Sustainable Development Program Hosts Annual Alumni Career Conversations Panel – State of the Planet

The Undergraduate Sustainable Development Program (SDEV) recently hosted its annual Alumni Career Conversations panel. Open to any and all undergraduate and graduate students interested in sustainable development career paths, the event facilitated exposure to various sectors and projects in the sustainability field and provided attendees with valuable insights.

The panel was composed of three alumni from SDEV: Chelsea Jean-Michel (CC ’19), Autumn Moore (CC ’22), Lauren Ritchie (CC ’22), with Hannah Friedman (CC ’19, SPS ’21) serving as moderator.

The panelists, left to right: Chelsea Jean-Michel, Autumn Moore, Lauren Ritchie and Hannah Friedman. Credit: Lylia Saurel

Jean-Michel, an associate on the wind team at BloombergNEF, specializes in strategic research covering global commodity markets and technologies driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. She manages a subscription-based platform and synthesizes trends within the wind industry, drawing on her previous experience as an energy, sustainability and infrastructure consultant.

Moore, an associate in climate data and technology at KPMG US, supports clients in enhancing their data and technology to achieve their environmental goals.

Ritchie is the founder of the Eco Justice Project, a digital platform dedicated to sharing the stories of underrepresented communities and promoting intersectional climate advocacy. She also co-hosts the society and pop-culture-centered podcast, Black Girl Blueprint, amplifying the perspectives of Gen-Z Black women. Ritchie has worked as a future rising senior fellow with Girl Rising, where she produced a short film.

Friedman is the founding principal of newly launched Planeteer Capital, a climate venture capital fund, where she provides strategic guidance to executives as they scale up their climate projects. Before this, she spent around four years investing in the circular economy at Closed Loop Partners, a multi-asset class investment firm.

The panel aimed to equip current students interested in sustainability with practical tools and information to build their professional portfolios and navigate job searches effectively. Panelists shared insights into how the skills acquired from the program have transferred into their work.

“The two most important skills I have developed during my time with the SDEV program were to present research effectively and learn how to talk about climate with different audiences,” Jean-Michel said.

Panelists also talked about the importance of extracurricular activities and both formal and informal networking events in shaping their career trajectories. They encouraged participants to engage in activities related to sustainable development, as well as more creative activities, such as soccer, acting and study abroad experiences, to cultivate transferable skills and a unique profile.

“I studied abroad in Iceland to learn more about renewable energy economics, and this experience greatly helped me become comfortable with public speaking,” Jean-Michel said.

After an overview of the latest trends in their respective industries and what a day in their lives might look like, the alumni shifted the discussion to the role of internships for professional and personal development. They shared recommendations on how to best approach these opportunities.

“My internship experiences, although not related to the work I currently do, were very useful in teaching me how to be articulate about a topic, which is very important in my role as a client-based consultant,” Moore said.

With its diverse panel and insightful discussions, the Alumni Career Conversations panel provided invaluable guidance and inspiration for students navigating the complex landscape of sustainable development careers. Sylvia Montijo, the SDEV program manager, expressed pride in the accomplishments of the alumni, highlighting the importance of inclusion in the field of sustainability.

Panelists sit at a table under a projector, with an audience in front of them
Panelists talk to students about their career paths. Credit: Riccardo Serbolonghi

“This annual event serves as a special platform to highlight the exceptional achievements of our alumni. The field of sustainability is incredibly diverse, evident in the many ways our panelists engage with this work. It’s crucial for the SDEV program to persist in centering these diverse voices and inclusive perspectives,” said Montijo.

Following structured discussions, participants had the opportunity to engage in open conversations with alumni, delving deeper into their transition from the SDEV program to their current roles. This segment fostered a safe and candid dialogue on the nuances of different careers within the sustainable development sphere.

“The thorn is that there needs to be more investment and funding going to the creative side of climate. The rose is that I feel I can make an impact at various levels, even with kids, and that’s promising for our future,” said Ritchie.

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