Bridging a Passion for People, Places, and the Environment: SBS Outstanding Senior Catherine Broski, ‘24

May 3, 2024
Woman in graduation dress and sandals sits on a brick wall with flowers behind her

Catherine Broski — an Honors student who is graduating from the University of Arizona with a 4.0 GPA in Sociology and Geography, with a minor in Spanish — is the recipient of the SBS Outstanding Senior Award for spring 2024. The award is given to a graduating senior from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a record of outstanding achievement, a history of active citizenship on campus and/or in the community, and a demonstrated capacity for leadership.

"Ms. Broski exemplifies the community-engaged scholar that combines intellectual brilliance with an altruistic commitment to enriching the world around her," wrote Brian Mayer, director of the School of Sociology and Catherine’s thesis advisor. 
"I’m still in a bit of shock about receiving this award,” said Catherine. “I’m certainly feeling very humbled to be recognized and to be given the opportunity to speak in front of my fellow graduates and their families.” 

She noted her gratitude to the faculty in both sociology and geography who helped make her successes possible: "Brian Mayer and Erin Heinz have been incredible mentors to me over the past several years. In SGDE, Adriana Zuniga has been a role model for community-engaged research."

Catherine — a National Merit Finalist, an Arizona Flinn Scholar, Arizona Ambassador, and one of nine inaugural Mo’s Policy Scholars — chose to double major in sociology and geography after taking Professor Jason Jurjevich’s Population Geography class, which was cross-listed with both fields. Her dual majors have empowered her to integrate spatial concepts with ideas about the environment, natural resources, and demography, while also equipping her with a strong social sciences skill set — both fostering creativity and vision in her studies and research.
For her Honors thesis and combined work as a research fellow with the Tucson Prosperity Project, Catherine researched policy opportunities to empower renters to participate in green energy opportunities, demonstrating her ability to blend environmental policy with social justice.

"Bringing her empathy and concern for others, particularly the socially vulnerable, Ms. Broski developed an excellent proposal for policies that would empower the otherwise forgotten households in this policy arena,” wrote Mayer.

"The work and experience of the Poverty Project has taught me a great deal of humility and served as an entry point for learning about the greater Tucson area,” said Catherine.

"It was really important to me to treat the subject matter with respect and sensitivity," Catherine added. "I was getting a window into the lives of strangers who were opening up to me in vulnerable ways by sharing their experiences with poverty and eviction.”

The Bio/Diversity Project, focused on the Sonoran Desert, uses an environmental justice lens to facilitate hands-on, place-based, and culturally responsive environmental science lessons and inquiry-based action projects for middle school students."

For over two years, Catherine has served as an intern and lead mentor, where she developed course content and strategies for college interns as they taught over 300 6-12th grade students per semester. She managed first-time interns on lesson planning and teaching strategies, drawing on her experience of developing and teaching weekly environmental science lessons over the course of two semesters.

“It has been one of the most formative professional experiences I have had while a student,” said Catherine.
“She is inquisitive, reflective, articulate, and the best version of herself,” said Elena Greenberg, program coordinator for the Women and Science in Engineering program. “She is a great outreach educator and worked to make sure that her students had a positive experience with science and with college students. Catherine worked extremely well in a team and is a phenomenal communicator. She served as an intelligent, ambitious, kind, and generous role model for her 6th grade students.”

Catherine’s interest in people, places, and the environment will show up even in her post-graduation vacation plans. She will spend two weeks visiting Norway and Denmark, primarily so she can see how these cultures incorporate the practices of “walkable cities, urban sustainability, and local food systems.”  After that, she is moving to San Diego to pursue a career in housing, energy, and/or water policy. 

Catherine is excited to take the knowledge and experience she has gained and press it into service. After attending a Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at UC Berkeley last summer, she realized the wisdom in working before going to graduate school.
“I'm ready to examine how the systems I've been learning about in the classroom play out in the real world, and … learning more about who I am beyond my identity as a student. I'll be trading the desert for the ocean, and I'm energized by the idea of meeting new people and learning the history of human-environment interactions in a new place.”