See job eligibility requirements: 2022 Switzer Fellows

Switzer Foundation

California, USA 🇺🇸

New England, USA 🇺🇸

Become a Fellow

Applications are now being accepted for 2023 fellowships! The deadline to apply is January 9, 2023.  

Visit How to Apply to submit your application. Please read all of the following guidelines and eilgibility requirements before applying.

The Switzer Fellowship offers one-year fellowships to highly talented graduate students from diverse academic and personal backgrounds in New England and California whose studies and career goals are directed toward environmental improvement and who clearly demonstrate leadership in their field. The fellowship includes a $17,000 cash award, leadership training, access to a vibrant network of Switzer Fellowship alums, and opportunities for professional development and grants beyond the fellowship year.

Through the Switzer Fellowship, the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation supports environmental leaders for the 21st century who have the ability, determination and integrity to effect positive change. Only the most active, committed and focused individuals will compete successfully to join the Switzer Network of more than 700 fellows selected since 1986.

Switzer Fellows are on the leading edge of environmental and social change through efforts in environmental science, policy, justice, public health, economics, journalism, urban planning, business, law and more.  Switzer Fellows come from diverse social, academic and economic backgrounds. They are committed to interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral work, applied results, and collaborative leadership. Further, they are committed to their own professional development and to continually improving their leadership skills throughout their careers. Please check out the 2022 Switzer Fellows for examples of the breadth of expertise and disciplines of our fellows.ShowFellowship Benefits and Expectations
HideEligibility Requirements

Applicants for a Switzer Fellowship must:

  • be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, a resident by virtue of the Dream Act of 2021, or a refugee or asylee according to the definition provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security (international students are ineligible);
  • be enrolled in an accredited graduate institution ONLY in California or one of the six New England states (ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI) and plan to be enrolled as a full-time student for the entire 2023-2024 academic year;
  • have very strong academic qualifications, with academic and career goals focused on environmental improvement.
  • Master’s degree candidates (including JD students) must have completed at least one semester or quarter of course work to apply, and be seeking the Master’s as their terminal degree.
  • Individuals enrolled in one-year Master’s degree programs may apply prior to enrollment, but must be formally accepted into their program to be eligible for a Switzer Fellowship interview (held in May).
  • Master’s degree students planning to pursue a Ph.D. are advised to wait until they are in their Ph.D. program to apply.  
  • Applicants at the Ph.D. level must plan to have completed at least three years of doctoral work or plan to have passed their qualifying exams by July 1, 2023. Ph.D. candidates with a clear research and career focus are more competitive than individuals who are still undecided or early in their academic program.
  • Midcareer students are welcome to apply and must demonstrate how their academic program will enhance their effectiveness as an environmental leader.

Fellowship Guidelines and Deadlines

Criteria for Selection

The application process for Switzer Fellowships is highly competitive. Each year, through an extensive application and interview process, twenty fellowships are awarded, ten in California and ten in New England, out of an initial pool of nearly 300 applicants. Candidates compete separately for fellowships in New England and California. Fellowship applicants are evaluated based on their leadership capacities and commitment to environmental problem-solving. We recognize that environmental leadership requires diverse perspectives, voices and skills for the future. 

The foundation selects Master’s- and Ph.D.-level candidates with a clear vision of how they will apply their graduate study to career goals. Only those candidates with a clear and realistic idea of how they can apply their skills and experience to practical environmental issues will be competitive. 

We are interested in seeing more applications from Master’s degree candidates. Ph.D. candidates pursuing academic careers must demonstrate their commitment to applied environmental problem-solving beyond the classroom or university setting, and must demonstrate knowledge of how academic research is applied to environmental policy or practice. 

Students of color, first-generation graduate students, and individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups in environmental graduate programs are strongly encouraged to apply.  

