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Thoughts from an Alum: Conquering life after Carleton (and the world’s environmental challenges)

<ce big environmental challenges.

When I was a senior at Carleton last year, I dreamed of working to make a powerful, long-lasting impact on the way we respond to these challenges.

But with today’s economy, I wasn’t too optimistic about finding a job where I could make a difference on the environmental issues I care about – and still make rent.

And I was pretty busy this time last year finishing a Political Philosophy take-home for Larry Cooper and a research paper (which would later become my comps) for my social movements class.  I was also working as an ELL tutor in the Write Place and tutoring a 7th grade Northfield student in math.  I spent afternoons working in the arboretum and at night I practiced hockey to prepare for the start of the season. 

I found some time to prepare for my Ecosystems Ecology midterm while also brainstorming with the other Sustainability Assistants about how to reduce waste on campus.  And in all my free time I was organizing an event at Carleton about President Obama’s healthcare reform bill that was going through Congress.

All things considered I had a pretty typical schedule for a senior at Carleton – with very little time to worry about life after Carleton.

That’s when I saw an email about fellowships with Environment America.  Another recent Carleton alum, Bessie Schwarz, was working for Environment America and encouraged me to apply when I contacted her about the program.  So I did.

Since my first day as a Federal Field Associate with Environment America, I have had the privilege – and the responsibility – of talking directly to decision-makers, media, and citizen activists to advocate for the environmental issues that I care most about, including protecting Minnesotans from air pollution by defending the Clean Air Act from attacks in Congress.  In fact, I’m running my own campaign here in Minnesota to build support for a strong Clean Air Act.

In the last month, I have organized a press conference with Congresswoman Betty McCollum, met with the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board, talked with hundreds of community members about the environmental issues I care most about, met with Congressman Keith Ellison, worked with a variety of groups ranging from the Minnesota Nurses Association to the Sierra Club, and recruited several Minnesota legislators to help with my campaign.

Sound like work you would enjoy?  Each year, Environment America hires college graduates to join a two-year Fellowship Program in positions all across the country. Fellows work alongside experienced advocates and organizers to identify problems, research solutions, and mobilize large constituencies to win campaigns for critical environmental problems facing our country – and our world – today.  Our priority application deadline for next year’s fellowships is Monday, October 31.

I feel fortunate to be doing meaningful work for a non-profit like Environment America that makes real change on critical environmental issues, and I highly recommend the fellowship program.

Environment America has helped win campaigns for more solar and wind power in 29 states, bans on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast, caps on global warming pollution in six states, new clean car standards to help end our nation’s addition to oil, bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, and the list goes on – but I think you get the picture.

Environment America also organized voter education and get out the vote drives across the country to help elect President Obama in 2008 and pro-environment leaders to Congress in 2008 and 2010.
We plan to continue this work in 2012 – and you could be part of it.

If you are interested, check out our website:  And apply for a fellowship by sending your cover letter and resume to [email protected], ideally by Monday, October 31.

And if you are not yet a senior, Environment Minnesota is hiring interns for Carleton’s winter break and winter and spring terms.  You can learn more about our internship program at our website:

-Submitted by Michelle Hesterberg ‘11

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