MSEM Student Winfred Mudong Inspired by Pacific Island Home to Become “Foot Soldier in Fight Against Climate Change”

I’ve been living here in the US for the past 20 years and 10 months; 20 of those years I spent serving in the U.S. Military. The past 10 months were a fresh start for me and my family as we began a new life outside of the military community for the first time. We went through the same routine just as we’ve done every two or three years when we were ordered to move to a new location: finding a new place to live, new schools, doctors, dentists, jobs, friends, etc. I met many people from many walks of life within the past few years and people usually ask me where I’m from followed by, “Where in the world is that?”

I am from the Island of Pohnpei, one of many islands in the Pacific. The island landmass is about 133 square miles with a population of about 35,000. Growing up in an environment where food and food sources come from the land and the ocean gives you the sense of connection and respect to what we consider our source of life. I grew up in a large family in a small community where everyone knows each other and our livelihoods are connected to everyone.

I always plan on going back to Pohnpei, where I still call home, after my service in the military. Towards the end of my service, I started researching how I can return as a productive citizen and contribute to the local community that helped shape who I am today. What concerned me the most when I started looking into local issues was the fact that the Pacific islanders are currently fighting to maintain the life I knew growing up and the only way of life they knew, which is on the verge of disappearing due to the impact of climate change. I started studying Environmental Management and Sustainability because I felt that my next mission after my military service was to join those who are now fighting the battle to sustain, maintain, and prevent the only livelihood they know.

I started working on my undergraduate degree while I was still an active duty soldier. I finally completed my degree in Environmental Management from the University of Maryland University College four months after I completed my military service. I am doing a total and complete career change as I was in the combat field while in the military service and that is what led me to St. Edward’s University. I was given a great opportunity here at St. Edward’s to study in their Masters of Environmental Management and Sustainability graduate program that I truly believe that will equip me with the knowledge, skills, and tools that I need be a great asset, a productive member, and a foot soldier in the fight against the impacts of climate change in the pacific.

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