Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation
Summer/Fall Newsletter 2011

From the Executive Director

Executive Director Lissa Widoff
Executive Director Lissa Widoff
Switzer Network Fuels Innovation

Greetings Switzer Fellows, friends,  

and colleagues,


As a private foundation whose mission is closely tied to the academic calendar through our Fellowship Program, we invariably greet the fall season with anticipation and excitement.  


This fall we will be gathering our twenty 2011 Fellows from New England and California in leadership retreats where they will build communication and leadership skills, learn about networked action and set their professional and personal goals. As part of our commitment to Fellows, we weave emerging themes and practices for solving complex problems into the collaborative learning environment that accompanies the Fellowship itself.


Collaborative action is essential, and collaborative skills are a prerequisite to innovation that can tap the strengths and expertise from many quarters.  Whether it is Fellow Michael Wilson's leadership in launching UC Berkeley's integrated Green Chemistry program in response to student and social needs, or Dustin Mulvaney of Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition holding the solar industry accountable for the life cycle of its products, or Heather Coleman and Sara Mersha engaging the most marginalized communities in climate change policies at international and local scales through OxFam and Grassroots International, we are learning that leadership is by no means a solitary feat. 


We are also increasing our investment in reporting the stories of Fellows' work through this newsletter, social media, Switzer Network News reports and our website. Fellows and our Network of environmental colleagues in all sectors are invited to contribute news on our blog, seek Fellows for solving today's environmental challenges, and collaborate with them to find new pathways for positive social and environmental change. Our mandate has in no way changed. We are only expanding the way we think about achieving our mission.  


In the spirit of collaboration, please see our Fellows and our Network as a resource in your efforts. I invite your ideas as we prepare Fellows to engage in the challenges ahead.


Lissa Widoff 

Executive Director, and Switzer Fellow (1992)

Meet the 2011 Fellows

Twenty New Fellows Join Network
The core program of the Switzer Foundation, the Switzer Fellowship Program supports highly talented graduate students working towards environmental improvement, who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their fields.

This year twenty new Fellows join the Switzer Network of nearly 500 Fellows. The 2011 Fellows cover a wide range of academic disciplines and professional interests, including conservation biology, sustainable food systems, engineering, law, marine biology, climate change, environmental education, and environmental justice


Switzer Fellow Mark ElbrochFor example, Fellow Mark Elbroch is a published author and co-author of several field guides to wildlife tracking, animal skulls and animal behavior, who also collaborates with CyberTracker Conservation in South Africa.  He is completing his PhD in Ecology at the University of California, Davis.



Switzer Fellow Sarah UhlFellow Sarah Uhl led the Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Connecticut when it successfully campaigned for several pieces of groundbreaking state legislation, including a first-in-the-nation phase-out of bisphenol-A from food and beverage containers.  She is now studying the health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  



Fellow Jeannette Laramee Switzer Fellow Jeannette Laramee spent three years in Zambia as a Project Manager for a local NGO, coordinating all aspects of construction of a residential and educational center for over 250 children.  She is currently pursuing a M. Eng. degree at Stanford University in Civil and Environmental Engineering, where her reasearch focuses on how wastewater treatment systems with resource recovery and reuse capabilities can be effectively implemented in developing country communities. 


All twenty environmental leaders have demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment to their work as well as the capacity to lead for on-the-ground change.  


Read the bios of all 2011 Fellows   


Switzer Network News Reports
Switzer Network News logo

Switzer Network News is a regular series of news reports that profile the environmental accomplishments and innovations of Switzer Fellows as leaders in their respective fields.  Our recent reports include:

Whale Trust
Co-founded by Switzer Fellow Meagan Jones, Whale Trust supports research on whales and their marine environment.  The organization is committed to bridging that research with public outreach, education and conservation.

Brownfields: Revitalizing Communities
Switzer Fellow Carol Tucker, who manages the New England Brownfields Program for the US Environmental Protection Agency, explains how brownfields offer major opportunities for community development and revitalization.

Voting with Your Dollars
GoodGuide provides the world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of consumer products. Dara O'Rourke, Switzer Fellow and Co-Founder of GoodGuide, believes that GoodGuide is responsible for changing the balance of power from manufacturing to the consumers.

