Alumni Experiences

Find out what former fellows thought of the program. Hear what Fellowship Alumni had to say in their own words.

What former Fellows had to say:

“In a community where there are people with years of experience working for goals that are larger than any one person or group, I now understand how crucial it is that we ask each other questions and truly listen to the answers we’re given.”

~David Malcolm, University of Florida, PEC Fellowship Class of 2020

“I’ve never spent much time on the east coast, let alone in Virginia. I wouldn’t have ever thought that the policies and the way things work and the land use practices would be so different from the midwest or from the west coast. I think the Fellowship has really widened my perspective in terms of how I can bring that to other places.”

~Ariel Gans, University of California – Berkeley, PEC Fellowship Class of 2019

“The PEC Fellowship was an incredible experience that I will not soon forget as I move forward in the Environmental field. I came in with an idea of what areas I wanted to concentrate in, but through this program I have fine-tuned my goals and am now set on a path better suited to these newfound interests. Upon returning to school, I adjusted my major and added a GIS minor because of how much I enjoyed learning it with the PEC. I’ve already recommended for all of my friends to apply next year!”

~​ Preston White, James Madison University, Class of 2016 | currently a GIS Analyst at Measure in Washington D.C.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is that we should not take things for granted. Now, I feel like I know so much more about the land around me and can appreciate it so much more because I know how much hard work goes into keeping it pristine.”

Katie Schmidtmann, High Point University, Class of 2019 | currently a Marketing and Outreach Intern at Growing Gardens in the Greater Denver Area

“When I first found out that I got accepted, I really wanted to do my career path in environmental research and working in the lab. But after seven weeks here with the Fellowship I realized that I’ve had a deeper passion for environmental education. So I really think my next step is teaching future environmental stewards to protect the environment.”

Celeste Wilson, University of Mary Washington, Class of 2018 | currently an 8th Grade Science Teacher at Spotsylvania County Public Schools in Fredericksburg, VA

“My favorite thing about the Fellowship is that it really gives you the opportunity to dive into fieldwork. To see how an actual non-profit organization does its work and to really get that hands-on experience that you can’t get at a university. This program does that and it makes it really special and unique.”

Isobel Lingenfelter, University of Utah, Class of 2019 | currently a Recreation Site Planning Associate at Bureau of Land Management in Bountiful, UT

“Academia focus only on national issues or federal issues. [T]his really showed me the importance of state and local government like land use planning and zoning and how the fight is mainly at the local level which is something really interesting and that we don’t ever talk about in my classes.”

Chloe Harris, Smith College, Class of 2019 | currently a Paralegal Specialist at U.S. Department of Justice in Alexandria, VA

“The knowledge that PEC has provided me with is boundless. I can say with full and total certainty that if the ultimate goal of this fellowship was to prepare the next generation of environmental conservationists then personally speaking it has succeeded.”

Drake Starling, Catholic University, Class of 2014 |  currently a World Bank Group – ICSID – Legal Assistant in the Washington D.C. Metro Area

“The Fellowship exposed me to an array of environmental topics and issues that I wouldn’t have ordinarily encountered. All of the staff showed us different aspects of working for a nonprofit, which was quite useful, and the overall experience altered and refined my intellectual and career interests.”

~Samuel Zacher, University of Chicago, Class of 2016 | currently a Budget & Policy Analyst at the Governor Office of State Planning and Budgeting in Colorado

“The PEC Fellowship prepared me for a major transition into post-graduate life and specifically into the process of finding a job in the D.C. area. The technical, communications, and field experience I gained in the program helped me enter into interviews with strong anecdotes to display my expertise. It helped me to speak confidently about different perspectives on environmental conservation, energy, and development issues. I was hired as a Research and Publications Intern at the Environmental Law Institute just three weeks after the program ended, mostly thanks to the Fellowship and the fact that it showed my employers that I had a keen interest and knowledge of environmental land-use issues. I also gained an incredible group of friends throughout the summer and a great resource in the form of the PEC staff who continue to help me in my transition to DC life.”

