Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for
the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, recently helped plan and
coordinate the local BioBlitz science event in Middletown.
Assistant Plans Environment-Related Events, Writes Grants, Markets
|Q: Valerie, when did you come to Wesleyan and what brought you here?
A: I started as a temporary employee in August 2006 in the Environmental
Studies Certificate Program. In late October 2006, I became the department’s
full time administrative assistant.
Q: Broadly, what is the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and who
is able to receive this certificate?
A: The Environmental Studies Certificate Program, known as ESCP, is an
interdisciplinary certificate program for undergraduate students that
includes but is not restricted to natural science, public policy, philosophy
and economics. This program is similar to a ‘minor’ at some other
institutions and implies that one chooses a major and then takes a set of
additional courses in areas concerned with environmental studies. A
certificate is given upon graduation and completion of the assigned courses.
During the 2006-07 academic year, we had 15 seniors complete the ESCP, our
largest number yet.
Q: Who else works in this program?
A: Currently, this department consists of Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann
Professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Environmental Studies
Certificate Program, and myself. Together, we are working to expand this
department. This summer, we have four interns that are funded by the Robert
Schumann Grant and four Hughes/Mellon interns. We will have two other
interns in the fall.
Q: The ESCP and Wesleyan was one of the sponsors of BioBlitz 2007. What was
A: For the 180-plus scientists involved, this was basically an exciting
event where they gathered together for a 24-hour period on June 8 and 9 to
comb the area of Middletown in search of particular species. It may have
been fish, butterflies, spiders, bats, moths, spiders, plant pathogens,
beetles, fungus, bacteria, or others species. For the junior scientists and
teachers, this was a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to hands on
science. They had the chance to work side by side and learn with these
scientists over the 24 hours. For the general public, this was an
opportunity to view what scientists uncovered right in their backyard. The
amazing discovery was that there were 2,231 different species found right
here in Middletown.
Q: What was your role in planning the event?
A: In October 2006, I was asked to represent Wesleyan on the Bioblitz
Steering Committee and report back to some of the key participants within
the university. Mainly, the committee would meet once a month to organize
all the logistics that would lead up to this 24 hour event. I started as a
member and before long, I was one of the principal organizers and
coordinated all the logistics for this year’s event. My key roles were
coordinating the Friday Night Dinner for the sponsors, scientists, campers
and volunteers; working on the press releases to the media and community;
assisting with the banners and posters; keeping a handle on the overall
budget, which was a major feat in itself; soliciting sponsors and donations;
working with the exhibitor committee; organizing the photographer and
Wesleyan University video crew, and many of the behind the scene logistics
and last minute happenings. I must say though, I enjoyed every minute of it
and hope someday to get involved in the next Bioblitz, where ever and
whenever that happens!
Q: What are your principal duties in the ESCP?
A: The ESCP is funded by the Robert Schumann Grant. My main responsibilities
are to manage the department and its events. I coordinate and manage all the
details for major campus events, such as lectures, symposiums, the Earth Day
Keynote Address, just to name a few. I design and print posters for these
events. I work closely with the press and other universities/colleges in the
Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York area by informing them through press
releases and e-mails about upcoming ESCP events. I assist student groups
with planning and organizing all details for themed events for the program.
I work in promoting the ESCP program in order to increase awareness to the
Wesleyan University students. I act as a liaison to administration and other
Academic Departments. I maintain our department’s budget and website.
Currently, I am supervising several interns that are funded by our new
Mellon Grant, as well as the students that are working at Long Lane Farms.
Q: What are other events you have helped plan? Are there any up and coming?
A: Over the last year, I had been instrumental in planning, the 2006 Pumpkin
Festival with the Long Lane Farm Students, Where On Earth are We Going III,
which was our huge Environmental Symposium, various day and evening guest
speakers, our Earth Day Keynote Address which was given by Connecticut
General Richard Blumenthal and just recently, Bioblitz 2007. Right now, we
are in the midst of planning the 2007 Pumpkin Festival and this year’s
Environmental Symposium. We hope to have more lectures for both students and
faculty over the 2007-08 academic year.
Q: What aspects of your job are the most challenging?
A: When planning an event, it is most challenging to understand what type of
audience I will get. Should I plan for 50 or 200? I have had night lectures,
where there were very few students and faculty in attendance, but at the
same time, I have had daytime lectures, where the rooms were packed to
capacity. What I hear is that students love the luncheon lectures and tend
to squeeze those talks into their busy daytime schedules more often than the
Q: What is your educational and professional background?
A: I graduated in 1983 from the University of Hartford. My degree was in
marketing and computer science. I’ve worked for Data General Corporation,
Xerox, Apple Computer and just recently, The Bushnell. In 1990, I started my
own typesetting business out of my home, in order to work and be with my
Q: And who are they?
A: Gregory, who is 16 years old and Ryan, who is 13 years old. My family
means the world to me. My husband, Richard and I have been married for 21
years. We live a very active life. When we are together, we enjoy
vacationing, going to Boston; especially seeing a Red Sox game, visiting my
family in New Jersey, socializing with our friends, watching a good movie or
going to a theater production. I usually like to spend my free time
relaxing, shopping, helping my friend’s plan their Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s,
watching a “chick flick”, volunteering, taking walks with my husband or just
hanging out with family and friends.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection