Seth Federspiel (MS ’12)
Climate Program Senior Manager; Environmental and Transportation Planning Division, Community Development Department
What did it mean to you to be named a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow? What were some of the activities and opportunities that held the greatest impact for you?
It was a real honor to be named a Doris Duke Fellow and to gain access to the network and resources provided by the fellowship. I particularly remember the trip to West Virginia for the national Doris Duke Conservation Fellows retreat. The travel itself offered a real bonding opportunity between the other SEAS fellows and Professor Steve Yaffee, and then it was a great experience to meet and work with fellows from other programs all over the country—including those with different backgrounds and pursuing different degrees. Not only did the workshops offer valuable leadership skills and opportunities for introspection, but the resulting network served as a lasting resource for the rest of grad school and beyond.
Can you tell us about your SEAS experience? How did it help you advance in the conservation field?
The Doris Duke model of building a valuable network alongside experience-based learning epitomized the broader SEAS education for me, and coming out of SEAS it is this combination of experience plus network that has been particularly valuable in building a career in sustainability. My first couple of jobs came directly from SEAS connections, and as I further my career, SEAS experiences such as the master’s project provide resources and skills that I continue to draw on. Moreover, friends from SEAS and the Doris Duke Fellowship provide important ongoing feedback and support to help me manage the challenges of sustainability work and provide the motivation to keep moving forward.
What kind of changes have you observed in land conservation in the U.S. over the course of your career?
While my career has focused more broadly on climate change versus land conservation specifically, I think that many of the societal trends I have seen over the past 10 years apply to both topics. A key opportunity for climate and sustainability has been the strong increase in awareness and engagement around these issues among the general public. Communication skills learned through SEAS and the fellowship have been valuable in connecting with people eager to take part in sustainability solutions. A key challenge has been the political polarization across the country which has made issues like climate change more partisan, and here again, the fellowship’s policy analysis and engagement lessons have helped offer pathways to bridge the divide. Throughout these ups and downs, knowing that I am part of a larger network of Doris Duke fellows and SEAS alumni doing transformational work helps me feel optimistic about the ongoing prospects for the sustainability movement.
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.