In July 2016, I was one of around 40 environmental practitioners from over 20 countries to take part in the 2016 Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). The ELP is a training program offered by the University of California, Berkeley. It is a certificate course in sustainable environmental management that is targeted towards mid-career environmental professionals.
My participation in the ELP was made possible through my selection into the Global Summer Program (GSP) of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). In 2016, there were five IARU students representing the Australian National University, the University of Oxford, Peking University and the University of Copenhagen who participated in the ELP.
My experience at Berkeley has been both professionally and personally rewarding. During the intensive three weeks I spent at Berkeley, I was exposed to the latest developments in environmental and natural resource science, policy and leadership. The environmental topics covered ranged from water technology and agroecology to climate change and sustainable energy. I was also given leadership development training in areas such as project management and enterprise facilitation to ensure that I can put the knowledge I gained from the course into practice.
My ELP cohort had plenty of opportunities to enjoy California outside of the ELP classes. We visited San Francisco, urban agriculture sites, national parks, the Salinas Valley, Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. These field trips served to complement the ELP workshops and exposed the participants to some of the most interesting aspects of California. In addition, the university organised various social engagements for us, including receptions with the ELP faculty, staff and supporters, and events with the 2016 Young African Leaders Initiative fellows.
The ELP is a unique opportunity that exceeded my expectations. The course attracts eminent facilitators and talented participants from around the world. Due to the interactive and participatory nature of the program, the diversity of the group contributes to the value of the learning experience. I gained new networks and the opportunity to share the environmental challenges particular to Australia and learn from the experiences of others. I recall being inspired by the extraordinary stories from my ELP cohort about their challenges in areas ranging from human-wildlife conflict to biodiversity conservation.
I encourage ANU students to consider participating in the GSP at some stage of their studies. The GSP is a fantastic learning experience for students from IARU universities. It allows students to experience life at a research-intensive university outside of their home institution and gain new perspectives. I am privileged to count myself part of the ELP alumni through the GSP. As of the end of my course, the ELP has trained 615 environmental leaders from over 110 countries. Being part of this exciting group of people ensures that I am able to access a fantastic global platform for academic and professional collaboration and networking.
I thank ANU for providing me with the opportunity to further my education through the GSP at Berkeley. It has been a life-changing experience for me to be a part of the 2016 GSP. I know that the skills and knowledge I gained through this program will enhance my ANU studies in law, public administration and economics and enable me to be a better advocate for the environment.