The National Wildlife Federation Reaches 2,000 Vanguards for Wildlife

EcoLeader Certification Advances Career Prospects for Young Leaders

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, as colleges and universities across the U.S. wrap up the academic year, the National Wildlife Federation is proud to announce that more than 2,000 young leaders across 500 of those campuses have enrolled in our EcoLeaders Program. The program is designed to help higher education students, recent graduates and young professionals develop the knowledge and skills they need for successful careers in the environment, natural resource conservation and sustainability.

“Across our nation, students and young professionals are stepping up to take on the most challenging conservation issues of our time," said Collin O'Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.  "We are proud of the more than 2,000 EcoLeaders, representing 500 different colleges in all 50 states, who are making a positive impact in their local communities and developing solutions that can be replicated around the globe.  By working on collaborative projects that address real problems, these young leaders are both making an immediate impact today, while gaining the skills that will prepare them for meaningful careers in conservation."

In Spring 2014, National Wildlife Federation launched the EcoLeaders Program to help students and young professionals secure great jobs that help the planet through experience gained in designing and implementing projects that protect natural resources and the environment across diverse disciplines and fields.

With help from the National Wildlife Federation, participants employ a proven model that has been distilled over 25 years through thousands of campus sustainability projects. Hundreds of these are documented in the NWF Campus Ecology Resource Center.

To become an NWF EcoLeader, participants are encouraged to take five key steps with support from NWF staff: Declare a personal mission for the environment and wildlife, advance a sustainability project, support others, create a personalized career pathway, and earn certification for project-based leadership.

“We have found that many of these young people go on to careers and volunteer leadership roles for the environment and natural resources,” says Kevin Coyle, NWF’s  Vice President of Education and Training, “including serving on governor’s task forces, running procurement divisions that specify preferable products in contracts, starting solar companies, running native plant nurseries, directing public lands initiatives and heading up major urban environmental education initiatives in places like Atlanta and Los Angeles.”

“Our career center provides an array of resources to help enrolled EcoLeaders create a personalized, step-by-step action plan for pursuing a fulfilling career that helps the planet,” adds David Corsar, who manages NWF’s career center for enrolled EcoLeaders. “We document in NWF EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations some of the best examples of graduates who are leading the way towards a brighter future, and nearly every one expresses the value of gaining hands-on experience designing and implementing projects that green the campus and wider community.”

To illustrate: one undergraduate, Amira Odeh served as the president of the Eco-Environmental Society at the University of Puerto Rico launching the "No Mas Botellas" campaign to ban plastic water bottles from her campus. Her work eventually led to a developing proposal to significantly reduce the sale of bottled water at the UPR Rio Piedras. Amira’s leadership on this project allowed her to earn the top level NWF EcoLeader Certification. Using the project-based leadership skills she gained through EcoLeaders, Amira has gone on to serve as Campus Organizing Director with NextGen Climate Action. She is now in graduate school in Chile studying water resources and supporting efforts to advance environmental leadership in the region.

To see more project success stories visit the NWF EcoLeaders Projects to read about Rachit's Silver Leaf Certification program, Jessica’s No Light Left Behind project, or Phoebe and her proposed rainwater harvesting system, just to name a few!

Moving forward, NWF will continue to offer new certifications and campaign badges, as well as a global conference focused on sustainability careers: NWF EcoCareers Conference, February 21-22, 2018.

“We are excited to expand the NWF EcoLeader Certification offerings to include both campus and community leadership, as well as badges recognizing leadership for campaigns that NWF is advancing, such as protecting pollinators and helping wildlife move safely through habitat corridors,” explains Courtney Cochran, Senior Coordinator and Community Manger, NWF EcoLeaders Program. 

“These certifications help students and young professionals demonstrate the skills they’ve gained over the course of their campus sustainability projects,” adds Kristy Jones, Senior Manager, NWF EcoLeaders Program, “skills such as project management and communications -that employers consider a ‘must-have’ before inviting a candidate for an interview.”

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