Margaret Byrne ’04

Name: Margaret Byrne ’04

Current Title/Profession: Fish and wildlife biologist, assessment and restoration manager, Hudson River

City: Northampton, Massachusetts

Major: Biological sciences

Minor: Women's health and the environment

Additional/Advanced Degrees: MS, environmental health/toxicology, University of Minnesota School of Public Health; MPPA, University of Massachusetts

What was your first job after MHC?: I went straight to graduate school. My jobs were in a research laboratory and at Clean Water Action as a fundraiser and volunteer coordinator.

Favorite class/professor and why: Sarah Bacon (biological sciences). Her insightful, supportive teaching style forever defined my ideal classroom experience. Sarah presented complex and difficult information in relevant and understandable ways. (The plain-language presentation of complex scientific topics is a rare skill!) As a thesis advisor, Sarah provided me with heartfelt encouragement and I am drawn to memories of our interactions when I am in need of encouragement. Sarah sees, and draws out, the best in her students.

Talents and/or passions discovered at MHC: I became interested in environmental conservation and toxicology because I realized that women’s bodies are extremely sensitive to pollutants and chemicals that have estrogenic activity. At MHC, rigorous scientific studies—paired with exploration of environmental justice, community organizing, and environmental economics—allowed me to discover this passion. For the first time, I defined a personal desire to find solutions for the problems of our contaminated world.

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?: In my current position, I have to examine issues through economic, cultural, scientific, and political lenses. My liberal arts education prepared me well for this task. MHC developed my ability to write and speak clearly about complex topics, which is incredibly valuable. The world is a fascinating place, and my liberal arts education at MHC encouraged me to spend my life learning all that I can.

Why is a women’s education still relevant today?: In our sadly sexist and misogynistic world, where women’s abilities are often downplayed, MHC offers an opportunity for women to lead, learn, and grow. Educating women is a powerful political statement, and I am thankful for my women’s college experience at MHC.

What do you want the world to know about MHC?: Mount Holyoke College is a singularly powerful institution. The first of its kind, this beacon for the education of women continues to transform the landscape of higher education. MHC offers an incomparable classroom experience. Your classmates will be the most engaging and passionate women you have ever met. These wonderful classmates will soon become your lifelong friends and mentors. After graduation, MHC alums offer support and opportunities to one another. This network is priceless.

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