Engaging new audiences

Patricia Flores
Patricia as an Office of Communications intern

By Patricia Flores, ’18 (Communication)

After my first day at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, I felt like I was in way over my head. I wasn’t a STEM major, so how was I expected to write and create content about highly technical science information? Additionally, how could I approach my work through an angle that made me feel like I was making some sort of impact?

With the help of mentors and by not being afraid to ask questions—even ones that seem extremely basic—I discovered that I could find the way in which my work for NASA Goddard felt meaningful to me. Specifically, the projects I worked on to increase NASA’s Spanish outreach were very fulfilling. I had the opportunity to interview three amazing and incredibly intelligent Latinx engineers about their research and write feature-length profiles on each of them in Spanish. I translated outreach material, did voice-overs for mission videos, and crafted some tweets for our @NASA_es Twitter page. At the end of the summer, it was so rewarding to know that my work distilled very technical information on extremely relevant science topics to an audience that normally doesn’t engage in these spaces.

Words matter

Marly Carlisle

By Marly Carlisle, ’17 (Political Science)

“People are homeless – they’re not ‘homeless people.’” Tod Lipka, the Executive Director of one of the largest homeless service providers in Los Angeles, said this at a panel I moderated titled “Abolishing Homelessness: It’s Not How, It’s When.” He was emphasizing the critical importance of highlighting a person’s humanity when speaking about homelessness. I think about homelessness on a daily basis – I wrote my thesis about it, I teach a course about it, and I serve on the board of directors of a homeless service provider. When discussing the issue of homelessness, it is easier to think about people who are homeless as abstract numbers and statistics, rather than considering their individual humanity. The mindful practice of saying “people who are homeless” instead of “homeless people” reemphasizes the individual experience of homelessness. It reminds me that “they” are “us,” but with different life circumstances. They are our neighbors, our community members, our fellow citizens. Us. I’ve moved away from “the homeless” and “homeless people,” opting for a more personal, human approach when discussing homelessness.

Becoming part of the neighborhood

Ian Macato
A Bay Area Fil-Am Forum on the Duterte Administration

By Ian Macato, ’19 (Symbolic Systems)

The Filipino Community Center in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco serves to provide a safe space where Filipino families can access services, meet, and hold activities. The Excelsior neighborhood has the second highest population of Filipino/a people in San Francisco, and they are mostly low-income, working class immigrants. As true community members, we organize with partner grassroots organizations striving to fix the root causes of unemployment, unaffordable housing, and poverty in the neighborhood and in the Philippines. The center’s purpose is ordinary, helping community members to access government services and benefits. But serving as an intern at the FCC means to become a part of the Excelsior neighborhood and immerse oneself in the stories, experiences, and lives of the community members we serve. Through learning how to serve our kababayans (the Tagalog word for fellow compatriots), by helping them to get their much deserved government benefits, we also become their friends, counselors, and community members. We take part in their story and empathize with their struggle, knowing ours is interconnected.

Living sustainably


By Thazin, ’15 (Electrical Engineering), MS ’16 (Sustainable Design and Construction)

Starting the day off with a nice morning jog, I arrive early at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After I’m done with a quick shower, more UCSers trickle in, many of whom took the subway or bus or biked over from various parts of the Greater Boston Area. For these clean energy warriors, the commitment to a sustainable planet starts even before the official work day begins.

As a Schneider Fellow, I had my own humble part to play at UCS. With the Climate and Energy team, I wrote reports on how community solar works and how the business models for electric utilities are evolving. While these topics may seem unrelated, they are both important pieces for enabling greater penetration of renewable energy from the different sides of the electricity meter.

The crucial lesson I learned that summer, however, was how those at UCS modeled hard work and integrity.

From informing the public with editorials to advocating for policy changes based on facts and rigorous analyses, every member of UCS worked relentlessly to fight for a healthier, safer world. As I enter the solar industry post-graduation, I will continue to do the same!

Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today’s sustainable energy challenges.

Advocating for responsible energy use

Sadaf in Washington, DC
Sadaf in Washington, DC

By Sadaf Sobhani, B.S./M.S. ’15; PhD Candidate

I spent last summer in Washington, DC working as an intern at the Energy Future Coalition, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation (UNF). As a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, I work on developing computational tools to investigate alternative combustion systems. I spend most days writing code or discussing the technical details of my research. So the transition to Pennsylvania Ave was dramatic. Just the walk from the Farragut North station to my UNF office, located between the White House and the World Bank, was enough to remind me of the incredible opportunity I was given to work in the nation’s capital.

During the summer, I was involved with the Clean Fuels campaign, which calls attention to the epidemiological and environmental risks associated with the combustion of aromatic compounds in fuels. With my background in combustion science and engineering, I was able to contribute to the team’s efforts by translating the current scientific research into a comprehensive white page on the sources and potential impacts of emissions from automobiles, focusing on the influences of specific gasoline components and ethanol-gasoline blending. My work aimed to give insight into potential technical and policy responses to this issue. Through this experience, I gained a deeper appreciation for the complex processes involved in developing and implementing policies that advance us towards a more sustainable and cleaner energy future, a journey that I want to be actively involved in – both as a scientist and an advocate.

Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today’s sustainable energy challenges.