Watch these reports at our website and subscribe to receive new episodes via iTunes or email

Leveraging the Network

Switzer Spring Retreat Central Valley
Spring Retreats Foster Collaborative Action
The annual spring retreat is an opportunity for Switzer Fellows and environmental colleagues to examine a critical environmental issue from an interdisciplinary perspective, showcasing the work of colleagues and Fellows addressing the issue, and offering a chance for sharing of expertise and creative exchange.

The Switzer Fellows' California Spring Retreat was held in the Central Valley, where participants learned about the complex ecological and environmental justice issues facing agricultural communities and the San Joaquin River.  Switzer Fellow Jim Downing produced a Switzer Network News episode about drinking water in the Central Valley and several attendees of the retreat wrote an op-ed.
See the retreat agenda, Switzer Network News video, and more

The New England Spring Retreat and Study Tour looked at the Nashua River in Fitchburg, MA, as a case study for river restoration and community revitalization.  See the retreat agenda and photos

LinkedIn Webinar Draws on Fellow Expertise
To kick off our Digital Skills webinar series we hosted a panel of Switzer Fellows who shared their experiences with and tips for "Using LinkedIn to Boost Your Career."
View the webinar and download the resource guide

Profile + Webinar + Blogging
Switzer is making big changes in how we feature Fellows and their work.  We are expanding our video coverage of Fellows with Switzer Network News to include print profiles, hosted webinars on topics of interest to the general public, and blogging.  The resulting mix will provide richer coverage of important environmental issues and our Fellows' work on them.  The first reports will be appearing on our website this fall.
Read the program description for Fellows

Interested in Leveraging the Network for Your Organization?
We are always interested in hearing about individuals and organizations working on complex environmental issues that could benefit from the thought leadership of our interdisciplinary network of Fellows.  If you are interested in leveraging the network, please contact
Executive Director Lissa Widoff.

Fellows in the News

David Albright (1993), Manager of the Ground Water Office at USEPA Region IX in San Francisco
Albright has been in the news frequently as EPA testing begins in Lahaina, Hawaii. Read the article

Dara O'Rourke (1988), Co-Founder of
O'Rourke was a guest on NPR's "On Point" to discuss sunscreen and the FDA's new rules regarding it. Listen to the show

Joe Aldy (2003), Former Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Environment
Aldy received a lot of press coverage on his new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the American utility sector over the next twenty years. Read his proposal

Myra Finkelstein (1998) and Katherine Smith (2004), Developers of
Finkelstein and Smith developed the website that guides consumers to make informed decisions about exotic pets.  Switzer supported the project with a Collaborative Grant. Visit the website

Read all Fellows in the News updates

Leadership Grants

Doreen Stabinsky
Doreen Stabinsky
Switzer Grantees: Driving Positive Environmental Change
The Switzer Leadership Grant Program provides up to $40,000 in funding to selected organizations that work with a Switzer Fellow on a project aimed at improving environmental quality.  Leadership Grants are designed to advance the professional leadership development of Fellows and to increase the capacity of organizations to address a critical environmental issue. 

Eight Leadership Grants totaling $212,000 were awarded this past spring.  The latest grantees include the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Global Diversity Foundation, American Rivers, Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, USDA Forest Service, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.  

Under these grants, Fellows are working on timely and relevant issues, creating on-the-ground change.  For example:

Doreen Stabinsky (1991) is working with the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy to elevate their capacity to provide substantive leadership on the links between agriculture and climate change leading up to and during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, in November/December 2011.

Sarah Reed (2006) is working as a Project Leader for the Wildlife Conservation Society to expand its capacity in several priority areas in North America in looking at ways to reduce the impacts of rural sprawl on wildlife habitat.  She will examine how the concept of Conservation Development may be used in the Southern Rockies, the Adirondacks, and the Greater Yellowstone region.

Amy Rogers (2005) will continue her work with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation in the Mache-Chindul Reserve in Ecuador, this year working with Josh Donlan (1998) of Advanced Conservation Strategies to test the concept of environmental mortgages as a way to create sustainable livelihoods in the region.

