Editor’s note: Alexandria is now Director of Customer Compliance & Audits at SBM Management Services.
When Alexandria Skoch, MS’15, began her latest job search, she never predicted she’d be competing in one of America’s top talent destinations.
She applied for a job as senior sustainability program coordinator for Strategic Energy Innovations, based in San Francisco.
“The human resources director told me that on average, each job opening gets about 250-300 applicants,” commented Alexandria.
Alexandria successfully landed the position. The executive director told her that while degrees are important, the UW Sustainable Management master’s degree with its business twist was the number one differentiator for Alexandria.
Following the Advice of Her Sustainable Management Professor
Alexandria’s search started with advice from UW Sustainable Management faculty member John Katers who also serves as an adviser to master’s students in the program. Alexandria first met Professor Katers in person during the Chile Travel Course in 2015.
“Professor Katers recommended I start my job search by finding an organization whose mission I value,” says Alexandria. “He’s an amazing faculty member and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet! I took a huge leap of faith based on his advice, applying for jobs that I might not have otherwise.”
Alexandria had experience working with sports teams and sustainability. For her capstone project, Alexandria focused on “greening” the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise. She went on to become a research and sustainability analyst for the Browns. And while she enjoyed her behind-the-scenes look at the stadium and the excitement of the sport, she had her eye on other opportunities.
Her search led her to the opening at Strategic Energy Innovations in San Francisco.
“When I first saw the job description, it sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for, and I couldn’t wait to apply!”
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An Interview Via Skype
Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) is a nonprofit that helps communities make the transition to sustainability, addressing everything from green workforce development, sustainable housing, and building resilient communities, to eco-smart education.
In 2011, SEI launched the School of Environmental Leadership (SEL), a project-based learning “school within a school.” Based inside Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, California, the SEL leverages traditional public school courses such as biology and geography and social sciences, weaving an environmental thread throughout.
“The reason I applied is because I was interested in project-based learning and providing students with opportunities to actually apply their environmental knowledge.”
As an environmental organization, SEI knows the footprint of a flight so rather than meet Alexandria in person during the recruiting process, they booked her interview via Skype.
“I had to teach a lesson via Skype, which was something new for me!”
The lesson went without a hitch, and Alexandria was offered the job in May 2016.
“Having this degree absolutely helped me. San Francisco is a really competitive place for jobs. It was the master’s degree that differentiated me.”
“The coursework gave me the tools to be able to address challenges from an environmental and management standpoint – something most other programs do not offer.”
UW Sustainable Management is a 12-course, 34-credit online graduate degree program with a curriculum that dives deep into complex social, economic, and environmental issues but also provides a strong business foundation.
“Many applicants have master’s degrees but they don’t have a multidisciplinary degree — theirs are more focused on environmental science whereas my master’s education taught me to take a more systems-based approach.”
Reducing California’s Environmental Footprint, One Student at a Time
Alexandria is passionate about her role within Strategic Energy Innovations.
“It’s been an adventure, and that’s half of the fun! We are looking to expand the SEL throughout California, and I would like to see this curriculum available to every student across the country. We’re currently working on expanding into Pennsylvania.”
Alexandria finds it most rewarding to give the youth a voice in decision-making. For example, a project with the City of San Rafael let students weigh in on environmental policy.
“It’s easy to forget the voice of youths, but they’re the future. They’re so creative and they come up with out-of-the-box solutions to complex problems. It’s fun to be a part of that. We’re helping reduce California’s environmental footprint, one student at a time.”