Events & Media

August 1, 2016

Fellowships for First-Generation Mexican-American MESM Students

Second-year Bren students Erik Martinez and Vanessa De Anda (both MESM 2017) received distinguished fellowships at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. Martinez was awarded both a Switzer Fellowship, which provides leadership development and training for students who are seen as potential environmental leaders. Both he and De Anda received fellowships from the new Environmental Fellows Program (EFP) at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. The program supports the career aspirations of graduate students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Vanessa De Anda

Erik Martinez

Martinez and De Anda, both of whom are Mexican-American and first-generation university students, are two of 17 students in the first EFP cohort. Martinez is among twenty students in New England and California who received 2016 Switzer Fellowships.

The Switzer Foundation employs the fellowships as a way to identify, support, and nurture emerging environmental leaders through academic funding, leadership training, and preparing them to have an impact on policy. Each fellowship includes a $15,000 cash award that may be applied to any school-related expenses.

While the Switzer Foundation is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its fellowship program, the Environmental Fellowship Program at the University of Michigan is in its first year.

“The Environmental Fellowship Program was launched because many university environmental programs have low percentages of domestic students of color, and that carries over to the environmental workforce, where less than sixteen percent of the staff of environmental NGOs and agencies are people of color,” says program founder and University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor, a social scientist whose research interests include a range of issues related to environmental justice. “The EFP is designed to help identify, provide internship and training opportunities for, and foster network building among the fellows to prepare them for leadership in the environmental field.”

“She created the program to show that we minorities do exist as students who are studying environmental issues,” says Martinez, adding that Taylor “is dedicated and really stands up for students and makes sure we get a good experience out of it. She believes in our potential and the value we’ll bring to agencies. She’s a great mentoring guide for us.”

The EFP provides students with training, income, and, perhaps most important, entrée into a large and growing network of philanthropic organizations, NGOs, and nonprofits. Fellows also earn $10,000 during twelve-week paid internships with EFP partner philanthropic organizations or NGOs funded by one of the program’s partners. The internships expose fellows to a variety of career opportunities available in the philanthropic sector.

De Anda was matched with the Pisces Foundation in San Francisco, where she is spending the summer as a programs intern. In her role, she assists on various projects in the organization’s water, environmental education, and climate & energy programs.

“I am thrilled to be a member of the first EFP cohort,” De Anda said. “It’s an honor to be part of a program that attempts to diversify the philanthropic field by providing a unique opportunity for young professionals with diverse backgrounds like mine to gain exposure and build meaningful, lifelong connections in this sector.”

Martinez is spending the summer in Boston working with the Trustees of Reservations, which pursues the conservation of special places in Massachusetts.