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“Rutgers is a fountain of resources for academic, professional, and personal growth, but it takes work to tap into that fountain.” –Gavin Wagner 

As an environmental engineering major Gavin Wagner enjoyed research opportunities that involved studying historical streams in the Lower Raritan Watershed, long-term vegetation changes in the southwestern United States, and a remote study of extreme climate events in Antarctica. He reports that “Research taught me how to question everything, a skill I continue to practice.” 

White college student sits in a red wing chair. He is wearing a beanie cap and a dark blue jacket, holding a coffee cup.

Why Rutgers? 

When I first visited Rutgers, I immediately felt the support of a positive community of faculty and staff.  

What drew you to your major? 

I could never stand shutting myself off from any academic discipline. As I surveyed majors, I found that environmental engineering  ran the broadest gamut: biology, physics, chemistry, Earth sciences, and more.  

Do you have a favorite faculty member or class? 

Each class and faculty member was crucial. The best classes taught me my strokes, and the best mentors threw me into turbulent waters. As I near the degree that’s on the shore, I’m convinced that I would have drowned a long time ago if I hadn’t valued every class or cherished every mentor. 

Have you had any internships? 

The most important part of my academic experience is that I haven’t done an internship. I used my summers to do things outside of engineering, honing my human portfolio of interpersonal, creative, and physical skills. Internships are certainly beneficial, but not for everyone. 

What about extracurriculars? 

My first year on campus, I got some people together and started an unofficial green team to take care of the Honors College’s indoor plants. When we all went home during the pandemic, I started writing for the Honors College blog. I returned to campus as a mentor-in-residence for first-year Honors College students and hosted programs to help people feel as at home as I do at Rutgers.  

Have you overcome any particular challenges as a student? 

I failed my first exam in Analytical Physics 1A. I called my dad, cried, and considered quitting. It was an essential ego check and I’m glad it happened early. I think everyone should fail an exam or get an F at some point. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I’m taking a year off to spend time with my family, walk in the woods, and climb mountains. In the fall of 2025, I aim to enroll at the University of New Mexico to work towards a MS in biology.  

What will you miss most about Rutgers Engineering? 

I will miss the kind person in the Busch dining hall who always opened the salad bar early so I could have black beans with my omelet. 

What advice do you have for future students? 

Talk to everyone. Soon, it will get easier. It’s easy to get lost, but there are people here who genuinely care about helping you find your way.