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Webinar: Building the Next Generation of Climate Leaders

May 29 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

In the summer of 2022, Santa Clara University and Silicon Valley Power, the City of Santa Clara’s municipal electric utility, announced a five-year Silicon Valley Power (SVP) Sustainable Futures Program to enhance college access through scholarships, support project-based learning for undergraduate students pursuing studies and careers in sustainability fields, and create more opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds to deepen their vocational discernment to become leaders in environmental justice and sustainability.

Each year for five years, Santa Clara University will award students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds four scholarships averaging $15,000 for sustainability-related studies at Santa Clara University and three fellowships of $5,000 to help fund experiences through the University’s Center for Sustainability. Fellows work with the City of Santa Clara, leading research and outreach projects to solve local climate or sustainability-related problems, increasing their understanding and ability to create local solutions and exposing them to green jobs. These projects provide real-world perspectives and experiences, build critical applied skills, and enhance their early career and post-graduate success. Each Fellow applies a social justice lens to their research focus areas to develop policy proposals for the City to advance its Climate Action Plan while ensuring no one in this community is left behind.

Looking for tailored career development programming for the SVP Sustainable Futures Scholars and Fellows, the Center for Sustainability invited SCU’s Career Center to collaborate on a networking event with the goal of building a sustainability and climate career pipeline between the city of Santa Clara and Santa Clara University. The first event was the City of Santa Clara Meetup, attended by 55 students, city representatives (including the Mayor), and university leadership. Building on that event’s success, the Career Center hosted No Application Zero Round Interviews, connecting 15 students with two city representatives.

In this session, presenters will share the story of the Silicon Valley Power (SVP) Sustainable Futures Program as a case study. Presenters will discuss how the program came to be and how it has evolved since its inaugural year. Presenters will share key takeaways for attendees, such as building and nurturing relationships with the local government and identifying participatory, professional, and community-based research opportunities. Following the case study presentation, current and former SVP Fellows will share their experiences with the program, including their research and post-SCU plans, as a structured interview-style panel discussion.

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Veronica Johnson, Sustainability Program Manager – Academics and Engagement, Santa Clara University

Veronica Johnson, the Academics and Engagement Program Manager at the Center for Sustainability at Santa Clara University, is a sustainability professional with 7 years of experience in higher education. She earned a BA in Environmental Engineering from Rice University while interning at the institution’s sustainability office. She earned an MBA in Sustainability from Bard College during her 3-year tenure as the Sustainability Coordinator at Southwestern University. She is pursuing an EdD in Educational Sustainability from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She holds a Carbon Footprinting Certification from the University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute, a TRUE (Total Resource Use & Efficiency) Advisor Certification from Green Business Certification Inc., and a Climate Reality Leader Certification from the Climate Reality Project.

Leslie Gray, Professor, Environmental Studies & Sciences; Academic Programs Faculty Associate, Center for Sustainability, Santa Clara University

Dr. Leslie Gray, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, is a Geographer who specializes in Environment and Development. She has a BA in History/Arab Studies from Georgetown University, an MS in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Illinois. She has conducted research in sub-Saharan Africa and Santa Clara County. She has worked in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Sudan, examining agrarian change, land use patterns, and gendered access to resources. Her local work in California’s Silicon Valley examines the socio-environmental nature of urban agriculture, the loss of farmland at the peri-urban edge, and on-farm food loss in Central and Northern California. Her research has been funded by the Fulbright Fellowship and two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. At Santa Clara University, she has served as Department Chair and Faculty Senate President and is an elected member of the College of Arts and Sciences and University Rank and Tenure Committee, advisory boards for the Miller Center, and the Center for Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Dylan Houle, Executive Director, Career Center, Santa Clara University

Dylan Houle is the Executive Director of the Santa Clara University Career Center where he leads a 10-person team responsible for supporting students in their career and professional development journey. Prior to joining Santa Clara, Dylan served as the Executive Director of Menlo College’s Internships & Career Services Office where he managed the required for-credit internship program. He has worked at University of San Francisco, Pace University and NYC Department of Education. Jesuit educated, he holds a master’s degree from Fordham University.

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