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Faculty, Campus Opportunities Key on Grad's Journey to Environmental Startup | SUNY Plattsburgh

Carolyn Strauss ’09 is a client services manager at WaterSmart Software, a startup in San Francisco.

The company analyzes water usage data and converts it into personalized reports for customers of utilities or municipalities. The reports offer tips about water usage and how households can be more efficient. In addition, the reports increase customer engagement and satisfaction and the data analytics improve utility efficiency.

As a SUNY Plattsburgh student, she majored in environmental science and minored in applied geographic information systems and business.

She chose Plattsburgh for its location, small class sizes and accessible faculty.

Lasting Connections with Faculty

As a high school student in Binghamton, N.Y., Strauss looked at several colleges in her search, including many private institutions in the northeast.

“I liked that Plattsburgh offered relatively small class sizes relative to the other colleges I was looking at,” she said.

The turning point came a couple weeks after visiting SUNY Plattsburgh during Scholars Weekend.

Dr. Robert Fuller, professor and chair of the environmental science department, called to check and see if she had any further questions about the department or the college.

“It was that personal phone call that put me over the edge and made me come to Plattsburgh,” Strauss said. She figured if the professors cared enough to give special attention to young people who weren’t matriculated students, the faculty would provide an exceptional learning environment for their own students.

That proved true.

Strauss made lasting connections with her professors at SUNY Plattsburgh and they continue to stay in touch.

“All the professors I met at Plattsburgh were really passionate about teaching and being involved with the students,” she said. “There is this unique opportunity to get to know them on a personal level.”

Standout Student

Fuller said Strauss is among the best students he has worked with in his 30 years teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh.

“She was laser-focused on learning and getting as much out of her educational experience as possible,” Fuller said. “Even as a student, she set goals and accomplished them in a professional manner.”

Dr. Danielle Garneau, associate professor of environmental science, remembers Strauss as a dedicated researcher and campus advocate for the environment.

“She had total command of the material because she was so interested in it,” Garneau said.

Not only was Strauss a talented researcher, but an exceptional writer as well.

“Her writing was tremendous. I still to this day use her essay as a sample (for students),” she said. “She was just that good.”

Leader on Campus

Strauss was immersed in the environmental movement on campus.

She was president of the Earth and Environmental Science Club, vice president of the Environmental Action Committee, and chair of the Biodiesel Working Group, a project in which waste vegetable oil was converted to biodiesel fuel to help power campus lawnmowers.

She served as a member of Ducks Unlimited and the Campus Committee for Environmental Responsibility, which uses the student green fee to promote sustainability projects at SUNY Plattsburgh.

As an admissions tour guide, Strauss shared her love of Plattsburgh with prospective students.

“I thought the campus was beautiful,” she said.

And in her free time, she enjoyed the recreational offerings around Lake Champlain and in the Adirondack Park.

Applied Learning Experiences

Along with the semester-long SUNY Plattsburgh Applied Environmental Science Program at Miner Institute, Strauss completed four internships: one with the Adirondack Park Agency, one with the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services and two internships with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

For all her efforts and success, Strauss was recognized her senior year with the prestigious 2010 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence.

She graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh a semester early in December 2009 and interned at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s central New York office before starting graduate school at Cornell University.

As a graduate student, she interned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

She graduated with a master’s in public administration with a focus in environmental policy in 2012, an election year. The political uncertainty made it difficult to secure a government job in Washington D.C., so Strauss set her sights on the western U.S., eventually settling in San Francisco.

Collaborative Work Skills

Strauss has been working for WaterSmart Software for more than three years.

“With a startup, everything is very fast-paced and pretty urgent. All of the work that I do is really meaningful and I have an opportunity to make a change in the organization,” Strauss said.

The experience she gained as a Plattsburgh student continues to inform her work.

“We just work in teams constantly and everything we do is very collaborative. I feel like the research opportunities and the field work opportunities I got at Plattsburgh really prepared me to for that,” she said.

“I can’t really say enough good things about Plattsburgh. I really loved going to school there.”

Strauss lives on a sailboat with her boyfriend, Philippe, and their dog, Yuki.

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