Past Steering Committee: Amanda Fencl

 Amanda Fencl

Amanda Fencl, IR’07, ES’07

TEA Steering Committee Member and Staff Scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

Since graduating in 2007, Amanda Fencl (IR07, ES07) stayed close to Tufts – she is now a staff scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a research affiliate of Tufts located in Medford. She met with TIE intern Libby Mahaffy in December 2010 to discuss the newly-formed Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter and her role on the steering committee. 

Libby Mahaffy: How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your current profession?
Amanda Fencl: My thesis set me up for this job: it was a year of literature review, independent research, coming up with methods and approaches, interviewing stakeholders, and then a summer in Madagascar doing field research. All of these different components are a part of what I do at SEI. All of my coursework led up to my thesis, Sustainable Development through Microcredit and Social-Ecological Resilience in Madagascar, which was about how to use microcredit in Madagascar to promote all three aspects of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental contexts of development. My whole time at Tufts I focused on sustainable development, so the thesis and then SEI — whose mission is “science and policy for sustainable development” – was a natural fit.  
Why did you become involved in the Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter steering committee?
When I was a senior, I browsed the alumni database but it was really difficult to find people for informational interviews. I ended up just reaching out to my own network. After being in Boston for 7 or 8 years now, a lot of my Tufts friends still here are also [in environmental fields], so I felt well-connected to the environmental alumni. I thought it would be interesting if Tufts was more explicit and intentional about how to connect environmental alumni. Going to alumni meet-ups around Boston is less interesting to me because [they are] less focused and harder for me to get that much out of [them], whereas I feel TEA can create events with an inherent commonality, which creates discussion points and builds networks. As I move away from Tufts I see the value of my degree and the networks; it was important to me to see [TEA] off the ground and have my voice heard in the steering committee.

Tell me about your participation on the TEA steering committee. What strengths or skills do you bring to the group?
I’ve been here [since graduating] and I’m still in touch with a lot of my environmental friends from school—both in Boston and elsewhere. I’m a fairly recent alumna, and since my office is still on campus, I can serve as a bridging person in that regard. I’ve always been an organizer and a project planner. I interned at TIE all four years, which gives me a stronger sense of what the institution is doing in terms of environmental things on campus. And I was also part of the environmental group at Tufts, and have been on the Steering Committee of since 2008 (a network of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States) so I have knowledge of how to run an organization that’s all volunteer.
Why do you think an alumnus would want to be involved in TEA?
I want to be a part of it because I want to know what other people from Tufts did! Tufts is this unique place: we’re really international, [we have] this social conscience, and [a focus on] active citizenship. Alumni come out and want to do something towards the greater good. It’s nice to connect with people who have similar values and goals for their careers, whether it’s environmental or social or health [related]. It’s nice to be reminded that you’re not the only one fighting to make a difference.
TEA offers a valuable networking opportunity. I used to be anti-networking when I was an undergrad – I hated it, it was so uncomfortable. It still isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I totally see the value of it. My job wasn’t explicitly advertised — I was talking to my adviser about what I wanted to do and she said, “You should talk to this person.” That’s how things work. If [networking] gets you an interview, that’s great, but you’re not going to get the job unless you’re a qualified candidate.

What are the next steps of the steering committee?
We’re trying to come up with events, at least one a semester. I think we’re still trying to get our footing. It would be great to start working with Career Services to offer ourselves up as a network of alumni who are willing and interested in talking to current students. I think at some point it might be interesting to set up a mentoring-type network: alumni who wanted to match up with rising seniors or graduate students. I think both people would get a lot out of it.

What do you think the TEA mascot should be?
An animated solar panel! (laughs) I don’t take myself that seriously – I can’t speak for TEA – but my sense of the role of TEA is to make it a formal alumni group with Alumni Relations yet  informal in the sense you’re supposed to be able to feel comfortable cold-emailing or -calling somebody in the network if you have questions. Maybe a windmill running around…