Future environmental leaders face a bewilderingly broad array of challenges and opportunities. Woods’ Forum of Undergraduate Environmental Leadership (FUEL) helps navigate.

Participants in the pilot program, recently visited California’s capital, Sacramento, to learn about environmental policymaking and career opportunities in the legislative, agency and nongovernmental organization sectors.

Launched last fall, the FUEL program allows Stanford students from any discipline or school on campus to investigate environmental career opportunities by connecting participants with emerging leaders and seasoned professionals in the private and public sectors. Undergraduate students selected for the program’s first cohort have been introduced to advances that environmental leaders are making at the state level and gain career and leadership advice from professionals working in various environment-related positions.

“I applied to FUEL because I know I would like to be a part of the environmental policy world in my future career, but I'm not sure exactly where I fit in and which particular sectors makes sense for me,” said Emma Hutchinson, a junior majoring in Earth systems science and economics.

“Environmentally focused students have so many resources on campus in terms of classes and courses of study to take,” Hutchinson said. “But it's really special to be able to actually meet people that are working in the arena right now and to get exposed to the different types of jobs that are out there.”

In Sacramento, Hutchinson and other FUEL participants:

  • discussed water issues with a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
  • learned about different environmental policy priorities from three deputy secretaries to Gov. Jerry Brown
  • examined policy implementation issues of controlling pollutants and protecting marine resources with officials from the state’s Air Resources Control Board and the Ocean Protection Council
  • gained an inside look at the legislative process from both the legislative director to the speaker of the assembly and the principal consultant to the chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
  • learned how nonprofit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Resources Legacy Fund and the California Environmental Justice Alliance advance policy goals

“I got a feel for what it would be like to work in public office or at a nonprofit, and I had some perspective shifts,” said Ana Sophia Mifsud, a junior majoring in environmental systems engineering. Mifsud expressed particular appreciation for “ great advice” about finding jobs and a newfound confidence in speaking with influential decision-makers.

"Influence on policy is important to me,” said Meghan Shea, a junior majoring in environmental systems engineering. “I envisioned that policy experience happening exclusively in Washington, D.C.  It was really eye opening to see how much work is happening in Sacramento, and how state policies have a tremendous impact on national policies. I am much more interested in spending some time working at the state level."

Before the Sacramento visit, FUEL participants participated in several on-campus salons with business and nonprofit professionals working in ways to improve the environment. Each talk included extensive information about the speaker’s career paths and opportunities they seen in environmental fields.

“Those perspectives were really useful. I think I have a better idea of what a lot of these jobs I’m considering are like.”

Learn more about FUEL.