New Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program Aims to Expand Pathways to High-Impact Climate Careers
An exciting gift from Anita and Joshua Bekenstein ’80 to the Yale School of the Environment will establish a university-wide program to increase the ranks of Yale graduates in climate leadership roles and accelerate the pace of climate action.
Climate change and biodiversity loss profoundly affect the health, well-being, and livelihoods of people across the U.S. and the world. To avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to our planet, we must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Developing and implementing the innovative, large-scale climate change mitigation policies and practices we need requires an urgent and coordinated effort from government, business, media, academia, and NGOs. All of these institutions need skilled leaders capable of developing and implementing these complex climate policies and solutions. To help fill this growing need and rapidly increase the speed and scale of climate change mitigation, the Yale School of the Environment (YSE) is launching the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program.
Established with a gift from Anita and Joshua Bekenstein ’80, the largest gift in YSE’s history, the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program aims to increase the number of YSE and Yale graduates working to address the climate crisis. Through a combination of scholarships, internship stipends, and post-graduate incentives, the program will help make it more affordable for emerging leaders to pursue high-impact careers in areas of high need, such as government and the nonprofit sector. With the window of time to reduce emissions rapidly closing, the initial primary focus of the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will be on climate change mitigation.
“Climate change is an existential threat to our beautiful planet. It is critical that we implement solutions at speed and scale. We are proud to partner with Yale University and YSE to help increase the number of passionate young climate leaders who will help solve the climate crisis to secure a healthy planet and better future for us all,” said Anita Bekenstein on behalf of the couple.
The intensive interdisciplinary education and training that master’s students at YSE receive position them to become climate leaders in a wide range of sectors. However, some YSE graduates find that to pay off student loan debt they must forgo climate-related work where they could have the greatest impact in favor of more remunerative positions. To help reduce these financial barriers, the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will offer an additional $10,000 scholarship to up to 30 qualified master’s students in each class. In addition, the program also includes funding for competitively awarded internships and post-graduate stipends (for eligible graduates from any of Yale’s professional schools) who are pursuing high-impact climate leadership careers in a wide array of sectors.
“YSE alumni, and graduates across Yale, are developing cutting-edge climate science, shaping innovative policies, and protecting and managing ecosystems across the globe,” said Indy Burke, Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean at YSE. “The Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will have a profound impact on our efforts to educate and train highly effective leaders who are capable of solving the climate crisis. We are incredibly grateful to Anita and Joshua Bekenstein for the opportunity to spearhead this transformative program.”
Graduate students across Yale are inspired and highly motivated to find solutions to the most significant global challenge of our age, and, each year, approximately 50 students engage in a joint degree program with YSE. However, attaining a joint degree requires an extra year of study, and many students who would like to earn a degree with a joint climate focus are deterred by the added tuition and expenses. To reduce this barrier, the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will provide scholarship support to increase the number of students from other Yale schools pursuing a joint degree with YSE.
“Yale has a rich legacy of leadership in climate, environmental, and biodiversity research, and our alumni have shaped climate policy worldwide,” said Yale University President Peter Salovey. “The Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program extends YSE’s and Yale’s strengths. By reducing financial barriers for students to pursue leadership roles in government agencies and NGOs, more Yale graduates will bring multidimensional, multisector solutions to protecting our planet and its most vulnerable populations.”
The ability to communicate effectively about climate change and climate solutions is a critical skill that leaders in all sectors must possess. As a result, there is a high demand for training in environmental communication both from YSE students and from the many environmental organizations that lack the capacity to fully utilize evidence-based communication strategies. To help bridge these gaps, the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program also will provide generous support to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication at YSE. This funding will enable YPCCC to offer an expanded climate communication curriculum to YSE students and new in-person and virtual trainings to the wider climate community, including a certificate program in climate communication for working professionals.
“When it comes to the climate crisis, the urgency of this moment is unparalleled. YSE and the Bekenstein Climate Leaders program are stepping up to the challenge by helping to ensure that Yale graduates have the financial ability to focus their expertise on solving it,” said YSE alumna Shereen D’Souza ’12 MESc, senior program officer for climate at the Skyline Foundation and former deputy secretary for Climate Policy and Intergovernmental Relations at the California EPA.