Each year, scores of college graduates get jobs in finance, or consulting, or with Teach for America… you’ve heard it a million times, right? In this column, each month we’ll profile one female college grad who chose to do something a little different, something off the beaten path—someone who decided to take… the job less traveled. Despite being a vegan, Juliana Shulman had never considered the environment one of her top priorities. So how did the 2009 University of Chicago grad, who double majored in human development and gender studies and had a “major/minor” in human rights, find herself in the Green Corps Field School for Environmental Organizing after she graduated?
The 13-month program includes four weeks of classroom training in Boston, followed by field training on three to five different environmental campaigns in cities all over the US. But Juliana says the focus is on developing organizing and activism skills—not on the environment. “We’re working on every single organizing skill,” says Juliana, citing public speaking, canvassing, and writing letters to the editor as some of the skills she’s developed since starting her classroom training. Juliana’s interest in activism was sparked by her father’s congressional campaign in 2008. “I kept thinking I’d go to public health school and law school,” she says. “And then came my dad’s campaign. I really realized I didn’t want to be the policy wonk in the governor’s office giving advice. I definitely wanted to be a leader.” Her study abroad experiences in India and South Africa intensified that feeling—and made her realize how crucial protecting the environment was to public health and human rights, her main areas of interest.
“They’re expecting us to mess up,” says Juliana. Thus the program has supervisors checking in with once a week phone calls and occasional site visits to give the trainees feedback and support. They also offer support with career placement; everyone in the 2008-2009 class had a job in organizing when they finished. As for Juliana, she’s hoping to work in organizing for a few years, but then settle into a more normal life. “One of the challenges is how I’m going to crank out these 14-hour days of talking to people and being on the streets,” says Juliana. “But it definitely lets you step up the ranks and run these huge progressives in the future which won’t be a crazy, unstable life.” Want to get involved with the Green Corps? Here’s how: Go to www.greencorps.org and click on “Apply to Green Corps”. It’ll lead you to the online application for Green Corps 2010-2011! Sources: Juliana Shulman, activist at the Green Corps www.greencorps.org www.foodandwaterwatch.org