Dan Rukakoski: 39
Senior Environmental Scientist, Tighe & Bond
As a first-year student at UConn working toward a degree in business, Dan Rukakoski said he had a moment of insight into his future.
“I got to thinking about what I was studying for,” he remembered, “and I asked myself, ‘do I want to be sitting at a desk my entire life?’ So I took a look at my own values and interests to see what I could do that would ultimately keep me from burning out on a career.”
This exercise in introspection led to a profound change of course into natural-resources management. Straight out of college, he took a job with TRC, an environmental-engineering firm in Connecticut, and there he fine-tuned his environmental-science background into the field of wetlands management. When the opportunity arose to move to Westfield-based Tighe & Bond to become a wetlands scientist, he dove right in. In the five years that he’s been there, Rukakoski has quickly risen to the position of manager for Wetlands and Ecological Management Services.
The president of Tighe & Bond credits him as a key contributor to the company’s development in areas of complicated environmental permitting. But others are also happy he made that move to Western Mass. A resident of Southampton, he’s been a member of that town’s Conservation Commission, and is currently consulting on the Greenway Committee in town on efforts to transform and link an old rail spur into the network of bike paths across the region.
But that memory of the student who was unsure of his future also informs his daily life, and Rukakoski is an active speaker in sophomore Environmental Science seminars at UMass Amherst on the employment marketplace for graduates in the field. “I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated,” he said. “Those options weren’t laid out to me. The seminar is an opportunity to let students know what they could be doing right now to ready themselves for the workforce marketplace.”
In other words, he’s helping the next generation to get their feet wet — literally and figuratively.
— Dan Chase