CSE senior Reina Balley gets into the field—and down in the dirt

Environmental geosciences student to join woman-owned environmental consulting team

May 4, 2023

When Reina Balley came to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she wasn’t sure what path she would take. Fast forward four years, and she is among the first few classes of students to graduate with the College of Science and Engineering’s new environmental geosciences major. 

Balley is a recipient of CSE’s Richard C. Dennis Undergraduate Scholarship, and she was president of the Geological Society (Geoclub) for the 2021-2022 school year. Her experiences within her department led to an internship at Landmark Environmental, a woman-owned consulting company based in Minnesota. After doing a full-time co-op in fall 2022, Balley will continue at Landmark as an environmental geoscientist after graduation. 

In this Q&A, Balley reflects on her time in CSE and talks about her internship experience and work in the field. 

How did you pick your major?

I actually entered the U as an environmental engineering major, so I did that for my first year and then realized that my favorite part was being out in the field. The environmental geosciences major was a great fit because it involves helping the environment, but also focuses on working with people and getting into the dirt, soil, and water. 

What else do you like about the environmental geosciences major?

Our department is really supportive. My advisor is Josh Feinburg, and he’s amazing. He connected me with some people to get me a research position and got me involved with Geoclub. Through that club and our department, I was able to get an internship with Landmark Environmental, and that turned into a job for me after graduation.

I think our department sets you up to do really well, and that’s the same for CSE. The college really wants you to get involved in research or clubs and find what works best for you.

Tell us about your experiences as president of Geoclub. 

As president, I facilitated the meetings, met with our representative staff, and coordinated ways to get more students involved within our department. With the COVID-19 pandemic it got a little more disconnected, and last year was the first year we could meet in person. Our meetings were pretty broad. We had informational meetings about the major, reached out to industry people to talk about different jobs, organized and fundraised for our spring trip, and also did fun things like crafting nights. It’s a tight-knit community, and it’s great to meet new people and make connections with underclassmen as well as people in the department. 

Tell us about your internship experience.

Landmark is an environmental consulting company that’s woman-owned, which is amazing because I have a lot of really great mentors within the company that have motivated me to be a strong woman in STEM.

It’s great to have a community in a typically male-dominated industry.

Because it is a small company, it’s given me an opportunity to do a lot more and get a broader view of environmental consulting than I would at a bigger company. I get to work all over the state in a lot of different communities like cities, counties, construction sites, and private residences. Everyone at the company is really great as well. Even though I’m one of the youngest employees there, they value my opinions and knowledge about the projects, and they want everyone to feel like we are a part of the team.

Out of all your experiences in CSE, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of finding what I am truly passionate about. Once I found that, school got 10 times easier because I loved what I was doing.

Finding your path doesn’t always happen right away for some people, and I feel very fortunate that I had a lot of support and guidance from different professors and advisors within CSE.

Another thing I’m really proud of is having my plans after graduation all figured out. All the work that I did in the front end seemed overwhelming at times, but it paid off. Pushing through the harder challenges to get to a place where I can spend my spring just enjoying my time on campus and having a job lined up is a weight off my shoulders.

What are you looking forward to after graduation?

I’m excited about getting into work. My company is letting me take time off after graduation before my official start date, and I’m ready to jump in. I’m excited to get more involved in the industry and maybe do some outreach as well. I’ve already started to do that a little bit with my high school – I’m working with them to tell more students about my major. Eventually I would like to go to grad school, but I'm excited to have some time in the workforce and figure out exactly what I want to do.

Interview by Katelyn Mayne

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