By Brian Reinhart
“I had my midlife crisis at age 18.” Tyler Huynh is so young, and so quick to smile, that his claim is hard to believe. But, as his high school years ended, he didn’t know what to do next. “I felt really lost. I couldn’t find my passion.”
He found that passion at North Lake College. Over two years at NLC, Tyler Huynh recovered his sense of purpose and set himself on a career path. This May, Huynh graduated with an associate of science degree, a concentration in sustainability studies, and plans to study environmental engineering at Southern Methodist University in the fall.
When Huynh arrived at NLC, he considered studying business. “I thought I would help people invest in their dreams.” He’s still passionate about the subject, but he quickly found that “the environment spoke to me more. I realized I wanted to help people from a humanitarian angle.”
Environmental engineering is a challenging, growing field. “It’s about making things more efficient,” Huynh explains, “getting more from less resources.” At North Lake, he was able to take science courses, participate in the student-led
Green Club, join the Phi Theta Kappa
honor society, and acquire a concentration in sustainability studies. NLC’s is the
first such concentration offered by any community college, and sustainability students receive a special green cord to wear at the graduation ceremony.
In addition to being well-rounded, with courses in nearly every subject the college offers, the green concentration focuses on practical applications. Huynh says, “I feel like it does open your eyes to events that are happening—real-life environmental events. It gives you more of a real-world aspect of what you’re studying.”
Huynh got more experience as an intern to Brandon Morton, the college’s sustainability coordinator. “Brandon said to ‘be the sponge,’ absorbing knowledge,” Huynh says of his internship. Aside from career mentorship, the job involved compiling and presenting data, attending policy meetings, assisting and job-shadowing Morton, and learning how to write grant proposals.
Ask Tyler what he wants to do next, and he may not have a clear answer. He’s bursting with different ideas: “Maybe environmental consulting?” Inventing some kind of engineering solution? Perhaps oceanography or hydrology: “Fresh water is the next big resource; I think it’s the next oil.” They’re all subjects he can pursue this fall at SMU. Ultimately, he says, “I just want to help people.”
As he prepares to transfer to SMU, Tyler Huynh reflects on his “midlife crisis” and is thankful for the path he took as a result. “North Lake gave me an opportunity to really find myself.” Armed with a degree and internship experience, he looks forward to making a big impact in his chosen subject. As he puts it, an environmentalist “can literally save the world.”