Opportunity and Optimism
During an Uncertain Time

For some students poised to enter the job market, the political turmoil in Washington, D.C. is adding another layer of uncertainty. But during a two-day job trek in the nation’s capital, F&ES students found reasons for optimism.
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Photo by Kathy Douglas
Students at the Wilson Center Urban Sustainability Lab.
The next generation of environmental scientists, managers, lawyers, and activists is entering uncharted waters. Just a month into the Trump presidency, students across the country — including here at F&ES — are waiting to see how a range of new policies might change the environmental job landscape. 

Yet F&ES students, many of whom will soon enter the workforce, remain optimistic. Last week, more than 100 students flocked to Washington, D.C. for FESinDC, a two-day job trek and series of networking events coordinated by the School’s Career Development Office (CDO).
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Kathryne Cleary, left, Nina Hatch, and Mark DeSantis ran into U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during the DC trek. Warren was in a hurry, heading to the confirmation vote for new U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. 
In the nation’s capital, where visitors found restaurants closed in support of the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, F&ES students met with alumni and employers in international development banks and agencies, conservation NGOs, environmental defense and urban sustainability think tanks, consulting firms, federal agencies and the U.S. Congress.
Visits included to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wetlands Division, the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank, the Wilson Center Urban Sustainability Laboratory, the Natural Resource Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Throughout the two days of visits, employers in a range of sectors actively encouraged students to apply for upcoming job and internship opportunities. U.S. federal hosts encouraged students to continue to review postings on usajobs.gov, and to focus on the Pathways program for recent graduates as well as the Presidential Management Fellowship (which has not been affected by the federal hiring freeze).
Although many federal agencies are affected by a hiring freeze, the Partnership for Public advises that students should continue applying for jobs because agencies may still be reviewing applications and conducting applicant assessments, said Kathy Douglas, senior associate director for CDO.
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Photo by Joanne DeBernardo
Students at the World Bank.
There are other encouraging signs, Douglas says. A recent report from the EDF predicted growth in sustainability-related jobs. In an article he wrote for Science in his last days in office, President Obama emphasized the “irreversible momentum of clean energy.” In the private sector, more than 760 companies and investors have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA statement pledging to do their part to uphold the Paris Agreement.

“Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I know that the important work our students and alumni do isn’t going away,” said Douglas. “It may move to different sectors and regional, state and local government, but it will not go away.”

In Washington, students found encouragement meeting with environmental leaders.

“For me, the most impressive visit was at the FAO [United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization], where we actually met with the director for North America,” said Parfait Gasana, ’18 M.E.M. “This showed how important he felt this event was; he didn’t send a deputy, he spent an hour talking to us, he said there was room for students like us.”

During the World Bank visit, Jessica Leung ’17 M.E.M. ran into an F&ES alum working in their climate change group. “And over a platter of pot stickers I picked her brain for some insight into their work culture and ways to get into the organization,” she said.
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Photo by David McCarthy
F&ES Dean Indy Burke addresses students and alumni during a reception in Washington, D.C.
“The trip was so important and helpful, and I appreciate that the CDO put it together,” said Emma Crow-Willard, ’18 M.E.M. “The Forest Service people were in good spirits and encouraged us to send our resumes. And I learned that the Presidential Management Fellowship program is not frozen, which is really nice.”

After the visits, students networked with alumni over dinners and a reception event hosted by the F&ES Alumni Services team and CDO. “It was really heartwarming to see the diversity of faces from the past 40 years, all excited to talk to the students and enthusiastic about helping us find our next opportunity,” said Leung.

During the reception, F&ES Dean Indy Burke urged students and alumni to confront the next challenge by seeking to find common ground. “All of us care deeply about the role of science in policy,” she told the group. “Finding common ground is possible. Let’s think as optimistically as we can to get our science into policy.”
“I have never experienced such a community of passionate, high achieving individuals,” said Kata Young ’17 M.F.Sc. “I am now part of it!” 
Christina Stone is a second-year Master of Environmental Management student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and former editor of Yale Environment Review.

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PUBLISHED: February 22, 2017
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.