EEDS Program Graduate: How I Launched My Sustainability Career

Oct. 15, 2014

Ohio State’s Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability (EEDS) program recently began its third academic year. In its first semester in Autumn 2012, 45 students were enrolled in the program. By Autumn 2014, this number reached 174 students. 

EEDS, which offers undergraduate students a major and minor, is a multi-disciplinary degree program that focuses on the human, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. The program is offered jointly by AEDE and Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources. EEDS provides the core knowledge and skills students need to launch a career in sustainability in the private, public or non-profit sectors.

All EEDS students take an integrated set of courses in environmental economics, business management, environmental sociology, community and international development, ecological engineering and environmental sciences. Students in the major choose to specialize in one of four areas: Sustainability and Business, Environmental Economics and Policy Analysis, Community Development or International Development.

We recently sat down to speak with one of the first graduates of Ohio State’s EEDS major, Alexandra Kueller. After graduating from the program in Spring 2014, the Illinois native took a job with the Virginia-based company Strategic Sustainability Consulting (SSC). Read more to learn about her career and how the EEDS program helped to prepare her for life after college. 

Tell us about your job at Strategic Sustainability Consulting. 

I am currently the office manager and a junior consultant for SSC. My responsibilities lean more on the consulting side.

As the office manager, one of my responsibilities is to monitor our main email address. We get all kinds of emails from students, companies, professionals, and the like who have questions or are looking for a job or partnership. It's then my responsibility to make sure their questions get answered. I am also in charge of coordinating meetings, calls, conferences, etc., as well as keeping the blog on our website updated (including writing some of the posts) and writing part of our monthly newsletter. 

As for my consulting duties, I dabble in a little bit of everything. One of the projects that I've been working on has been updating our peer benchmarking system and putting it to use. Another part of my job is helping out with sustainability reports, whether writing report components or collecting data for the reports. A third aspect of the consulting side is working on materiality assessments for companies.

What does a sample workweek in your office look like?  

A typical week for me starts with a meeting with my boss (also the president of the company) to talk about upcoming meetings and other business development strategies. We also discuss my priorities for the week.

At the beginning of the week I also verify that we have blog posts ready to publish on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and if we don't, I focus on making sure that we have material written by then.

I then spend part of each day catching up on emails and coordinating meetings. During the rest of my time I work on whatever projects are assigned to me. For example, the past few weeks I've been working on a materiality assessment, a new peer benchmarking case, as well as finalizing a waste and water audit.

Tell us more about the sustainability community in your region. 

Our office is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, which is about three hours away from Washington D.C.

SSC is part of the B Corp movement and we actively reach out to a variety of B Corps through our blog and events. Just the other week, I went to a B Corp event in Richmond, Virginia and had the opportunity to talk to a variety of Virginia B Corp members about their social missions.

We are also actively involved in the sustainability community in Washington D.C. In May I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Washington that focused on socially-responsible investing.

How did you find your job at SSC?

I actually heard about this position through an email that Dr. Drobny sent out last April. SSC was advertising for a junior consulting position and I decided to apply right away! A little over two weeks later I found out that I got the job.

How did your studies in the EEDS program prepare you for this experience?

I think the overall diversity of coursework in the EEDS program really helped me to feel prepared when starting my job at SSC. I'm so glad that I was able to take a wide breadth of courses in the EEDS program. There are some days where I have referenced some of the economics and businesses classes that I took, and there are other days where I’ve pulled knowledge from various development courses. I've even used some knowledge from my finance classes!

The EEDS program is well-rounded and I think that translates very well to the real world and the needs of today’s employers. 

October 15, 2014