Cynthia Kingsford ’80
Cynthia Kingsford is a familiar face on campus: She works at Bowdoin's Career Planning Center, advising students with an interest in science, health, and the environment. Certain variables decide your life, asserts Cynthia, see the options in front of you be okay with them. Be flexible, make things work. Indeed, to Cynthia, how one navigates around their limitations is crucial to figuring out the next step.
Cynthia began her time at Bowdoin with a general interest in the environment, but unsure of where her interests lay within the subject. After taking a number of courses across various disciplines,she settled upon a coordinate major in Environmental Studies and Government, though she continued to take economics classes throughout her time at Bowdoin. At the time, environmental studies major requirements included a number of upper-level courses in a wide variety of disciplines, which ensured that students approached the subject with breadth and depth. While Cynthia found this limiting at times (enrolling in upper-level classes required prior completion in lower-level classes, often leaving little flexibility to explore courses beyond the major), she also loved the diversity of thought and learning within the major, as well as the skills that she gained as a result. Course highlights from Cynthia's time with Bowdoin's growing Environmental Studies program included a course on coastal resources that incorporated on-site fieldwork, as well as an eye-opening environmental economics class with Professor David Vail, who was such a tough professor.
During her time at Bowdoin, Cynthia often took matters into her own hands to pursue her interest in environmental studies. She found her own internships during the summer, enrolled in a summer course at Stanford studying geomorphology, petitioned to add Boston University's SEA Semester to the College's list of approved Off Campus Study options, and upon having her petition denied, used her AP credits to take a year off from Bowdoin to lobby for bottle bill legislation in Washington, DC. While Cynthia came out of her time in DC with a deeper care for the environment, she also discovered that she did not want to be a lobbyist, or live in DC.
Upon graduating from Bowdoin, Cynthia landed a job with a watershed association on the Charles River in Boston, and worked for two years as the watershed's community coordinator. Cynthia found her liberal arts background to be extremely relevant to her work with at the watershed association, as she had acquired both breadth and depth in environmental knowledge, as well as strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to synthesize and communicate hard science to a diverse audience. She played about with the idea of going to law school, but soon became interested in the economic argument for environmentalism and attended graduate school at the University of New Hampshire. Upon graduating in 1986, Cynthia joined Boston University's Center for Energy and the Environment to work on higher education and programming initiatives, as well as public policy facilitation. Her work with the Center for Energy and the Environment moved her away from more hands-on environmental work, but allowed her to utilize her skills and knowledge in the sciences, policy, and communication. Cynthia's time at BU transitioned to doing public policy facilitation on controversial environmental issues with a consulting firm in Boston – doing projects around the country for the EPA, DOE, DOD and state agencies. Cynthia went to part time doing public policy consulting when her kids were little and now she still works as a consultant on projects from time to time.
Cynthia went on to receive a second master's degree in Neuropsychology from Stanford in 2000, before working at a clinic for children with learning disabilities. She soon found herself working in career counseling at Johns Hopkins, and later at Middlebury College, and eventually at Bowdoin's Career Planning Center. While these changes in her life shifted her professional focus away from the environment, she describes it as a lifestyle decision, in which she sought a career path with more flexibility. Even so, the environment continued to play a key role in her life. She continued to invest her free time in environmental initiatives, volunteering with land trusts and Shelburne Farms in Vermont, and keeping [her] hand in the environment .
Cynthia's time at Bowdoin has come full circle. From Bowdoin student to adviser at Bowdoin's Career Planning Center, Cynthia reminds Environmental Studies students to identify their strengths and keep adding to their arsenal of knowledge.Cynthia believes that a career after studying environmental studies at Bowdoin is all about core skills. She credits her background in environmental studies for her interpersonal skills, as well as for her ability to collaborate and communicate effectively with others. Maybe more importantly, the environmental studies department has instilled in Cynthia a desire to keep working, to understand connections, and to understand the how people listen and learn from each other.