Sustainability career series opens virtual doors for students

Author: Alanah Hahn '22

Careerpathfinder Graphic

With a record number of students enrolled in the sustainability minor and an increasing interest in careers incorporating sustainability, there was no question of canceling this semester's Environmental Career Trek. In light of the pandemic, the sustainability minor partnered with the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development to host a virtual career event.

"We decided not to call it a 'trek' this time because we weren't physically going anywhere," said Professor Rachel Novick, who directs the sustainability minor. "Instead, we called it a Career Pathfinder because the focus is on helping students envision a path for themselves that follows their own talents and career goals while incorporating sustainability in meaningful ways."

The Pathfinder program took place over two days and over 100 students from a wide variety of majors participated. Each day included several panel discussions, so students had the opportunity to engage with over two dozen professionals in all. The themes for the first day were sustainability consulting, green finance, and renewable energy, while the second day focused on opportunities in the non-profit, government, and conservation sectors.

The featured alumni were eager to share their thoughts and advice. Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc., advised students to work for “a company that is serious about sustainability." Connor Kobeski '10, Senior Manager at Invenergy, encouraged students who were seeking advice on job and internship applications, explaining that “the more you can show a demonstrated interest in your desired field, the more attractive of a candidate you become." Carolyn Yvellez '18, a Climate Analyst at Harris & Associates, suggested that to achieve a meaningful experience, it is best to “focus on a community organization and where you can show your ability to learn and can take things to the next level."

"It was a really exciting experience to be able to speak with Notre Dame students and help enrich their learning experience with an introduction to careers in renewable energy finance," said John Sexton, a 2018 graduate of Notre Dame who studied Finance and Sustainability who is currently an analyst at Marathon Capital. "I look back at my time in the sustainability minor as fundamental to the progress I’ve made in my career thus far, and look forward to continuing to pay it forward."

Participating students had much to say about the value of the program. “The Sustainability Career Pathfinders Series gave me serious insight into the wide field of sustainability," said Michael Piotrowski, a senior majoring in environmental ccience and minoring in sustainability. "It also connected me with some wonderful professionals who shared my same interests, which helped me solidify my future prospects and goals.”

“I really enjoyed the Sustainability Career Series because it allowed me to be introduced to different facets of the sustainability industry and make connections with alumni that will be able to help me pursue a career in the field," said Clarkston Doman, a sophomore majoring in economics and American studies. "Even though I am not studying environmental science or sustainability, the Career Series taught me that there are still lots of career opportunities that I can pursue that would help in the struggle to mitigate climate change.”

The Pathfinder Series was not just for undergraduates. "It was great to hear from a panel of people at different stages of their careers in a variety of sectors," commented Abby Korn, a graduate student completing her Master of Nonprofit Administration. "I appreciated how willing they were to network going forward, and that they described the entry level positions too. I really liked hearing about less traditional pathways to enter a job focused on sustainability."

Personally, as a marketing major with minors in both sustainability and history, I found the Sustainability Career Pathfinders Series extremely helpful and encouraging. After speaking with several employers in the small group discussions following each panel, I discovered a variety of career and internship opportunities that combine my fields of interest. 

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