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Juliana Shulman & The Green Corps: The Job Less Traveled

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.

In India, she interviewed women for her thesis on the spread of HIV. One woman told Juliana how recent droughts made farming, their main source of income, impossible in their region. Her husband, son, and brother-in-law now travel 1,000 miles a year so they can farm elsewhere. But the family wasn’t making nearly as much income, and the traveling heavily affected their quality of life. “Her husband was bringing home diseases from having sex with prostitutes,” says Juliana. “Her third daughter married at the age of eight so they wouldn’t need a dowry for her. We complain about more rain or hurricanes, but over there it’s [climate change] is affecting whole human communities.” Juliana’s first field training experience is in Santa Barbara, where she will lead the Food and Water Watch’s fair fish campaign, which aims to stop fish farming for both environmental and economic reasons. “Corporate fisherman practice bottom trawling, which is casting a huge net over the bottom of the ocean,” says Juliana. “It can destroy an entire ecosystem.” But Juliana’s got a plan to stop that. “We’re looking for congressional oversight on the issue,” she says. “My target is Louis Capps, the congresswoman for Santa Barbara. She could be a leader in the issue. “ Juliana knows that with the economy and healthcare on everyone’s minds, some environmental issues have taken a back seat in Congress. She isn’t sure if she’ll gain Congresswoman Capps’s support, but she is optimistic that she will establish a strong base for the fair fish campaign in Santa Barbara. And the Green Crops will be there to support her.
“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

Elana Altman adores alliteration, and thus is majoring in economics and minoring in English at Wellesley College, where she is a senior. At Wellesley, she’s co-editor-in-chief of Legenda, the yearbook, and has occasionally contributed to the monthly magazine Counterpoint and the weekly newspaper The Wellesley News. She’s originally from Glen Rock, NJ, which is 30 minutes from NYC and 15 minutes from 5 different malls. Currently, Elana's in Harrisburg, PA, where she’s a features intern for the Patriot-News. She’s previously interned at The Record and TWIST magazine. After college, she is considering moving to Los Angeles to fulfill her lifelong dream of getting a tan, though she wouldn't mind a job either. Elana enjoys anything with coffee in it, cooking, a few good TV shows, and a few too many terrible ones.
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