Green Career Tools and Advice for Students and Counselors from the National Wildlife Federation

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

Our latest True North podcast features the National Wildlife Federation’s EcoLeaders program, an online community that provides a number of excellent career management tools and resources for people who want to move into or advance in the sustainability field.

Joining us for this podcast (about 23 minutes) is David Corsar, the Manager of Career Development Programs at the National Wildlife Federation. He is responsible for building and maintaining the online career center portion of the EcoLeaders community and managing the annual EcoCareers Conference.

Before joining NWF, David completed a full 2-year Peace Corps service in the Republic of Armenia where he focused on professional and organizational development for youth and local community-based NGOs.

Prior to his Peace Corps service, David worked as an environmental engineer and project manager at a global engineering consulting firm, CDM Smith. David received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering in Environmental Engineering degrees from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and a Master of Public Administration degree from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

Listen here.


Beth Offenbacker:

David, thanks so much for sitting down with me today to talk about the impressive work that the National Wildlife Federation does in our field of EcoCareers.

Could you give us a little bit of background about the Federation and their mission and purpose?

David Corsar:

Thank you so much, Beth, for having me today on your podcast. I appreciate working with you in the past and I'm happy to be a guest and talk about the work that the National Wildlife Federation does to support EcoCareers.

The National Wildlife Federation was formed in 1936 as a coalition of conservationists, from hunters and anglers, garden clubs, people who are interested in supporting conservation all across the country, and came together as a conference, and after that went back to their individual states informed individual organizations.

And so the National Wildlife Federation -- the F, Federation -- is important because it really embodies the way that we do our work. We're made up of affiliate organizations in each of the different states and territories who each year decide what the priorities are. That helps us maintain a diverse amount of perspectives on what conservation priorities we should be pursuing across the country and enables us to bring together voices from different parts of the conservation movement.

Now for my work, I work in our Higher Education Department. The National Wildlife Federation has been working in higher education since 1989. And we work in three different categories of conservation work in higher education. And that's supporting student leadership development, career planning, and campus greening, and I can talk a little bit more about each of those initiatives as we go on.

Beth Offenbacker:

Wonderful. Wow. Well, those three focus areas are definitely places where we see needs across the community at large and in specific areas. Could you give us a little bit more detail about the EcoLeaders program in each of those areas?

David Corsar:

Sure thing. EcoLeaders was launched in 2014 and was built off of our decades of work in campus ecology and at its core, it’s a sustainability leadership and career development program for college students as well as high school juniors and seniors, and young professionals.

It's an online community made up of over 4,000 members who are coming from nearly 800 different educational institutions to come together and learn more about sustainability, about project design and management, and prepare for their careers their future careers in the green workforce.

Beth Offenbacker:

David, tell us a little bit about what really draws people to the EcoLeaders program. What sets it apart from the other options that are available to people who have an interest in the conservation field?

David Corsar:

Sure. The EcoLeaders program is designed initially with college students in mind, and it came out of focus groups that we had with undergraduate and graduate students, fellows over the years and they saw the work that we were doing in supporting them in designing and launching sustainability projects on their campuses and a way to broaden that message and bring that [to] the college students all across the country -- basically expand our reach. The way that individuals find out about it are through our social networks and through our connections at colleges and universities across the country.

But we also have individuals that just find out about it that want to advance sustainability, that care about wildlife and conservation within their communities and on their campuses. And the level of involvement is kind of up to the individual. They can go on there and just browse, just learn about what other students and young leaders are doing on their campuses and in their communities, in order to learn some ideas, the lessons learned from leaders.

It's an opportunity for young people to share their experiences, share their project templates, and reports, and like I said, lessons learned to help other people implement those projects. And on top of that, we offer a certification for these young people and this is kind of a unique certification. We aren't certifying specific technical knowledge. What we're certifying are those soft skills and people skills that employers are always saying they want to see in new graduates and have a hard time kind of teasing out the different elements of those of those soft skills.

The certifications that we provide are called either Campus EcoLeader Certification or Community EcoLeader Certification, depending on whether it's a college student or not. We’re certifying the understanding of project design and management, the importance of budgeting and accounting, and a basic understanding of monitoring and evaluation, building consensus keeping your community informed about the type of work that you're doing, and basically just becoming a well-rounded green leader.

Beth Offenbacker:

Wow, what a great set of skills to have going into this field and very needed for sure. I really appreciate the community and the website that you have is quite robust, David. I think one of the elements that I especially appreciate, with those case studies that you talked about is you can really get a sense for where you might want to land within the conservation field.

Could you speak a little bit to that aspect of the community and what's available to people?