Name: Anna Menke
Education: Princeton University, BA in Anthropology, minor in Environmental Studies
SFS Program: Costa Rica Summer 2014
Current Position: Fellow, Environmental Defense Fund
Why did you choose SFS as a study abroad program?
I chose the SFS Costa Rica program because it was a perfect marriage of my interests in international development, environmental sustainability, and Latin American culture. As a varsity athlete at Princeton I was not able to study abroad during the school year, but it was something I really wanted to do. SFS was a perfect opportunity to use my summer to complement my studies while also exploring a new place.
Reflecting back on your time in the program, what did you gain from your SFS experience??
I gained tangible field research skills that helped me build my resume for the internship I would apply to the following summer. I also gained a deep passion for Latin American culture and an affirmed sense that sustainability and environmental policy were areas I wanted to continue to focus on, both academically and in my work, going forward. The other intangible thing I gained was some really close friendships. I still keep in good touch with one friend from SFS and intermittently catch up with other friends from the program. The program broadened my network outside of Princeton, which I am very thankful for.
What is your most profound or lasting memory from your SFS program?
Our class spent three days in the small rural town of El Sur, Costa Rica. During the time, we conducted research for our final independent papers. I had elected to research a social science question about internal human migration and urbanization due to environmental changes. I conducted interviews and administered surveys. I have some very distinct memories of the local people I talked to and the profound curiosity I had for learning about other people’s perception of and interaction with their environment. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of me figuring out why the environment was uniquely interesting to me. I cared about human interactions with the environment.
What advice would you give to a prospective SFS student?
Go! My experience at SFS gave me so much confidence, independence and perspective on the world outside my small college bubble. That being said, going for an SFS program isn’t enough. Push yourself beyond the bounds of your comfort zone while you are there, if you just hang out with other students in the program you are missing an opportunity. Get to know people who live and work in the area. Work hard – don’t just aim to get by. Appreciate the opportunity to be somewhere else, it is one not everyone has.
What do you do for work?
I work for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on the EDF+Business team. My boss and I are working to engage leading US corporations in federal climate and energy policy issues. Our aim is to motivate US companies to advocate for climate and energy policy. Our theory of change is predicated on the belief that in order to overcome the argument that climate policies will hurt the economy, we need to get the biggest drivers of our economy to verbalize their support for these policies, framing climate policy as a solution in which both the economy and the environment can thrive.
Currently, my boss and I work with a broad range of fortune 500 companies engaging them in various conversations and advocacy efforts. A lot my work day to day involves researching these corporations and their past history with and positioning on climate and clean energy policies. This includes understanding their lobbying giving to various lawmakers and PACs, their presence in various trade associations and their commitments to sustainability targets such as greenhouse gas reductions. When I am not doing this due-diligence research, I am in meetings or on calls with these companies and with other NGOs and stakeholders discussing ways to work together to better advocate for climate and clean energy, through targeted outreach to Congress or strategic op-eds and thought leadership pieces.
Did your SFS experience contribute to where you ended up?
SFS definitely affirmed my passion for environmental sustainability and inspired me to pursue a career in the environmental world.
What advice do you have for other SFS alumni looking to get into your field?
Experience matters! If you care about something get out there and get experience however you can by volunteering, an internship or shadowing someone. You are going to have to work hard to find the right job for you in the environmental world, there is no linear path. Don’t be afraid to ask people about what they’re doing and how they got into it. This can give you a great sense of the types of jobs that are actually out there.