Q & A With Charlene Vasquez

Enjoying the sunset in north shore on O’ahu

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Marine Affairs?

I have always loved the ocean and I earned my undergraduate degree in marine biology. Moving forward I wanted to learn how to protect the ocean, so after looking into possible degrees, earning my degree in marine affairs seemed like a great choice.

Why did you decide to come to UW’s SMEA for graduate school?

The description of the program was exactly what I wanted to study in a master’s program. I didn’t want to do another hard science degree, I wanted to shift to a conservation and policy focus, this program aligned perfectly with my desires. Additionally, some of my family currently lives in Spokane, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be close to them. I have successfully taught my niece to refer to me as her best friend, so I obviously made the right choice.

Are you doing a thesis or capstone project? If thesis, what are you writing your thesis about and why? If capstone, what is the project about?

I am doing a capstone project with another SMEA student. We are looking at the effects of sea level rise in King County. Specifically how flood risks are communicated to the public and if there are any social justice concerns regarding these risks.

What has been your favorite class at UW so far? Why?

I haven’t had the chance to take classes outside of SMEA, but so far my favorite class has been SMEA 536 Applied Microeconomics for Marine Affairs. I hadn’t taken an economics class prior to this, so it opened my eyes to think about management from an economics perspective. Aside from class room studies, I have thoroughly enjoyed going to different talks and seminars on campus. I highly recommend attending as many as you can, even outside of the SMEA field of study. The Intellectual House has some really great events.

What do you like most about SMEA?

My classmates, since we are a small incoming group I have been able to connect with a lot of new people. I didn’t know anyone coming to this city, so being able to easily meet some new people made it a little bit of an easier transition. Having those friendships and support is really important in a new place and when going through grad school.

With fellow SMEA students on the ultimate Frisbee team “Fish Out of Water”

What’s it like to live in Seattle? What do you do in your spare time?

COLD! Having moved from the warm state of Hawaii it was a bit of a rough transition. I am still learning how to layer my clothes properly so I don’t freeze to death. I spend my spare time hanging out with my roommates (also SMEA students) and visiting my best friend in Spokane.

If you could design your ultimate job after graduating, what would it be and why?

I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. I would love a job that involved climate change science and conservation. Really, anything that is making an impact on the world and making it a better place for my best friend to grow up in.

What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?

I fell in love with Hawaiian monk seals while living on O’ahu. They are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and an endangered species. You can find them lounging on the beach, napping under the warm sun, they are living the dream. Through an internship with NOAA I’ve had the opportunity to assist in the removal of a hook from a monk seals throat, which saved its life.