Celebrating the EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations

Last year, the EcoLeaders Career Center began celebrating the motivating stories and career accomplishments of past National Wildlife Federation interns, fellows, and partners making their names (and a difference) in the sustainability movement. We called this group of change-makers “The EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations.”

In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of these 50 terrific NWF alumni, these interviews contain a wealth of useful career advice for students and young professionals who are designing their own career paths. The Top 50 discussed a number of themes from their personal career inspirations and mentors to project-based leadership skills and internship opportunities, to pertinent certifications, such as the NWF EcoLeader Certification, and much more.

NWF EcoLeader Certification

The National Wildlife Federation has long recognized that students and young professionals have always been catalysts for change on their campuses and in their communities. And since 1989, NWF has been highlighting the sustainability and environmental leadership by students and young professionals. With the newly launched EcoLeaders program, we have developed a professional certification to further recognize and boost these emerging leaders.

Amira Odeh: [The NWF EcoLeader Certification is] a confirmation by a group of people who are supporting you and can certify that you’ve sought to make a real difference in the world and in your community.

EcoLeaders are able to obtain a variety of certifications, at varying levels. At the starting level, campaign badges help volunteers learn about various NWF campaigns and initiatives, take action, and communicate with peers. Above that, project teams can certify their projects together. The highest level of recognition is the “Certified NWF EcoLeader.” This suite of certification offerings is unique in that rather than certifying specific technical knowledge or experience, NWF is vouching for individuals’ development of project-based leadership skills and experience.

Kindra Ramos: I think that [the importance of obtaining project-based leadership] can’t be overemphasized. You can certainly learn a lot by just being in a place and learning and observing, but actually doing something hands-on provides such a deeper understanding. It provides confidence and accomplishment that allows you to enter the work force truly ready to take on what’s next.

In the process of obtaining certification, EcoLeaders are prompted to reflect on their past experiences, their current positions, and their personal missions for the future.

Hala Elbarmil: The environmental field is really big, you can go into wildlife conservation, policy, science, anything really. And being an EcoLeader – doing the project and getting certification – has helped me find out more about my passions and what works best for me.

Upon becoming certified, EcoLeaders are provided with a digital badge that they can post to their EcoLeaders community profile, their LinkedIn profile, and other social media pages. Badges can be also included on their resume in order to set themselves apart from the pack when embarking upon their career paths.

Anthony Cooper: I would describe the [Campus EcoLeader] certification as something that sets you apart from others in the field. It allows potential future employers to know that you have the motivation to go after your goals and make them happen.

These interviews complement the array of career resources within the EcoLeaders Career Center such as career sector outlooks across pathways from environmental justice to renewable energy to sustainable purchasing; webinars and an annual conference featuring green employers and thought leaders; a personalized career exploration and planning tools; and much more! Check out all 50 interviews using the links below for inspirational career paths and valuable advice, such as these recommendations from the Jane Goodall Institute’s Kamilah Martin:

Kamilah Martin: My advice… can apply across any sector. Get your hands dirty! I worked in a lot of different industries. I had many different jobs and internships. What that does is it helps you to narrow down what you are interested in and maybe even what you’re not interested in. You just chisel away until you come up with the sculpture for what works for you and your personality… step outside of your comfort zone… ask a lot of questions. Find people that you can look up to and learn from…

Presenting: All 50 of the EcoLeaders Top Inspirations!

