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Future Environmental Leaders Go 'Inside the Beltway' for Spring Break

Apr 12, 2016


Fellows in Stanford's Rising Environmental Leaders Program get crash course on linking science to policy at DC Bootcamp

Stanford’s emerging experts on the environment and sustainability recently returned from D.C. Bootcamp, an intense week of panel discussions, meetings, and tours providing an insiders’ look at the intersections of science and policymaking. 

Organized by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, D.C. Bootcamp is the central component of Woods’ Rising Environmental Leaders Program. Designed to show young scholars how research informs and advances policy, the program introduces 20 graduate scholars each year to Stanford’s robust alumni network and a diverse, high-level slate of legislative, media, agency and non-profit professionals working on issues related to the environment. 

“Science has never been more important in the development of policy,” emphasized Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries with the National Oceanic Administration Agency (NOAA), during the RELP group’s visit to NOAA headquarters. “I’ve read your bios and could see all of you being hired by NOAA – we have a need and a place here for all of you.”

Selected through a competitive process, participants in the RELP bootcamp develop a network of other graduate and postdoctoral scholars on campus in addition to the contacts they make during five days of back-to-back meetings and tours in DC.  Based at the Bing Stanford in Washington Program, this year’s agenda included panel discussions at the headquarters of NOAA and the National Geographic Society, a view of legislation in process from the galleries for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and firsthand policymaking insights from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s environmental legislative assistant (and Stanford alumna) Alesandra Nájera. They even got a taste of West Wing security when they went to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for a meeting in the historic Diplomatic Reception room with the architects of the first-ever White House Water Summit being held the following day. 

“I picked up some fantastic insights about how government works and the many career options that exist in the environmental policy field,” said Jonathan Bradshaw, a Civil & Environmental Engineering Ph.D. student researching ways to help cities increase their water security through improved water infrastructure technology. “The experience has changed how I think about the impact I can have as a Ph.D. student and after I graduate. The experience really reenergized my interest in a career that can help inform environmental policy.”

"As a sociologist interested in environmental issues, being part of a cohort of like-minded peers was exciting," added Priya Fielding-Singh, a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department studying public health, sustainability and inequality. "I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with the diversity of experts across sectors who are linking cutting-edge research to policy and government decision-making."

The week included a reception for Bootcamp fellows, speakers and local Stanford alumni, featuring a Q&A with honored guest John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

“We have in President Obama the most science-savvy president since Jefferson. He just gets it,” said Holdren, who spoke about the importance of and challenges to ensuring science and research play a role in governance. But, “it’s still challenging to make sure somebody technical is in the room for virtually every policy discussion,” he added.

Read Tweets from 2016 Bootcamp

More than 95 fellows have participated in RELP since its launch in 2010. In addition to professional knowledge and networks they form valuable connections with their peers doing sustainability-related research on campus.

“The camaraderie within our RELP cohort is unrivaled,” Bradshaw said. “I’m glad to have created this close connection with other students and post-docs who are committed to advancing environmental issues.” 

Bios for the 2015 class are available on the program website. Applications for next year’s RELP will open in fall 2016.  

See more:

Bios for 2016 RELP fellows:

Stanford’s Next Crop of Rising Enviornmental Leaders Selected:


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