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“My work now is really a natural evolution from studying geology at Lafayette,” says Jacki Wilkins ’77, senior project manager for environmental review and permitting for MassPort’s Aviation and Planning department in Boston. “After I graduated, I immediately began working for a number of state agencies dealing with new environmental regulations and policy.” Since that point, she hasn’t looked back, making time for graduate school, children, and private sector employment along the way.

Wilkins oversees projects related to Logan Airport, two regional airports, Tobin Bridge, and the Port of Boston. At Logan, she and her team have made a 15-year commitment to maintain nitrogen oxide, an air pollutant, at or below levels that existed in 1999. This voluntary initiative is becoming increasingly difficult because as aircraft engines are designed to decrease noise emissions, their nitrogen oxide emissions increase. While noise impacts have been a primary concern to nearby communities for some time, air quality is fast becoming the new issue.

“This is a cutting-edge initiative — we have developed a program that examines how and where we can offset the emissions from aircraft through other sources at the facility and possibly by the purchasing and retiring of emissions credits,” explains Wilkins. “It’s a commitment to minimize both public health impacts and the overall global warming effect of operating the airport.”

Wilkins also is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a multi-year study of deepening Boston Harbor to accommodate bigger container ships. It will determine how deep the harbor must be dredged for the port to remain competitive in the shipping industry. It will include an assessment of environmental impacts of the dredging and disposal of up to six million cubic yards of excavated material.

Lafayette played a major role in preparing her for her career, she says. “I had to work hard while at Lafayette, at both academics and several part-time and summer jobs, which on the whole taught me accountability,” Wilkins explains. “My adviser Guy Hovis (John Markle Professor of Geology), his predecessor, Richard Faas, and the close community within the geology department were particularly nurturing and helped me develop the necessary confidence that I’ve been able to use in my career.”

While Wilkins says that adjusting to the focus of her agency on increased security concerns since Sept. 11 has been one of the big challenges of her job, she finds it all worthwhile when she can help others and fulfill their needs.

“There is a community benefit to my position that I find very gratifying,” she says. “By the nature of my work, I have to interact with other departments within my agency as well as with other agencies who regulate us and the public at large. Addressing the agency’s needs as well as the concerns of people who live near an airport, environmental regulators, and other involved groups, and finding common ground among all those perspectives is really rewarding. I’m happy when I’ve communicated effectively among all parties.”

The Women’s Transportation Seminar recently selected Wilkins to attend the third annual Leadership Initiative Professional Development Program, a four-day, comprehensive seminar held last February at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. The program, which selects those who demonstrate strong leadership potential, enrolled only 14 women from the entire country. It focused on leadership self-assessment and discussion of transportation policy with national leaders in the field.

Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Boston Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, Wilkins is co-chair of the Program Committee for the WTS National Conference, which will be hosted by the Boston chapter May 14-16. She also serves on the Massachusetts Congressional Task Force as an environmental representative, working for reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act, which provides state funding for various transportation projects. Wilkins recently served as an Environmental Task Force co-chair for the Massachusetts Government Appointment Project, an effort to assist the newly elected governor in reaching a placement goal of 50 percent for women in high-level state government positions. The group organized a binder of qualified women’s resumés for various positions and shared it with the new administration. MGAP plans to monitor the administration’s effectiveness in reaching its goal.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles