Sewanee students learn how to “get a job saving the planet”

By Helena Kilburn
Staff Writer

With its vast natural land and its remarkable environmental programs, Sewanee is known for its ability to educate the environmental leaders of the future. Many students study environmentally-related subjects here and are curious about how to follow this passion post-grad. 

To address this concern, Eban Goodstein, director of both the Center for Environmental Policy and the MBA in Sustainability at Bard College in New York, came to speak to Sewanee students. His talk, during lunch time on November 7, was titled “How to Get a Job Saving the Planet: Sustainability Careers in Business, NGOs, and Government.”

Held in McClurg Dining Hall’s ABC Room, the talk had a large turn out, especially for a lunch-time meeting. Approximately 30 students and a handful of faculty and staff gathered around a large square of tables and at additional seating in the back. Surprisingly, for a talk about transitioning to a career, the crowd contained students from every grade level.

Goodstein began by outlining the process to get to a career in sustainability, which to him, requires vision, courage, network, story-telling, and asking. According to Goodstein, these are the steps to make your vision a reality. This is especially important for people who are either just graduating college or beginning in the field, since this transition from vision to reality has to happen quickly. For our generation, taking our time is not an option.

He transitioned to talking about the three main areas of sustainability work: policy, education, and business. He articulated the purpose of each area expressing the policy changes that rules, education changes minds, and business changes the game. All of these areas are important because sustainability is fundamentally a career of problem-solving. We are faced with a huge problem that is made up of countless smaller problems, and if you have been called to or chosen a career in this field, it is your responsibility to solve these problems. 

Goodstein finished with looking at specific steps for post-graduates. He made it clear that students about to graduate do not have the luxury of taking time off. It is becoming clearer that the environmental crisis will not wait for us to catch up, so we must chase after it with everything we have. He encouraged all the students to either go and begin a job or head to grad school. In other words, find something that’s right for you but that simultaneously contributes to the work that needs to be done. This final piece of advice encouraged the students in the room to chase after the dreams that they have and to believe that change can be made.