~Lauren Faccinto, Kenyon College, Class of 2014 | currently a Project Manager at The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council in California

“The PEC showed me where effective environmental conservation intersects with solid community planning. I learned that the environmental movement should be cultivated within the context of our day to day lives, and I think the PEC’s many programs, by doing just that, make a huge impact on the region where I live.”

~Natalie Sheffield, College of William and Mary, Class of 2016

“The fellowship helped me transition from an academic setting to real, meaningful environmental work. PEC showed me the whys and hows of protecting land and communities and helped me imagine my own future in environmental protection more clearly. The staff repeatedly went above and beyond to make the fellowship a success, and I am so thankful I got the chance to learn from them.”

~Chelsea Johnson Lawrence University Class of 2014 | currently a Communications Specialist at the University of Wisconsin Department of Surgery

fellowship reunion

“I wasn’t familiar with land conservation tools, such as easements or riparian buffers. It was eye-opening to learn about the different methods and policies behind conservation! This time in the beautiful Piedmont has taught me how to protect the places I love.” ~Terry Chen, UCLA (Fellowship ’13) | currently a Graduate Teaching Fellow at Harvard University in Massachusetts 

“I’ve known about PEC as a land conservation group, but I didn’t realize there were so many other aspects to it. It was really interesting to learn about water quality, waste management, communications, habitat restoration, land use policies—and how they all tie in with land conservation.” ~Caroline Massie, UVA (Fellowship ’13) | currently a Senior Communications Associate at the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare in Washington D.C.

“I was surprised by how interesting I found the section on agriculture—something I didn’t know a lot about. I learned about organic, local, and conventional farming and how they all tie into our food system—and it really interested me.” ~Sarah Wheatley, Holyoke College (Fellowship ’13) | currently a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Maine, also a founder of Shire Suds

“I had a tremendous experience and learned a lot. I didn’t understand the connection between law and conservation until I got here, and I learned that law is ingrained in what a group like PEC does.” ~Henry Bell, Middlebury College (Fellowship ’13) | founder and currently the lead editor at With the Winds based in Vermont.

“This program gave me an exhaustive background in environmental issues, and helped me to connect personally with this landscape… I also learned more in these seven weeks than in a typical semester of college—and the learning stuck because it was hands-on.” — Peter Hawes, University of Mary Washington (Fellowship, ’11) | currently pursuing a Masters of Public Policy at the University of Virginia

“It is inspiring to work for an organization that does so much good in the world and is so widely respected.” –-Dorsey Clarke, Sewanee University of the South (Fellowship ’10)

“The PEC Fellowship was one of the best work experiences I have ever had. It allowed me to get out in the field and learn new things I never had in college.” –-Josh Crump, Virginia Commonwealth University (Fellowship ’10) | currently a Planner in Hanover County, Virginia

“By being exposed to so many aspects of PEC’s work, I found that I could make an informed choice as to what excites me, and then pursue it professionally.” –Chris Orvin, Northwestern University (Fellowship ’08)

“One of the activities from my Fellowship was shadowing an energy auditor on an energy audit. I very much enjoyed the philosophy of making the best of what we already have and the technical side of testing home energy efficiency. Upon receiving my Master’s degree, I became a certified energy auditor myself.” — Adam Weber (Fellowship ’08) | currently a Sustainability Data Analyst at Eastern Research Group (ERG)

“I consider conservation and preservation volunteer opportunities more strongly since working with PEC. I know these efforts rely heavily on volunteers and have wide-reaching benefits.” — Ben Chrisinger, PhD Candidate at University of Pennsylvania (Fellowship ’08) | currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California

“The Fellowship program really opened my eyes to the beauty of the Piedmont and the importance of keeping it beautiful. I grew up in Northern Virginia, but never really embraced conservation until I participated in the Fellowship. Now many of the causes I support, politicians I vote for, and choices I make have a focus in environmental conservation. I live in Leesburg, VA, and continue to support PEC.” — Tommy Burk (Fellowship ’07) | currently a Data Scientist at BigBear Inc. in Virginia