Name Current Position Alma Mater Fellow/ Intern Project Year
Alex Harker Landscape Architect; Creo Landscape Architecture University of Colorado, Boulder; University of California, Berkeley Colorado School of Mines Traffic Alleviation Plan 2006
Alison Erlenbach Program Manager; Pacific Gas and Electric University of Florida Carbon Footprint Evaluation and Outreach 2007
Amira Odeh Graduate Student; Universidad Austral de Chile University of Puerto Rico No Mas Botellas 2010
Andrew Sartain Founder and President; Earth Rebirth University of Oklahoma Earth Rebirth 2014
Andrew Kamerosky Ph.D. Student and Research Assistant; Florida Atlantic University Bethune-Cookman University Initiating Sustainability at Bethune-Cookman University 2009
Andrew Lee Founder, Esper, Inc.; ​Advisor, Creative Action Network Claremont McKenna College Irrigation Optimization 2006
Anthony Cooper Certified EcoLeader Florida A&M University Floridians for Solar Choice Petition Collection 2016
Bilal Key After School Counselor at YMCA Lincoln University 2013-2014 Toyota Green Ambassadorship 2013
Bri Jones Executive Director; Equality State Policy Center University of Wyoming Emerging Leaders Advisory Council 2013
Christina Rinas PhD Student; University of Sherbrooke Alaska Pacific University Alpine Vegetation Change on the Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson, Alaska 2013
Christopher Murakami Research Consultant University of Missouri; Assessment Resource Center University of Missouri Community Garden for Mizzou 2011
Cody Kamrowski Student; University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Conservation Leadership Corps 2014
Daniel Weisshaar Produce Manager and Buyer; ​Glen’s Garden Market Warren Wilson College Global Warming Policy Intern 2009
Daniella Lewis Farm Stand Manager; ​Plant It Forward University of Texas, Austin Urban Community Garden 2011
Deborah Scott Research Fellow; University of Edinburgh Goshen College Sustainable Landscaping Guide 2001
Erica Tauzer Community Planner; Environmental Design & Research Albion College Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2008
Evan Reimondo Environmental Stewardship Coordinator; National Outdoor Leadership School University at Buffalo “Portraits of the Real Wyoming” 2013
Gideon Burdick Marketing and Development Associate; Red Tomato Warren Wilson College Energy – Real-Time Monitoring 2009
Gina Schrader Director, Business Model Innovation; NextEnergy Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; Western Michigan University NWF Conservation Intern 2000
Hala Elbarmil Outreach Specialist; Fairfax County Park Authority George Mason University Get your wheels ready! Bike events at #GMU! 2015
Ian Johnson Sustainability Director; ​Colorado College University of Wisconsin, River Falls Theoretical Rotational Management Plan 2009
Ivy Dunlap Environmental Specialist and Landscape Architect; City of Portland University of Oregon Campus Landscape Sustainability Scorecard 2001
Jessian Choy Green Purchasing and Toxics Reduction Specialist; San Francisco Department of the Environment University of California, Santa Cruz University of California Santa Cruz Student Environmental Center (UCSC SEC) 2001
Jomar Floyd Certified EcoLeader Florida A&M University “Science for Us” 4-H Club Charter: Engaging Youth in STEM/Environmental Awareness, 2014
Jonitka Hall Marketing, Whole Foods Market Clark Atlanta University Emerging Leaders Advisory Council 2014
Julian Dautremont-Smith Director of Programs; AASHE Lewis and Clark College How-To Guide for Inventorying Campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2002
Kamilah Martin Associate Director; ​Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots Program The City University of New York Methods for Encouraging Conservation Stewardship in Underrepresented Populations 2014
Katharine Pelzer Director of Commercial Operations; SparkMeter University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Climate and Energy Intern 2010
Kawika Winter Director of Limahuli Garden and Preserve; ​National Tropical Botanical Garden University of Hawai`i at Manoa Natural Resource Management System for the Limahuli Garden and Preserve 2005
Kaylon Paterson Founder; Amicus Terrae Morehouse College AUC Clean Up 2014
Kellan Lyman Economic Development Volunteer; Philippines The University of Georgia How-To: Getting a Polluting Refinery Under Control 2014
Kimberly Reeves Sustainability Programs Manager; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Agnes Scott College Agnes Scott Arboretum Update and Virtual Tour 2011
Kindra Ramos Director of Communications and Outreach; Washington Trails Association Western Washington University Policy and Lobbying Intern 2000
Mary Ellen Kustin Director of Policy for Public Lands; Center for American Progress University of Maryland College Park Advocacy Intern 2009
Michael Gale Special Assistant; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service University of Florida Engaging Young Adults with Technology, Fantasy Storytelling 2014
Michael Slotten Extension Educator; North Dakota State University St Edward’s University Central Texas Endangered Species Education Project 2013
Niraj Ray Founder; Cultivate the City The Bethune Cookman University J.O. Wilson Elementary School Kitchen Garden 2013
Pamela Millan Student; St. Edward’s University St. Edward’s University Relationship Between White-Tailed Deer Density and Activity in a Residential Area 2015
Phil Aroneanu Campaign Strategy and Organizing Consultant; philaroneanu.com Middlebury College Worm Composting Program 2004
Phoebe Romero Energy Efficiency Consultant; ‎CLEAResult St. Edward’s University Rainwater Harvesting System Proposal 2013
Rachel Sholly Chief of Program Development; Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources University of Rhode Island Clean Transportation Policy and Public Education 2008
Ron Schlidge Computer Science Teacher; American School of Paris Middlebury College Biofuel Feasibility Evaluation 2002
Samantha Weaver Renewable Energy Strategy Analyst; Pacific Gas and Electric Company Kalamazoo College Campus Energy Group Initiatives 2007
Sean Hackett Environmental Protection Specialist; Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Gonzaga University School of Law; Fort Lewis College NWF Summer Legal Intern 2010
Sean Armstrong Project Manager; Redwood Energy Humboldt State University Campus Center for Appropriate Technology Research and Writing 2000
Sherill Baldwin Source Reduction and Recycling Analyst; Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Michigan State University Edible Food By-Products Research 2002
Stacy Cachules Operations Director; Central Indiana Land Trust Indiana University Bloomington NWF Grassroots Communication Intern 2004
Summer Rayne Oakes Founder; sugardetox.me Cornell University Organic Portraits 2004
Tessa Haagenson Principal Planning Analyst; Great River Energy Bemidji State University Renewable Energy Education and Petitioning 2005
Ursula Ible FAMU Campus Fellow; Vote Mob and Florida Student Power Network Florida A&M University Power Vote 2010 2010


Learn More about EcoLeaders

Check out all 50 full interviews (and much more!) in the NWF EcoLeaders Career Center (requires registration with EcoLeaders for full access). EcoLeaders is the nation’s first project-based leadership development program for sustainability, leading to certification for college students and young professionals. EcoLeaders provides a career edge that helps the planet while helping thousands of emerging leaders do well by doing good for their communities.

Read more about the perks, history and how to get involved here.

Become an EcoLeader Today!