The best recent Environmental Sciences graduate in the world is Wageningen alumnus Coco Smits, according to the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA). Smits, who works as a consultant at Royal Haskoning DHV, received the IEMA Graduate Award 2013 on 21 November in London.
The jury praised Smits. "Coco represents the very best of early-career environmental talent," said IEMA 's Executive Director - Policy Martin Baxter. "She demonstrates how the right mix of knowledge, dedication and skills – the kind typical of experienced environment and sustainability professionals – can transform a project’s success."
Smits on the phone from Greece, where she lives and works: "A strong foundation for the mix of knowledge and skills I developed during my MSc Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University. That has enabled me to speak with experts from various fields and take a coordinating role and be a connecting factor in my current job. That's what I've always wanted and I why I chose to study in Wageningen. At Wageningen University I could make my own selection of courses that I deemed useful for my development."
Mapping the social impact of a gas pipeline
Passionately, Smits tells that she co-writes scientific publications on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic – in her free time, as a ‘hobby’. It is a subject she also investigated during her internship and thesis, both done at Royal Haskoning DHV. Smits is internationally oriented, too. After graduating in August 2012, she first moved to London for her work and now she lives in Greece since about a year ago. She is involved in the construction of a gas pipeline from the far east of Greece to Italy, via Albania and the Adriatic Sea. "We are now in the process of obtaining 'right of way'," she explains. "Part of my job is to set up socio-economic surveys. I am interested in understanding the social impact of such a pipeline. Stakeholder engagement is important, so we organise meetings where citizens can ask questions and where experts give explanations. Discussions about possible compensation for land owners is another interesting element of my work. In Greece, it is not always clear who owns the land, so that means I first need to find out who to speak with. The work is very diverse."
Now a Graduate Member of IEMA
Winning the IEMA Graduate Award means, among other things, that Smits has become a Graduate Member of the institute. "In England, an IEMA membership is seen as a quality mark. Such a membership, in combination with my Award, will give me some extra publicity in the institute’s newsletter and therefore I will be a bit more known among other Environmental professionals. That gives me some advantages. In addition, I will be giving a webinar to students on how to give your career a good start. I’ll do this together with last year’s winner. And I’m thinking of writing an article for an Environmental Sciences magazine as well.”