Math Fellow Jessica Mkitarian shares passion for environment


Photo credit: Allie Worchell

Jessica Mkitarian, a seventh grade math fellow, poses for a photo during Archer’s annual Spirit Week. She was dressed up for Spirit Week’s Workout Wednesday.

It is 7:50 in the morning, and Jessica Mikitarian, a seventh grade math fellow, is in her math classroom ready to teach her students. The walls are filled with red, yellow, and purple posters. Math projects, numbers and assignments fill the space, and students sit at their desks ready for the math class to begin.

Mikitarian, who grew up in Los Angeles, joined the Archer faculty this year. She comes with an interest in girls’ education and environmental change.

She attended Santa Monica High School and then continued her education at Boston University, where she majored in Economics and minored in Environmental Policy and Analysis.

Environmental Policy was a field born in the 1960’s with inspiration from Rachel Carsons “Silent Spring. The field was created to minimize toxins and pollutants in daily life and to help to create legislation against harmful pollutants.

Mkitarian said she enjoyed Economics, but found it too abstract. She said it did not fully make sense to her until she learned more about the environment and the world around her.

“I actually took [an Environmental Policy] class that I remember being a turning point. It was ‘Environmentally Sustainable Development,'” Mkitarian said. “We talked about the environment, economics, globalization and environmental impacts and how [they] affects people. That really sparked a passion [in me].”

During her junior year of college, Mkitarian studied abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia, where she had an internship at Greening Australia.

According to their website, Greening Australia is a non-profit that works on “major programs that bring life to landscapes and restore balance to the natural environment in significant areas across Australia.” They do this by educating communities and employing  volunteers and staff that tackle wide-scale conservation.

After graduation, Mkitarian came back home to Los Angeles where she completed internships for the next three years until she decided to go back to school to study the environment at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

After graduating from the UCSB, Mkitarian worked for Santa Barbara’s Department of Public Works.

“I was working in public marketing and outreach education with their conservation program, so doing a lot of outreach for the drought,” Mkitarian said. “[The drought] was really terrible there. I would go into schools and do presentations on the water cycle and conservation.”

Mkitarian says she is “passionate” about promoting STEM for young women, which is what brought her to Archer. 

Along with being a seventh-grade math fellow, Mkitarian is also an adviser for Archer’s Sustainability Council; she oversees and mentors the water group. According to Mkitarian, the group looks for ways to mitigate water use and to make water more sustainable on campus. 

“[The water group is currently] working on some fun stuff for Earth Day. We want people to think of their water use a little more critically because it is so easy to not analyze how much water you use when its not right in front of you,” she said.

Although STEM fields may be difficult, Mkitarian said they are important to pursue nonetheless. 

“I know math is such a struggle,” Mkitarian said, “It’s so important to teach girls, especially in middle school, that they can understand it and [to] help them see their abilities.”