Alumni update: Tim Huang

Tim Huang
Tim (standing) at YDF

By Tim Huang, ’14 (B.A. Human Biology; M.A. Education)

I was drawn to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan because of my interest in how the young democracy in transition was thinking differently about sustainable development and the well-being of its people. Thanks to a Haas summer fellowship, I spent two consecutive summers in college implementing a youth employment project with a local nonprofit, the Bhutan Youth Development Fund. After graduating from Stanford, I returned to Bhutan through the Omidyar Network International Public Service Fellowship, one of the Haas Center’s postgraduate fellowships. During my fellowship year, I worked to strengthen educational equity as a researcher for the Royal Academy, His Majesty the King’s Secretariat. I have since served as a Program Officer at the Bhutan Youth Development Fund, organizing child protection and youth empowerment programs with partners like UNICEF. Over the last 3 years, working in Bhutan has reinforced my belief that investing in the promise of our children and youth creates a more just and sustainable world.

Complex, messy – and rewarding

Paricha Duangtaweesub
Paricha Duangtaweesub

By Paricha Duangtaweesub, MS ’15 (Chemical Engineering)

“What do you want to do after school?”

I rapidly became familiar with this question during my graduate studies, and soon I found myself responding with one version or another of the same response: “I want to apply what I learned to make an impact in renewable energy.”

I was a naïve student of chemical engineering then, cherry-picking engineering classes in renewable energy, crossing over to the GSB and d.school to round out my education. I thought social impact work would be straightforward and well defined, with the benefits as measurable as my grades or the applause after presentations. Did I mention I was naïve?

With much excitement, I accepted a summer Schneider Fellowship at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco right after graduation where I contributed to advocacy work in energy efficiency policy in California and India. Between studying technical potential of bio gas, writing comments to an ordinance proposed by the City of Palo Alto, and preparing a case study of building codes for Hyderabad, the learning experience was both challenging and rewarding.

I found that systems of people can be far more complex than any mathematical models taught in class. It is imperative that we understand the different needs of the stakeholders within the system that we promised to help – city residents, politicians, business owners, and government agencies – as well as the environment. As an engineer, I learned an important lesson: that technical knowledge is only part of the answer.

Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today’s sustainable energy challenges.

Greening cities

Amy King in Amsterdam
Amy in Amsterdam

By Amy King, ’16 (Earth Systems); MS ’17 (Civil & Environmental Engineering: Atmosphere & Energy)

I make a quick stop at a café in Vondelpark before continuing my bike commute through Amsterdam en route to the office on the canal. Bike friendly and full of open spaces, Amsterdam is a model city for sustainability, and I contemplate its merits as I bike along the ancient streets.

Through a Schneider Fellowship, I worked six weeks in Washington, DC and six weeks in Amsterdam for the U.S. Green Building Council, producing the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark Report, an annual account of how hundreds of international properties are striving for sustainable practices in their built environment.

Working with a multicultural team dedicated to urban sustainability, I edited and published the Innovative Case Studies section of the report, discovering along the way the wild ways companies are cultivating green practices in their business and buildings. One company had started a beekeeping program on their green roof, encouraging community and a buzzing bee population. Sharing these creative case studies showed me the green goals of big business, and gave me great hope! Discovering the impact possible in creating a greener built environment shifted my career trajectory from conservation to sustainable design, knowing I can best serve the natural environment by shaping the built one.

Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today’s sustainable energy challenges.

Caring for what we have

Sneha Ayyagari
As part of her internship, Sneha helped create workshops about biointensive agriculture.

By Sneha Ayyagari, ’17 (Environmental Systems Engineering); MS ’19 (Civil and Environmental Engineering: Sustainable Design and Construction)

“Development is when people grow their conscience.” That is how a war veteran, skilled farmer, and environmental educator described to me what it means to create sustainable development. He explained that it doesn’t matter how much people do or don’t have; what matters is that they care for and care about what they have.

As a Schneider Sustainable Energy fellow in 2015, I worked with Asofenix, a grassroots organization that works to develop and improve the lives of rural Nicaraguans in the villages in the hilly state of Boaco. Throughout my fellowship, I supported projects that improved quality of life such as installing renewable energy, potable water infrastructure, irrigation systems, and clean cookstoves; creating an environmental education program; and supporting sustainable agriculture in the community where I worked and lived. I saw how the technical and educational parts of energy projects fit together into an integrated and transformational program. I was deeply moved by the opportunity to learn the stories of the resilient and loving people I worked with.

I also enjoyed learning the nuances of Nicaraguan culture, and the people I worked with became part of my family. I continue to call them every week. This fellowship reinforced my desire to couple my technical skills and interest in environmental engineering with my passion for teaching to create a more just and sustainable world.

Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today’s sustainable energy challenges.

Alumni Update: Alicia Robinson

Alicia Robinson

By Alicia Robinson, ’11 (International Relations)

I came to Stanford after spending most of my life living in Guatemala, where my mother worked for the United Nations. As an international relations major, my focus was on human rights and international law. As a sophomore, I obtained the Stanford Human Rights fellowship to work for UNICEF in Cairo. I was a member of the Stanford Rotaract Club, where I organized a service trip to Guatemala and also co-founded the Central American Students Association to raise awareness on campus about the socio-political realities of this region. I subsequently pursued my JD at Harvard Law School, where I continued to study human rights and post-conflict peace-building. I decided to return to Guatemala to contribute to efforts to curtail impunity, which has severely affected the country’s overall stability in recent years.