Expand AU Menu

Gary Belan — GEP 2003

Gary Belan — 2003
While at AU:

My time in the GEP program at American was incredibly rewarding. My undergraduate degree is in Civil Engineering but what I really wanted to do was environmental advocacy. The GEP program gave me this opportunity, and the courses complemented me perfectly - the combination of environmental science and environmental law classes gave me a firm foundation, while classes on the environment in international development broadened my horizons. There were numerous opportunities and classes that allowed me to learn about the dynamics behind the modern environmental movement - including visiting and meeting with organizations and people active in the field. Because the program was based in the School of International Service, I had lots of opportunities to socialize with students from other countries and learn more about global environmental issues. It also allowed me to meet my wife, who was also working on her degree at AU.

Since graduating: 

I joined American Rivers, an environmental non-profit in 2003, shortly after graduating. I started in a fellowship program, but this transitioned into a full time job after about 6 months. I have been here for 10 years now, but now am the Director of our Clean Water program, and am the technical advisor for our stormwater and green infrastructure work. It turns out that my GEP degree complemented my Civil Engineering degree perfectly. I work with cities to implement a combination of engineering and policy changes that will improve their water management and water quality in our nation's rivers. As such, I am proud to have played a role these past 10 years in the growing use of green infrastructure and the development of the field of urban sustainability. Now my organization is one of the non-profit leaders in these fields. I credit my time and degree at AU with giving me the foundation I needed to become and environmental advocate, and making a real difference in the world.

Ashley Brosius — NRSD 2011

Ashley Brosius — NRSD 2011
While at AU:

There was a big emphasis on networking, which was a new concept to me coming from a small community in South Carolina. I appreciated the resources available to us as graduate students from faculty of the GEP/NRSD program and the Career Center. We were encouraged to join many listservs and attend symposiums and talks on topics related to our interests, which allowed ample networking opportunities. One of the best ways the GEP/NRSD program facilitated networking was through the spring Washington Environmental Workshop where students visit private, non-profit, and governmental organizations and agencies to learn about their programs and career opportunities.

Since graduating: 

After graduating from American, I was privileged to participate in a NOAA-funded climate science research program at the University of South Carolina, working as the Climate Outreach Specialist for Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments. I also served on a Steering Committee for a Carolinas pilot project on drought and coastal ecosystems with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Then I served on a planning team to conduct a Southeast and Caribbean workshop on integrating climate impacts with hazard planning and management strategies led by NOAA's Southeast and Caribbean Regional Team (SECART). I was then selected as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow with the Global Methane Initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency, where I helped administer the international grants program as well as plan the 2013 Methane Expo for more than 600 participants from our 42 Partner governments (globalmethane.org/expo). I was next awarded an ORISE fellowship with the EPA's Climate Ready Estuaries Program in the Office of Water. This work aligns most closely with the passions I developed while at AU through both theoretical study as well as practical application in Costa Rica at the University for Peace. My internship focused on capacity building workshops a rural community in Nicaragua that is in danger of being displaced by climate change. This fellowship will allow me to continue the work first spurred by my time with AU.

Rory McIlmoil — GEP 2007

While at AU:

With a bachelor's degree in earth and environmental sciences, I came to AU for an MA degree to add critical policy skills to my professional toolkit. At American, I got the chance to explore the economics and politics of environmental issues. The experience laid the foundation for my subsequent work at community and regional scales. Building on my science background, the GEP degree equipped me to better analyze and present scientific and economic data relevant to environmental policy and energy development.

Since graduating: 

I've spent most of my time working in research, analysis and advocacy around energy and mining issues in Appalachia. For several years, I worked for a West Virginia-based environmental consulting company, Downstream Strategies, working on everything from energy policy to community energy planning for a variety of clients including non-profit organizations, local and state governments, federal agencies, and universities. Recently, I took over a new job with the environmental non-profit Appalachian Voices, leading their new Energy Savings for Appalachia initiative. Our goal is to promote energy-savings through rural electric cooperatives located in the Southeast.

Ma Tianjie — GEP 2009

Ma Tianjie -- GEP 2007
While at AU:

I benefited from the GEP program's structured approach to the environmental challenges we face today. During my two years at AU, I took courses in environmental science, environmental law, environmental economics, developmental studies, and others. These are all integral parts of the mental compass that helps me navigate complicated issues such as climate change, pollution prevention or forest protection. As a practitioner of environmental advocacy, I always need to be able to quickly grasp an issue and make strategic decisions. The structured and wide-ranging understanding I acquired at AU reduces my "blind spots" in such moments of judgement. For that I appreciate my years in the GEP program.

Since graduating:

I have worked as the head of the Toxics Campaign at Greenpeace East Asia. I lead a team of eight campaigners who are constantly patrolling China's polluted sites and pushing for positive changes in the country that will reduce and ultimately eliminate toxic chemicals in the environment. I also attended the Rockwood Art of Leadership seminar in 2012.

