11 questions with Samantha Bailey, sustainability coordinator for City of Colorado Springs

From growing up on a sheep farm in rural Wisconsin to building a career based in environmental health, Samantha Bailey is no stranger getting her hands dirty – and that translates to her work.

Samantha’s career has taken her from wastewater treatment facilities to water quality nonprofits. Now, she’s busy balancing a commitment to the environment with a commitment to her studies: as she earns her Master’s of Applied Geography and Environmental Studies at UCCS, Samantha is also the brand-new sustainability coordinator for the Office of Innovation for the City of Colorado Springs.

“Samantha is passionate about environmental health, dedicating her time to ensuring clean and safe air, water and food for all living things,” said Emily Skop, professor of geography. “Now she’ll be enhancing environmental efforts throughout our communities.”

We caught up with Samantha to hear about her new job, how she plans to promote environmental sustainability in Colorado Springs and how she balances working full-time with her studies at UCCS.

Q&A: Samantha Bailey, Applied Geography and Environmental Studies

This may sound super corny, but I'd like to think my hard work brought me to where I am today. I am an adult student, meaning there is a time gap between my undergraduate and graduate programs, and I am at UCCS while working full-time and taking care of my family. During my undergraduate program at UW-Green Bay's environmental science program, I was a full-time student as well as working multiple jobs like internships at a wastewater treatment facility and a water quality non-profit so I could gain real-world experience and networking opportunities. Fortunately, my hard work paid off and I had a professional career shortly after receiving my bachelor's degree.

I've always wanted to pursue higher education, and now that I am settled into Colorado Springs, the timing felt right. Since my professional career has always involved environmental governance, I knew the UCCS GES program was the best fit for me and I feel so fortunate that I am able to go to a school that can accommodate my work schedule.

I'm excited to be in a position that I know will make a positive impact to Colorado Springs, a little bit more so than environmental regulation – I can't wait to get my hands dirty and boots on the ground.

Every day is different, and I love that. One day, I'll be writing a grant, the next I'm outside picking up trash in public spaces or representing the city on environmental committees. No matter what I'm doing, I know that I'm making a difference to our city.

It may not seem like much, but I personally feel like it's a big deal that I was able to get a professional job in my educational field right after my undergrad, as well as graduating shortly after the 2008 recession. Working while in school at the same time can be exhausting, so I am so grateful that my efforts were well-spent (even though I had plenty of sleepless nights).

Life itself can certainly bring in low moments that I wasn't expecting – within the last few years, I've had loved ones pass away, and then the pandemic hit. I think the most challenging part of these moments were that they were completely out of my control, making myself feel completely helpless. When these times happen, I allow myself to feel sad for the time that I need, then bounce back. By understanding that these moments are out of my control, I take this energy and apply it to things that I am in control of like my academic and professional work. In a way, it's almost empowering to know that one low moment isn't all consuming, and that I am strong enough to move forward.

Our world is evolving in so many ways and at a very fast pace, and UCCS allows me to up to date with current events and issues while teaching me new perspectives at the same time.

My goal is to be in a leadership position with a larger sustainability program for the City of Colorado Springs, while teaching a class or two at UCCS.

That your hard work will pay off - it may not feel like it, and it may be super annoying (I personally miss my free time before graduate school) but whatever your end goal is, that feeling of accomplishment is worth all the labor you put into it.

I'm a little bit of a homebody, so while I'm not trail running or hiking, I love to take care of my garden and houseplants (that my dog Barry probably destroyed anyways).

I asked my husband this and I thought his response was funny – that I grew up on a sheep farm in rural Wisconsin. I think I show a very clean, professional first impression, but don't let that fool you. I love to get muddy and know how to ride utility vehicles. My childhood was the biggest inspiration for myself and my career. Because I lived on a farm, it taught me the value of commitment and the importance sustainable agriculture.

Want to be like Samantha? You can! Find out more information on the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies within the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at UCCS.