Lifestyles News Ohio University Spotlight

Looking for a Green Job?

By Alexandria Polanosky, Multimedia Editor

Environmental Studies hosted a Green Jobs event on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Five speakers from various employment sectors discussed their careers in the environmental field and the steps they took to get to where they are today. Dr. Geoff Dabelko, Director of Environmental Studies at Ohio University, led the discussion among students.

The first speaker, Michelle Shively, spoke about her job as the coordinator of the non-profit Sunday Creek Watershed Project, which is part of Rural Action. Rural Action serves 32 counties in Southeast Ohio and includes projects such as the zero waste initiative, sustainable forestry and agriculture and the Chester Hill produce auction. The non-profit has a strong environmental education program and is reaching out to new school districts every year.

Shively got her bachelors of science in environmental geography with a minor in biology and her masters of science in environmental studies with a concentration in environmental monitoring, both from Ohio University. She says its been very rewarding to work for Rural Action and she is inspired by the people she works with every day.

Heather Sheets, a naturalist with Burr Oak State Park and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. spoke about how her job does not involve working from the same location each day. She travels between various state parks such as Lake Hope, Hocking Hills, Burr Oak and Dylan, sometimes visiting three parks in one day. Sheets’ main focus is environmental education, but she also leads a wide range of activities including hikes to track animals, archery training, canoeing, boating courses and night fishing. Sheets also visits various state fairs and conferences to promote and educate people about the parks and the environment.

Sheets attended Ohio University for anthropology and a certificate in environmental studies. Upon graduating, she worked with Sustainable Forestry and Sunday Creek with Rural Action through AmeriCorps for two years before her job with ODNR.

Bailey Wagner spoke next about her job as a growth coordinator with Third Sun Solar, which is a for-profit company whose mission is to deliver smooth transitions to solar. The company has installed solar panels at local businesses and buildings such as the Village Bakery, Athens Library and the Ohio University Innovation Center. The biggest part of Wagner’s job involves the education of students and community members on the purpose and benefits of Third Sun Solar.

Wagner’s suggestions to anyone interested in a related career to network and get one’s self out in the field as much as possible. She commented Athens is “an amazing community full of a ton of resources.” She suggests looking into the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners before applying to Third Sun Solar or any related company and to call companies and organizations regarding internships rather than sending an email. It may take more time, but it is noticed more by the employer.

After Wagner’s presentation, Bruce Underwood spoke of his position in public relations and Sales at the Athens Hocking Recycling Center. His responsibilities revolve around the center’s mission to “bring recycling to the people.” His primary duties include customer relations, outreach and education, fostering and creating partnerships with local organizations, and maintaining the website, social media and press coverage. The Recycling Center is currently building a materials recovery facility that will be able to handle 25% percent of waste produced by Athens and Hocking areas.

Underwood attended Ohio State for horticulture and Ohio University for environmental geology with a focus in biology. He went to graduate school for environmental education and worked in the horticulture industry for over ten years upon graduating. Like Wagner, Underwood stressed the importance of networking and learning as many skills as possible.

The final speaker was Tess Phinney, a reporting coordinator with the Ohio University Office of Sustainability. They focus on sustainability in higher education through the education of students, staff, faculty and the community. Phinney, a graduate of Clemson University for environmental natural resource management and current graduate student at Ohio University, mentioned that there will be some job openings at the office next semester. Anyone interested can find positions listed on the Ohio University job board. The jobs involve a lot of reporting, and communication and collaboration are key skills one should express. If anyone is interested in a job in related fields in higher education, he or she should apply soon since it is a very long process.


Alexandria is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is a photojournalism major at Ohio University. She is also pursuing an environmental studies certificate as a result of her newfound passion for environmentalism and sustainability. She loves to immerse herself in local Athens culture as well as other organizations on campus…

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