Years of soul-searching paid off for 26-year-old Alexander Thompson, an Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) student who was recently awarded not one but two scholarships from the Magothy River Association (MRA). After earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology, Thompson discovered an important piece of the puzzle that unexpectedly landed him back in the Chesapeake Bay area pursuing an associate’s degree in engineering.
In May 2016, Thompson graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology. Eager to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Chesapeake Bay, Thompson immediately began volunteering with West and Rhode Riverkeeper, Koolhof Earth, and Coastal Resources Inc. His broad experiences nurtured his appreciation for the world’s natural resources and gave him to a deeper understanding of current events.
“I am definitely very concerned about climate change and a lot of the things that are going on in the world,” explained Thompson, “and I don’t want to see the ecosystem that I have studied disappear.”
As Thompson thrived, one discipline in particular unexpectedly turned his head and his focus to a specialized role. Stormwater management confronts a modern challenge by combining his background in environmental biology with the seemingly unrelated studies of engineering.
“I knew about certain things that people were doing to manage stormwater,” Thompson elaborated, “but I didn’t really know about it as its own field until I was working with Coastal Resources.”
Stormwater management applies engineering principles to navigate accumulating runoff water effectively, thereby reducing the threat of flooding. Furthermore, because stormwater is also collecting pollutants from its surface as it runs off, the navigated water can then be met with other planned management practices — rain gardens, tree planting, conservation landscaping — that help naturally “treat” polluted runoff water before finding its way into local streams.
Thompson’s passion for stormwater management and stream restoration was solidified in fall 2018 through his participation with the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA). Concurrently, he began coursework at AACC, where he met Dr. Susan Lamont, biology department professor. Lamont notified Thompson of the MRA scholarships.
“I think what made him especially strong as a student was he knew exactly how what he was learning would fit into what he wanted to do next,” Lamont shared.
The criteria for MRA scholarships include academic and volunteer work in environmental science, a 2.0 GPA, and an essay explaining the applicant’s passion and why they’re a good candidate. Dr. Sally Hornor, vice president of MRA, supported the decision to award Thompson with the Jim Gutman and the E. Gordon Riley MRA scholarships.
“[Alexander] had an excellent history of volunteer work,” Hornor shared. “He has a degree in environmental science, and he wrote a great essay. He checked all the boxes really well.”
Thompson’s goal is to qualify for a master’s degree program in engineering, something his bachelor’s degree in environmental biology alone does not do. Hence, his interest in establishing his knowledge of engineering via an associate’s degree at AACC and later apply for a master’s degree program. With a deep appreciation for scientific knowledge, Thompson hopes to help preserve the sustainability and habitability of the planet for the global population.