the inches gained or lost in our aquifer in the nightly news, adhere to strict water restrictions during the summer, and know that we must work to conserve our water resources or we will lose them.” Corcoran came to Wellesley determined to seek the skills and knowledge required to understand the science of water resources. On campus, she took classes like Environmental Limits and Conservation and Social Causes and Consequences of Environmental Problems, and grew under the mentorship of Camilla Chandler Frost Professor of Environmental Studies Beth DeSombre and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Alden Griffith. “In the process my interest in environmental studies has grown without limit, and has expanded to include an interest in the social and ethical aspects of environmental issues,” Corcoran says.

Outside of the classroom, Corcoran is involved with Wellesley Energy and Environmental Defense (WEED), the Wellesley College Outing Club, and plays rugby with the Wellesley rugby football team. This semester, she’s studying abroad in Córdoba, Spain.

Corcoran will put most of her GRO funding toward her Wellesley education. While she’s not sure of the specific route she’ll take after graduation, she says, “I aspire to improve the way we protect water resources at all levels, in a position where I can integrate my love of science and my desire to work with people to find solutions to complex water quality issues and environmental issues.”

Corcoran added, “People are irrevocably tied to their environments. Whether we can see it or not, we are all living as part of a larger, natural world, in a delicate balance.”