Adam Jorge, MESM 2015
National Coordinator for Clean Water Act Grants Reporting, US EPA
Growing up in Modesto and Turlock, the heart of California’s agricultural Central Valley, Adam Jorge just accepted that, like himself and each of his siblings, kids had asthma.
But when he was 10, his family moved to the small mountain town of Sonora, not far from Yosemite, where Adam first recognized that clean air could change your life. The stifling attacks of asthma that he and his siblings had accepted as part of playing baseball or riding bikes disappeared. Vanished. “Before, it wasn’t a question of if we’d have an attack, it was when.”
Suddenly, instead of posing a risk, the outdoors became a welcoming world for Adam, who learned to love hiking, poking around in creeks and simply being out in nature.
Those outdoor adventures set him on a path that would lead to the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and his career as the National Coordinator for Clean Water Act Grants Reporting and Tracking System with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Adam’s job involves policy development and the oversight of federal dollars appropriated for pollution prevention, remediation and water quality management of polluted runoff into streams and waterways.
To this work he brings expertise in environmental economics, public policy and public administration, rooted in his Bren experience. His favorite course at Bren was Fate and Transport of Pollutants, an elective that he says solidified his interest in his chosen field. He also credits his enthusiasm to “any courses I took with Trish Holden or Arturo Keller, and every course with Allison Horst, all incredible instructors.”
He believes that, “The reason I have this job at the EPA is because of Bren, on almost every level. For example, my group project was all about agricultural pollution in California.” His group’s work and experience made his resume stand out when he launched his job search.
He learned about federal opportunities and the hiring process from a Bren alum who presented a career talk while he was earning his Master of Environmental Science and Management. "She was a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) working for the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, and she really impressed me with her presentation and professionalism.”
Her talk prompted Adam to apply to the PMF program, and ultimately helped him bypass a challenging federal hiring process by placing him in a prioritized federal hiring pool. “PMF only had a few environmentally focused candidates at the time, which was great for us. I actually got a cold call from a branch chief at the EPA who had found my resume in the candidate pool, and she is now my boss.”
Adam leveraged every opportunity he could find at Bren, and admits he was an intense student who loaded on extra electives, taking every course he could fit into his schedule, which also included two campus jobs: as a professor’s research assistant, and as a writing tutor for graduate students. At the same time, Adam’s wife was earning her master’s degree in Global and International Studies at UCSB.
Adam set a high bar for himself, and while exploring the breadth and depth of environmental issues and problem-solving, “what I learned at Bren and still use every day is how to trust people in your group to produce at the level of quality you would do yourself. People who are passionate about the mission can usually be trusted to produce strong work, and everyone at Bren has a vested interest in environmental health and wellbeing.
What I learned at Bren and still use every day is how to trust people in your group to produce at the level of quality you would do yourself.
In the job hunt after Bren, Adam used training and advice from the Bren Career Development team at every step. “My resume is still tailored to the Bren format. I also have really kept to the situational interview response format that was a focus during my time at Bren, and I used the Bren negotiation techniques during the federal hiring process to leverage into a higher GS level than is typical for new employees.”
“If I were to give advice to future Bren students, I would say go in with ambitious abandon. Do everything you possibly can to explore your interests and take advantage of all the great information in front of you. Bren has a really good career placement staff – people who will help you land a great job when the time comes.”
Bren students bring an interest in helping others to the core of their group projects, and then take that out into the world. That his family had the means to literally rise above the Central Valley’s agricultural chemicals and particulates was not only a starting point for Adam, but has continued to inform his career. He’s sensitive to the reality that, “So much of our access to clean air and water is inequitably distributed.” His degree and subsequent work for the EPA have provided him with the opportunity and ability to affect the health of people who cannot simply pick up and move away from unsafe living conditions.
Striving for better and being given the practical tools to do so drew him to Bren, then to a job that’s a great fit and source of pride. “The EPA is such a stellar example of good federal work,” says Adam. “It’s very mission driven and the people I work with reflect that. It’s an encouraging place to be.”
“I believe in nature for nature’s sake, but also that we’re here to protect each other through ensuring human health and environmental quality. I don’t want any kid to have asthma, or any family to be exposed to toxic environments.”
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