MESM Wins Switzer Fellowship

Sept. 30, 2011

Kelsey Jacobsen (MESM 2012) has been selected as one of just twenty students in the nation to receive a prestigious Switzer Environmental Fellowship for 2011-12 by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. The fellowships were announced in August, when Kelsey was in Chile, working on her Bren Master's Group Project, a study of the bioeconomcis of aquaculture.

Born and raised on the shores of a small island town in Southeast Alaska, Jacobsen is pursuing a Bren specialization in Coastal and Marine Resource Management.

Switzer fellowships are awarded to emerging environmental leaders who are pursuing graduate degrees and are dedicated to positive environmental change in their careers.

Jacobsen is the fifth Bren student to receive a Switzer Fellowship; the others are Daniel Morris (MESM 2008); Leslie Abramson (MESM 2009), and Randy Turner (MESM 2010), and Heather Lahr (MESM 2011). Bren professor of environmental microbiology Patricia Holden was also a Switzer fellow. Jacobsen is also a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow for 2011, the last year of that program.

Her primary interest is in marine spatial planning, a management tool she believes is essential for achieving a balance between marine conservation and a sustainable supply of marine resources.

Jacobsen recently contributed the following remarks about her experience with the fellowship.

Kelsey is also an accomplished artist, as evidenced by this pencil drawing of an octopus.

Was it a rigorous process to apply for the Switzer fellowship? If so, how?

The application process was not notably more rigorous than those of other competitive programs. However, although a one- to two-page personal essay about interests and career goals may not sound like a daunting assignment, the essay took a significant amount of time and energy for me to complete. I found myself thinking critically about how the Bren School master's program will influence my career, who my strongest role models have become, and where I picture my niche within the marine conservation community. While composing this narrative of my accomplishments and aspirations concerning the ocean, I saw the Switzer Fellowship as a lofty, perhaps even unattainable, objective; writing the essay was a good exercise in sorting my thoughts about what role I can play in marine resource conservation and management. So I was flabberghasted when I received an e-mail requesting an interview for the fellowship. This second stage of the application process – despite the butterflies and anticipation as I traveled from Santa Barbara to San Francisco to complete the interview in person – was surprisingly pleasant. The Switzer Fellows and Trustees created an incredibly friendly and encouraging environment for the interview and showed a genuine interest and confidence in all of the interviewees.

Did you feel confident that you would win? Were you surprised when you did, and what was your experience of hearing the news?

I felt positive coming out of my interview – I had found some common ground with my interviewers, and they seemed receptive to the ideas I was sharing. Interestingly, I spoke to a couple of the other applicants as we left the building, and they both described how they thought their nerves had gotten the better of them in their interviews. I felt that I had shaken (or at least hidden) most of my nerves so that I could have a natural and animated conversation. Still, I knew that only ten of the twenty interviewees would receive a fellowship, and I think I checked my e-mail for a response from the foundation about once every three and a half minutes for the few days after I returned to Santa Barbara. When a congratulatory e-mail came, I was amazed. I believe I did a little giddy dance in my desk chair and may have run around the room once or twice. It was a great feeling, and a strong reassurance that others have confidence that I will achieve good things in my chosen field.

What is the importance of the Switzer Fellowship to you, and how do you see it impacting the arc of your education/career path?

Perhaps the most important component of the fellowship is the Switzer Network, comprising all past and current fellows. The network ensures that the fellowship lasts throughout a fellow's career. The foundation does an excellent job of connecting network members with retreats and online events, by facilitating collaboration and innovation with further grants and awards, and by promoting the work of fellows by publishing on social networking and news sites. I also plan to take advantage of the career mentoring program provided to fellows, in which past fellows or other professionals advise young professionals like me. I??m really excited for the fall retreat, where we will get to meet the rest of our 2011 cohort, hopefully making connections with people with whom we will continue to collaborate with throughout our careers.

Kelsey Jacobsen