Read descriptions of all 2011 Grants
Get more information on the Leadership Grant Program 

Upcoming Events

Fall Retreats
Each year in the fall, the Switzer Foundation hosts two weekend-long retreats for current and past Fellows, Grantees and colleagues, one in New England and one in California.  The retreats are an opportunity for participants to get together for networking and shared learning. 

This year's New England retreat will be held September 16-18 in Essex, Massachusetts.  The keynote speakers will be Kenneth Bailey, Co-founder and Judith Leemann, Artist in Residence, of the Design Studio for Social Intervention.  They will speak about "Design Thinking - New Pathways for Social Change," introducing how systems change can occur using principles of "design thinking," a merging of design principles, community engagement, visual communication and systems thinking.

The California retreat will be held September 30-October 2 at the Headlands Institute in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  The keynote speaker will be Stuart Cohen, 1996 Switzer Fellow and Executive Director of Transform. His talk, "Next Stop, Livable Communities: Winning Movements for Sustainability and Equity," will describe how transportation policy can transform the ways communities and partners live, work and foster more sustainable patterns of growth.

We have a limited number of spaces available for both keynote addresses.  If you would like to attend please contact Executive Director Lissa Widoff.

We regularly host webinars on topics of interest, including environmental issues, breaking news topics, leadership skills and more.  Past webinar topics have included mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachians, climate change adaptation science, and using LinkedIn to boost your career. The schedule of webinars for the coming year is currently being developed.  To be notified of upcoming webinars, please contact Communications Manager Lauren Hertel.

In This Issue
From Executive Director
Meet the 2011 Fellows
Switzer Network News
Leveraging the Network
Fellows in the News
Leadership Grants
Upcoming Events
Foundation News
Quick Links
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Switzer Foundation
2011 Switzer Fellows
Program Guidelines
Switzer Network News

Attend a
Retreat Keynote
New England
September 18, 2011

Kenneth Bailey, Co-founder and Judith Leemann, Artist in Residence, of the Design Studio for Social Intervention
will be speaking on "Design Thinking - New Pathways for Social Change" at our New England retreat just north of Boston. Visit the retreat agenda

and contact Executive Director Lissa Widoff if you wish to attend the keynote.


October 2, 2011

Stuart Cohen, 1996 Switzer Fellow and Executive Director of Transform
, will speak on the topic "Next Stop, Livable Communities: Winning Movements for Sustainability and Equity" at our California retreat just north of San Francisco. Visit the retreat agenda

and contact Executive Director Lissa Widoff if you wish to attend the keynote.

2012-2013 Fellowship Application Period
Now Open
Online Application Available October 1st

The goal of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program is to support highly talented graduate students in New England and California whose studies are directed toward improving environmental quality and who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their field. Fellowship applications for the 2012-2013 Fellowship year are due January 15, 2012.  New guidelines will be posted October 1, 2011, and outreach will begin at that time.

Read more about
the Fellowship Program

For any questions on our grant programs, please contact Program Officer Erin Lloyd.

Foundation News

Foundation Noted for Funding Leaders
The Spring 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) recognized the Switzer Foundation for investing in leadership development and professional networks "to create high-impact solutions."  The article "Letting Go" by Kristi Kimball and Malka Kopell discusses how foundations often undermine their own efforts by micromanaging how social problems are solved, and cites Switzer as an example of how general support for effective organizations and leaders can be more productive.
Read the article at SSIR (subscription required)

Carol Tucker Joins Board

Carol Tucker, a 2001 Fellow and Brownfields Program Section Chief in the New England Environmental Protection Agency, has joined the Switzer Board.  Carol's government and community partnership experience will be a great asset to the Board and for Fellows. 

Read Ms. Tucker's bio and watch a Switzer Network News video about her work 

Lauren Hertel Hired as Communications Manager
Lauren Hertel, a 2003 Fellow with experience in multimedia journalism, has joined Switzer's staff to oversee our new social media strategy, assist with media training for Fellows, and tell Fellows' stories across multiple platforms.
Read Ms. Hertel's bio

A Vibrant Community of Environmental Leaders
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