Academics People and Community

From Virginia Key to the Philippines

After earning her degree from the Rosenstiel School, Mary Simonne Dodge will begin a two-year deployment with the Peace Corps as a coastal resource manager in the Philippines.
Mary Simonne Dodge
Mary Simonne Dodge. Photo: Hannah Heath/University of Miami

Mary Simonne Dodge, originally from Amherst, New Hampshire, will earn her degree from the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. A double major in marine biology and ecology and ecosystem science and policy, Dodge also earned a minor in political science and a certificate in sustainability from the University of Miami. 

Among her involvements at the University, Dodge served as a research assistant in the Climate Accountability Lab and on the Abess Center Atala Butterfly Project; a membership coordinator for It’s On Us; a peer counselor with the Rosenstiel Peer Counselor Program; a mentor with the Foote Fellow Mentoring Program; a member of the Rho Rho Rho Marine and Atmospheric Honors Society and the Upsilon Delta chapter of Chi Omega; and as an undergraduate intern with the Environmental Justice Clinic at the School of Law. 

Read about her experiences at the University and what lies ahead.

Why this major? How did you get interested in the topic?

I’ve always loved the outdoors. I grew up hiking and camping with my family throughout New England, and I was always interested in learning about the environment around me, whether that was which species could be found in tide pools at the beach or the names of constellations. My excitement for the outdoors morphed into an interest in activism as I reached high school. I involved myself in Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Futures movement, which culminated in a climate walkout at my high school. That marked the start of my interest in pursuing a career in the environmental sector. I chose to double major at UM to learn more about both the marine and terrestrial environments and to be exposed to both science and policy.

What attracted you to the University?

I toured UM during my junior year of high school and immediately fell in love with the campus. Everyone seemed so happy to be here, and that kind of vibrant atmosphere was something that I was really looking for in a college. Additionally, the University’s strong marine science program at Rosenstiel was a huge draw, and I was excited at thepossibility of studying abroad in the Galápagos Islands. The warm climate, proximity to the incredible city of Miami,large array of extracurricular opportunities, and manatees on campus (to name just a few) were all other reasons I was initially attracted to this school. 

What kept you here? 

I was very fortunate to receive a premier scholarship, which solidified my excitement and commitment to UMiami.However, beyond this, the connections I have made at UM are what have kept me here. I have met the most amazing people, and I feel so lucky that UM attracts such incredible students who have become my best friends. The community here is so diverse, and I love that I have made friends from all over the world with different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and interests. These friendships have helped me grow as a person, expanding my perspective and understanding of the world. Additionally, UM’s culture of encouraging students to learn both inside and outside of the classroom pushed me to involve myself in passions beyond my academics, which I have found very fulfilling. This has further cemented my sense of community and purpose at UM.

How did the University help you to identify a career choice or path? 

The classes I took for my majors helped me further narrow my interests in the environmental sector. I learned that I am more interested in the intersections between people, science, and policy than strictly research. Because my coursescovered a wide range of topics, I feel that I have a strong understanding of both policy and the science that shapes it. I believe we need more people who work within the policy realm but have a strong science background, and I think UM has equipped me well to be one of those people bridging this gap. 

How has the University prepared you for the future?

Through a multitude of ways. My classes have given me the tools and resources to be successful within the field of marine and environmental sciences. I feel that I have also made strong connections with professors, who I know will be supportive of me into the future beyond my undergraduate career. The friendships I have made here as well willbe relationships that last a lifetime and will be a strong support system as I move on from college. 

Who or what made a great impact on your collegiate career at the University?

My study abroad experience in the Galápagos Islands made a great impact on my collegiate career at UM. Living with a host family exposed me to another background and language, giving me a deeper appreciation for other cultures andhelping me improve my Spanish. I am still in touch with my host family to this day, and I hope to visit them in the future.

Additionally, Galápagos gave me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in marine and environmental studies for a complete semester. I learned so much through not only the classroom but also fieldwork. It was an incrediblychallenging but rewarding experience, and I left with strong friendships both from UM and from the island. Studying abroad also gave me the travel bug and influenced my path for deciding on my postgrad plans. 

What experience or accomplishment are you most proud of? 

Professionally, I am most proud of the work I produced as an intern for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Sea Grant from the end of my sophomore year through the summer before my senior year. I developed an interactiveArcGIS StoryMaps Collection that highlighted the 24 research projects funded by NOAA’s American Lobster Initiative. I gathered all the information about these 24 projects through interviewing the research teams, reviewing papers, proposals, and progress reports, and visiting project sites. I collaborated with more than 50 people to ultimately reach the final product. My work is now highlighted on NOAA and Sea Grant’s webpages.

Personally, I am most proud of the fact that I ran the Miami Marathon this past January. I trained for six months, and itwas the second hottest Miami Marathon on record (clocking in at 84 degrees). I ran it with my roommates, and it was a huge item to check off my senior year bucket list.

What's next?

I recently accepted a position as a coastal resource manager in the Philippines with the Peace Corps. I leave in early July for two years. I am excited for this next chapter, and I am thankful that UM has given me the experiences, knowledge, and resources to find success postgrad.