A Dual Degree Set Her Apart

USF’s Master’s in Science, Environmental Management and Master’s in Business Administration dual degree helped Justine Bui’ 20 find her way.

by Sara Rinaldi, Assistant Director, Development Communications

Bui recalls taking an AP environmental science class in high school and admiring her impassioned teacher as they talked about climate change and how the earth was being threatened. In her time as an undergrad, she got more involved in organizations that focused on environmental activism. She found herself “being with people in the field that were really smart and really passionate. I realized I was excited about what I was learning and the people I was surrounded by.”

With sustainability being such a large field, Bui knew she needed to go deeper, and with a minor in business as an undergrad, she looked at environmental management programs. Living in the city and loving it, she looked for a way to extend her time in San Francisco. “When I saw USF offered a dual degree in a Master’s of Science in Environmental Science (MSEM) and an MBA, it was the natural choice,” she said, “there was a lot more that I could learn, and it would only further the work that I wanted to do in the environmental field.”

Finding Her Style in the Workplace

The dual degree of an MSEM and MBA helped Bui hone down her skills quickly. With course offerings on sustainable buildings, sustainability in the future, and social entrepreneurship classes, Bui found that she wasn’t burnt out by the content.

As she deepened her knowledge in environmental management, the MBA program helped her start to understand how she liked to work. A leadership class with Dr. Kathy Kane made Bui realize she enjoyed creating the infrastructure in projects.

Bui said, “In group projects, I was always saying, ‘let’s establish a timeline, check the list, and assign roles.’ I like creating tools and setting up spaces for projects to be implemented. I’m very detail oriented, I like to think through processes and see things in a top down kind of way. ‘What's the big picture and what can we do to make things happen?”

With the MBA, Bui began to feel the business part becoming a better fit for her personality. Today, Bui is helping lead a multiple stakeholder and ambitious project funded by the California Energy Commission to build a climate data platform.

A Dual Degree Set Her Apart

USF’s master’s program’s smaller class structures led to Bui getting the experience of building relationships with professors where she could have conversations and bounce ideas off of them. Bui built a network that she hadn't tapped into previously, and through small class instructions, she was able to build relationships with professors in the field she wanted to be in, and that access led to her next step.

When Bui decided to pursue a Geographic Information System certificate program, she was introduced to Professor David Saah, PhD. She grew to become Dr. Saah’s mentee, and also his teacher’s assistant.

“Deciding to do that certificate program changed the trajectory of my career. I loved the work Professor David Saah was doing, and he saw my enthusiasm and set me up for it.”

Bui credits her MBA degree as the defining factor that differentiated her from other candidates who had environmental management backgrounds. “A lot of people in the environmental field have a scientific degree, but doing the dual degree program gave me more of an edge. USF a hundred percent helped me get to where I am now.”

Looking to the future, Bui doesn’t know what her big dreams and goals might look like, but she knows that as long as she is working on climate change solutions and contributing to useful technology, she’ll be happy.

Support ambitious alumni like Justine Bui ‘20 who are working to change our world, consider making a gift to the Changing the World From Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.