Olimar Maisonet-Guzman — GEP 2012

Olimar Maisonet-Guzman — GEP 2012
While at AU:

My GEP studies focused on water and energy policy. I further developed my skill-set through internships and fellowships, particularly as a Truman-Albright Fellow at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science. There, I saw how textbook theories of mulitateral and bilateral environmental cooperation became reality. In addition, I was a part of the first GEP practicum team, which assessed U.S. global water strategy and provided a set of recommendations to the U.S. Interagency Water Working Group. I also spent a year in Brazil as a Boren Fellow researching policy challenges associated with the implementation of the water and energy nexus in the Amazon. The mentoring relationships I developed with AU faculty exposed me to the international research community and opened doors that allowed me to develop and present my own research.

Since graduating: 

I have participated in sustainable development conferences including Rio+20, UN Commission for Sustainable Development, World Water Week and the Clinton Global Initiative as a speaker and expert on youth and water issues. I am part of the Water-Energy Nexus Young Scientists Advisory Panel hosted by the German Government. My research has been featured in publications by UN-Water and UNDP, especially in relation to the Rio+20 Water Guide that I created. I currently work at IREX, a development non-profit that works to increase access to technology for health, agriculture, and education. Recently, I also passed my examination as an Economic Officer with the US Foreign Service.

Adam Norikane — NRSD 2007

Adam Norikane — NRSD 2007
While at AU:

This program was a great next step after my Peace Corps experience in Senegal where I was an agroforestry volunteer and where I remember seeing an ad for AU's program in a magazine and saying 'That's where I want to study!' Three years later I found myself at in the NRSD program, where I was exposed to a broad range of development issues both at the conceptual and practical levels. In considering graduate schools, I wanted an education that was as close as possible to the work that I would be doing in the future – sustainable development. This program fit the bill in that it had high caliber instructors and germane topics, while also affording the students access to classmates from around the world and projects and practitioners in Latin America. My summer work study, for example, was spent in Guatemala, where I worked on forest management issues with a seasoned conservation organization.

Since graduating:

Since the program, I have been able to work on a variety of issues. I was selected as a Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellow, where I worked with NGOs on youth agriculture programming in Zambia, before returning to Washington, DC to work on food security policy. My graduate studies helped prepare me for my work in Liberia empowering forest communities and in South Sudan working on business skills for farmers. Since 2010, I have worked with USAID on food security, initially providing emergency food assistance to places such as Haiti and Somalia, following the devastating earthquake and famine declaration, respectively. More recently, I have entered the U.S. Foreign Service as an agriculture officer, serving in Bangladesh, where I am working on President Obama's Feed the Future initiative, our development food aid programs and other initiatives intended to help women and men farmers.

Morgan Pitts — NRSD 2012

Morgan Pitts — NRSD 2012
While at AU:

I studied sustainable economic development in rural areas, focusing on rural areas in the eastern United States. NRSD was an excellent program to explore these interests. Spending a year in Latin America gave me an excellent context for understanding Dependency Theory; an internship in China for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was a very interesting juxtaposition. This ultimately fostered my interest in researching ways that rural areas can better retain capital and thus promote sustainable economic development in an era of economic recession, deregulation and globalization.

Since graduating:

I went to work for Enviva LP, a producer of sustainable solid biomass fuel, selling primarily to energy utilities in the US and Europe. The fuel we produce can be substituted for coal in conventional power plants which results in a 91% reduction in CO2 emissions and eliminates mercury, lead and other toxics associated with coal. This fuel is produced in rural areas, primarily in the Southeast, that were hard hit by the recession. This provides jobs and a valuable revenue stream to landowners who, with the recession and decline of forest products industry, might turn to other strategies to generate revenue from their land such as converting to agriculture or selling to real estate developers. As the Public Relations and Communications Manager, I liaise with civil society groups – civic leagues, community groups, economic development commissions and NGOs – throughout the Southeast, ensuring that Enviva gives back to the communities where we work. I also develop communication strategies across a variety of mediums to promote wood biomass as a renewable energy alternative in front of audiences ranging from community groups, policy makers from the US and abroad and US and international business leaders.

Nina Rinnerberger — GEP 2008

While at AU:

One of the most rewarding aspects of the GEP Program was the close interaction with faculty members, who were able to offer a wealth of experience and always stood ready to provide professional guidance and advice. Being from Austria, I was looking for a graduate program that attracted students from diverse backgrounds, offered small classes and allowed flexibility in designing the curriculum. The GEP Program offered all of that, in addition to a sense of community and the opportunity to network with key experts in the environmental field in Washington, D.C.

Since graduating:

I worked as a policy advisor for climate and energy in the German Embassy's economic department in Washington. In this role, I was part of a team responsible for project development and implementation of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, a government initiative to share Germany’s experience on low-carbon development and renewable energy with U.S. counterparts. I also served as congressional liaison to analyze U.S. policy developments on climate change legislation.

