On Saturday afternoon, more than 150 students gathered in Kroon Hall for career advice and a talk with Dan Utech, a White House senior adviser on energy and climate change.
The workshop — which was held by the Association of Yale Alumni in conjunction with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies — is an adaptation of a workshop that the AYA already holds annually in May for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, called “Where do I go from Yale?” Different from the regular workshop, the new workshop “Green Careers for Yale Blues” seeks to bring together alumni and students from all schools of the University. The theme for Saturday’s workshop was professional work in the areas of environment, energy and sustainability.
Utech, who serves as special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, delivered a keynote address on “green jobs in the public sector.”
In the address, Utech said future public sector workers should aim to be moderate, tolerate differences and be informed about political affairs. Utech, who is President Barack Obama’s top energy adviser, then discussed the ways in which Obama has responded to the issue of climate change throughout his term.
Event co-chair Holly Welles FES ’88 said the AYA wanted Utech to be the keynote speaker because of his demonstrated leadership in the energy field. Members of the AYA Events Committee, Welles said, agreed that Utech’s presence would augment the event’s prestige, attracting both panelists and students.
After Utech’s address, audience members could choose to attend one of four panels: energy; ethics, law and policy; sustainability and innovation; and resource management. In selecting the panelists who spoke at each panel, Welles said, the AYA wanted to achieve a balance of alumni from public and private sectors as well as recent graduates and industry veterans.
“We wanted younger alums because they know what the job market is like now and older alums because they have a career network,” she said.
Panelists included the director of marketing and external affairs for New York City’s Citi Bike bike share program, a partner in an intellectual law firm, an author of a legal career guide and an architect.
Rahul Prasad GRD ’87, co-chair of the event, said he wanted the workshop to be a networking hub for students and alumni.
“I want students to be able to see what you can do with a Yale degree, to be inspired by Yale alumni, to learn to network with Yale alumni and to use networks to determine what kinds of jobs and careers are available,” he said.
Lisa Veliz FES ’16 attended the event because she was interested in one specific panelist. After the panels, she said, she was able to approach the panelist and exchange contact information for prospective collaborations.
“Getting feedback from alumni is valuable because they give me feedback on where I am as a student,” she said. “It’s less about attending the event and more about maintaining these long-term relationships.
Others attended the event with unspecific goals, but were excited about the prospect of learning more about the subjects at hand. Danti Chen GRD ’15 signed up because she was interested in hearing general career advice from professionals in the fields.
“I realized what types of career opportunities there are, who would have known that patent lawyers could be involved in sustainability,” Chen said, after attending a panel on sustainability and innovation.
The AYA decided to work the theme around environment, energy and sustainability because it felt the topics encompassed a wide range of interests and skills, according to Welles. Although the event was marketed to students from all Yale schools, 65 percent of those who registered were from Yale College and F&ES.
Planning for this event began last year in September. Proposed themes for the AYA’s next workshops include entrepreneurship and public health.
The event was capped at 200 attendees. Registration, which opened at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9, was oversubscribed five hours later.