Graduates talk

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Mary Yap / Bellevue, Washington
Berkeley College: Earth and Planetary Sciences; Architecture

You’re an Eli Whitney student, so you followed an unconventional path, correct?
Yes. I was at the University of Chicago for two years. I thought I was going to be a doctor, but I left to launch a software company with friends in San Francisco. Then in 2016, a couple of close friends passed away, and that made me really think about what it meant to be here on Earth for a short time, and what’s most important to me. I realized it was the environment. I decided to study sustainable architecture, because 70 percent of the world’s population is going to live in cities by 2050.

What has been most enriching about your experience?
Yale has opened so many doors to interrelated fields. Architecture and Earth and planetary studies sound unrelated, but climate change will be completely reshaping our future decisions on how and where to live. And there’s a powerful feedback loop in the opposite direction, because how we build cities affects carbon emissions.

What has surprised you here?
What’s been most surprising is just how nonlinear life’s journeys are. Especially these days, we’re expected to be on the path to being a doctor, or a CEO, or whatever, by the time we’re 18. We’ve got the whole journey planned. But our world is constantly changing, and so are our skills.

What’s next?
I’m working part-time with Professor Noah Planavsky on a natural geoengineering project in which we encourage farmers to sprinkle certain volcanic rocks on agricultural fields in order to draw CO2 from the atmosphere. It benefits the climate, crop yields go up, and the crops are more resilient to climate change.

I’m also working on two writing projects: the thrilling story of my maternal grandmother in Taiwan, who was an entrepreneur in the 1950s before that was socially acceptable for women in Taiwanese society, and who was able to raise her family out of poverty, all in secret; and a children’s book and the astrophotography for that.    

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