In 2010, I joined the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Department in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region, serving 30 extremely diverse nations, with a population of nearly 500 million people. Many of these countries already face significant threats from climate change and suffer from an adaptation deficit even in their current climate. Mainstreaming climate adaptation — that is, integrating climate risk and resilience into ECA's development planning and implementation — is therefore an important aspect of my work as a Climate Change Specialist. Additionally, I focus on sustainable forest governance, management and protection as part of the EU-funded program for “Improving Forest Law Enforcement and Governance” (jointly implemented with two NGOs: IUCN and WWF) and several carbon finance operations under the Kyoto Protocol’s Joint Implementation and Green Investment Scheme mechanism (e.g. landfill gas to energy in Latvia, energy efficiency in Poland and the Czech Republic).

Anne Toomey — NRSD 2008

Anne Toomey
While at AU:

As a student who worked with non-profits in Latin America for several years before beginning my graduate studies, the practical focus of the NRSD program helped me to draw on my personal experiences while learning from current theories and trends in sustainable development. In my second year I received an EPA STAR fellowship to carry out a participatory research project in an ecological buffer zone in Nicaragua, which involved working closely with women, youth, and farmer groups in order to identify pathways to sustainability from within the community. Conducting this research for my MA thesis enabled me to directly test new ideas and concepts learned through coursework, and made me realize that I wanted to stay in academia as a researcher.

Since graduating:

After leaving AU, I returned to New York where I worked on a book based on my experiences in Nicaragua, at the same time continuing to do research. In 2009 and 2010, I coordinated and facilitated environmental science research expeditions to conduct baseline studies of wildlife in the New York metropolitan region funded by the Earthwatch Institute, and helped start a research project to study the arrival of the eastern coyote to New York City. I also worked with the American Museum of Natural History to develop the content for a workshop on engaging the public in scientific research, which connected me to an international network of researchers and practitioners working to make science more relevant to conservation. Currently, I am undertaking department-funded doctoral research at the Lancaster Environmental Centre in the UK. My dissertation research aims to enable spaces for the sharing of knowledge and ideas between scientists and indigenous communities in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – Madidi National Park, Bolivia – with the ultimate goal of working together to find strategies for environmental and cultural conservation. My research blog can be accessed here: communitysciencebolivia.blogspot.co.uk

Larke Williams — GEP 2009

Larke Williams — GEP 2009
While at AU:

Classes in my first semester about environmental policy and environmental security helped prepare me to win a Boren Fellowship that funded Chinese language study and environmental governance research in Beijing. I also worked as an intern at the Department of
Commerce and learned about the intersection of climate change and financial services; for example, I saw firsthand how the insurance industry views climate change. The university also provided numerous other opportunities for networking. I served on the graduate student council (representing the Global Environmental Politics program in student government) and a faculty search committee (helping to interview and select new professors for the program). Getting to know my professors and other students outside the classroom offered new perspectives and constantly challenged what I thought about environmentalism and policy, expanding my own understanding of challenges we face across the globe.

Since graduating:

I joined the Environmental Protection Agency in July 2010 as an ORISE intern in the Office of Air and Radiation, developing regulations for carbon capture and sequestration. This provided a great introduction to a federal government career. I was hired permanently as an environmental engineer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development in December 2010. Combining my engineering and policy backgrounds, I review the science in air pollution
regulations and work with an intra-agency working group in developing air rules. Compared to many of my scientist colleagues, I often have a broad, different perspective on how my day-to-day job affects international policy, owing to my additional degree in Global Environmental Policy. I have also been detailed as a special assistant to the Office of Air and Radiation’s Assistant Administrator. From this vantage point, I see how regulations are developed at EPA and I am able to gain insight into how political appointees consider the different views of stakeholders in policymaking. I know that my training at AU has helped open these doors and provided me with a foundation for an interesting career at the EPA.

Ellen Orabone — NRSD 2012

While at AU:

With a previous background in food science, I enrolled at AU to learn more about the social and political aspects of food systems. The multidisciplinary nature of the NRSD program allowed me to get hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture and food production issues. Through the program, my interest in improving the situations of rural farmers in developing countries led to an internship at the Costa Rican organization CATIE. As an agricultural research institution, CATIE focuses on studying neglected and underutilized species for nutrition and health improvement, reduction of climate change vulnerabilities, ecosystem services, and poverty alleviation, which later became the focus of my SRP. These experiences led to my professional aspiration to bring sustainable farming and crop diversity to agriculturists in developing countries.

Since graduating:

Immediately after graduating, I spent a summer working on environmental health projects in rural Panama, where I supervised a group of volunteers as they implemented community development projects. I then accepted a position through AmeriCorps as a Garden Program Coordinator with the organization Bronco Urban Gardens in San Jose, California. Switching from a rural to urban focus, I taught elementary school-aged students in various school gardens about nutrition, growing their own food, and the environment. I also started new community gardens and trained community members in low-income neighborhoods how to maintain their own edible gardens to enhance their nutritional intake and food security. I am currently working for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas, coordinating their teaching and demonstration gardens. Drawing on lessons I learned while at AU, I have begun planting drought-resistant and native plant species. My career lets me fulfill my passion to educate others about sustainable food systems.