Julia Elkin (MS ’15)
Senior Sea Level Rise Planner
Marin County Department of Public Works
San Rafael, California
What did it mean to you to be named a Wyss Scholar? What were some of the activities and opportunities that held the greatest impact for you?
Being named a Wyss Scholar was the defining moment that shaped my graduate school experience and career trajectory. As a student, it connected me to an incredibly talented network of other Wyss Scholars and alumni. Fiscal support from the Wyss Scholar program helped me secure a rewarding summer internship with The Wilderness Society, where I researched and interviewed community-based collaboratives working across federal forest lands in Montana. The Wyss Scholars retreat that summer was a very memorable gathering; conversations with fellow scholars challenged and expanded my conservation ethos, sparking professional and personal connections that I maintain to this day.
Being named a Wyss Scholar increased my confidence pursuing my interest in western lands conservation. It encouraged me to see myself not just as a hard worker with a passion for the environment, but as a conservationist with leadership capacity. That mindset shift guided my decision to go into public service, where for the past seven years I’ve supported and led climate change adaptation projects along the California coast.
Can you tell us about your SEAS experience? How did it help you advance in the conservation field?
Attending SEAS was the best decision I ever made. For me, SEAS provided an incredibly collegial environment with endless opportunities to challenge myself and grow my skills. What most drew me to SEAS and defined my experience is the care and energy faculty invest in students. While my two years at SEAS went by quickly, I felt—and still feel—myself to be part of a caring and engaged community.
The flexibility of the degree program allowed me to pursue a dual focus on environmental policy and conservation ecology. I loved the opportunity to take classes across campus, from Natural Resource Law at the Law School to Urban Planning at Taubman. This prepared me incredibly well for my work as a sea-level rise planner, where I navigate a bridging role between land use policy, community engagement, research science, and applied ecology.
Another aspect of SEAS that has helped me in my career is the alumni network. Spring break of my second year, I went on a roadtrip of the western U.S. to connect with SEAS alumni and explore career options. It was through an alum I met on that trip that I connected with my first job out of grad school. Connecting with alumni and following the careers of my SEAS cohort has continued to broaden my perspective, helped me recognize career growth as a constant process, and deepened my appreciation for environment and sustainability work happening on innumerable fronts.
Note: Prior to 2017, the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) was known as the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). References to “SNRE” have been updated to “SEAS” to reflect the name change.