Photo by Jafar Fallahi
A Minnesota native, Kaia Findlay ’18, (B.A), ’19 (M.A.) was drawn to UNC-Chapel Hill by not only the warmth of the weather, but also the warmth of the people.
“When I came to visit Carolina, I met both current and prospective students on campus who I wanted to get to know more,” said Findlay. “That hadn’t really happened when I visited other schools.”
Coming from a small high school states away, Findlay was also motivated by the unique opportunities for growth and exploration at Carolina.
“I really wanted a school that was going to push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me,” said Findlay. “I knew I wanted to grow as a person, and I knew Carolina would be a place that would challenge me to learn how to do things for myself.”
Upon arrival in Chapel Hill, Findlay began seeking out ways to explore her various interests, specifically those of storytelling and the environment. Through the Dual Degree Program in Environment and Science Communication, she was able to investigate and expand upon both.
The dual degree program is a unique partnership between the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program in the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. Students earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies as well as a Master of Arts in Media and Communication over the course of five years.
“It gave me a concrete way to put something I was really passionate about into action,” said Findlay. “I realized that I had this skill in communication and this passion for the environment, so this program was a good way for me to combine those interests and help me prepare to present those skills.”
Findlay is now presenting the skills she learned through the dual degree program in her current role as a producer at North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC. She has produced talk shows around all things North Carolina, including environmental issues. From her past experience studying environmental factors throughout the state, combined with her communication expertise, she developed a strong platform to confidently speak on these topics to a public audience.
“The skills I learned through projects at Carolina and my working understanding of environmental stories have really helped me in my role,” said Findlay. “Doing the master’s thesis project with Hussman School professors Ferrel Guillory and Kate Sheppard was also especially helpful for me. I spent two weeks researching and building connections in Eastern North Carolina to gather information and then report on it through my thesis, ‘When Change Is Inevitable: Stories of Sea Level Rise and Resilience from North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Region.’ It was a good opportunity to put my knowledge and skills into practice and a valuable experience that prepared me for my career.”
The experiences that Findlay gained through the dual degree program represent the advantages students obtain by studying a combination of various disciplines throughout their time in higher education.
“For me, not having to choose one of my interests over another was a really great aspect of the program,” said Findlay. “Being able to combine different areas of study prevents students from having to pick between their interests, and that is a major benefit of going to Carolina.”
Carolina provides a place for students to push themselves to explore all of their passions — not just one. In doing so, students like Kaia graduate feeling confident of their abilities to succeed in whatever field they choose.