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The Art of Networking and Other Tangible Lessons

Dec. 3, 2020 — At the end of the fall term, students in Becca Malloy’s AP Environmental Science class got a taste of the real world without ever having to leave campus. 

They networked, conducting informational interviews with professionals whose work is somehow connected to sustainability. Permaculture farming, corporate sustainability, continent-scale land conservation, clean energy policy — these were a few of the fields Malloy’s students explored. 

“I’ve had a lot of students ask me whether there are actually career opportunities in environmental science,” Malloy explained. “I wanted to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities that are available and that there are many different avenues students can take.”

To kick off the networking exercise, the guest professionals, including several NMH alumni, shared videos of themselves talking about their work. After watching the videos together, the students each chose a person to interview, did research on the person’s work, prepared interview questions, and then met for conversations on Zoom.

One of Malloy’s students, Rishik Reddy ’21, interviewed Neil Veilleux, who does clean-energy market analysis and policy and program development for the consulting firm The Cadmus Group. (He’s also an NMH faculty spouse.) The interview was “awesome,” Reddy reported. “Neil works on really cool projects that are related to environmental science and environmental engineering. Right now, he’s working with a utility company in California to create more sustainable school buses.” 

This was part of what Malloy was going for — to help her students see the theories of the course translated into practical applications. 

The conversation also moved beyond sustainability careers. “Neil just gave really good advice,” Reddy went on. “He said to find something you’re passionate about, and if you don’t know what you’re passionate about, just keep trying things until you find one that sticks. And then pursue that thing as hard as you can. He also emphasized the importance of staying in touch with people. Because that person you met three years ago might end up giving you a job or some other opportunity you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

Malloy observed that the conversations felt encouraging to her students, most of whom were seniors. “Our guests reassured them that what’s important isn’t memorization of content, but the ability and the agility to work with data and collaborate with peers,” Malloy said. “A couple of students came back saying they learned that they should always say yes, no matter what the opportunity is — just say yes and try something new. So this felt like it built some life skills, and I think it eased some of the anxiety around the unknowns that are coming with college decisions and career decisions.”