Applications are specifically reviewed for the following:

  • Environmental commitment, clarity of purpose, and career goals: Applicant demonstrates a commitment to aggressively pursue and implement effective solutions to improve the quality of our environment through professional and volunteer work experience; shows clarity of career goals and realistic vision. They articulate the role in which they see themselves having an impact.
  • Leadership capacity: Applicant demonstrates experience and/or potential in the ability to influence and align others towards environmental goals, and to effectively bridge the public, private and academic arenas. Applicant demonstrates proficiency and leadership in their selected topic and commitment to ongoing professional development to enhance their leadership.
  • Social equity awareness/experience: Applicant demonstrates an awareness of the equity and social justice dimensions of their environmental work.
  • Innovative problem-solving: Applicant demonstrates innovative or creative approaches and contributes a new or different perspective to their field; applicant works on a cutting edge issue.
  • Applied and interdisciplinary focus: Applicant is able to translate knowledge within their field of study into problem-solving strategies; scientific, technical, analytical and/or policy study is geared towards applied results. Applicant is able to place their work in a broader context, beyond academic settings and including policy.
  • Collaboration and engagement: Applicant has experience in organizing diverse groups, building inclusive teams or implementing programs on an environmental issue; shows willingness or ability to engage across sectors or social/community boundaries.
  • Communication and critical thinking: Applicant communicates clearly and is able to translate theoretical concepts into practice, has the ability to communicate effectively in writing and orally.

Application Review and Internal Process

Applications in New England and California are reviewed separately by teams of environmental professionals. In May 2023, selected applicants will meet for a focused and brief online interview with Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation fellows and representatives. Interview dates will be posted by early December. All candidates interviewed are notified of award decisions in writing within two weeks after the interviews.

Deadlines and Dates

Completed applications (including all supporting documents) are due by 8:59 p.m. PST/11:59 p.m. EST on January 9, 2023.

Interviews will be held virtually in mid-May. Specific dates will be announced.

Notification: early June, 2023

Fellowship payment dates: Late June 2023, late January 2024HideFellowship Award Requirements

Attendance at Retreats

All fellowship awardees are required to attend two multiday retreats during their fellowship year. In mid-September, our annual fall retreat welcomes new fellows and focuses on cohort-building and networking, as well as facilitated conversations on leadership. In 2023, the fall retreat will be held September 29 – October 1 at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. In March 2024, there will be a spring retreat which will focus on leadership skills development and continued cohort-building (location and exact dates TBA). It is a requirement of the fellowship that new fellows attend the retreats, in their entirety, in the year they are selected. The retreats provide the premier opportunity for building connections among the fellowship cohort, and participating in critical leadership skills training. 

Engagement with the Switzer Network

The foundation expects that all awardees will be active members of the Switzer Network during and beyond their fellowship year. This can include attending foundation networking events, writing articles for the foundation’s website, engaging in listserv or group conversations, hosting or attending an issue-based webinar or conference call, organizing an informal social gathering, or coaching an earlier-career fellow. Fellows are sometimes called upon to assist with program planning or for foundation speaking engagements, and are involved with the selection of new fellows.

Use of Fellowship Funds

The fellowship is paid in two equal installments, the first in June and the second in late January. The entire grant may be applied to one or more of the following: tuition, matriculation and other university fees, living expenses, education- or research-related expenses. To the extent that the fellowship is not used for these purposes, it may be considered income and the fellow may be liable for income tax. The foundation does not file IRS-1099 forms on the fellowships. Fellows are, however, required to submit a report of expenditures to the foundation at the end of the fellowship year. Fellows are encouraged to consult with their tax advisor for proper treatment of the award.

Reporting Requirements

Switzer Fellows are required to submit a written report at the conclusion of their fellowship year.  An optional interim report will be invited in January. Guidelines and requirements for these reports will be provided in advance of each due date. 

Exclusions

Employees and trustees of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation and their family members are not eligible to apply. The foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, gender expression, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or national or ethnic origin in the selection of fellows.HideFrequently Asked Questions About Switzer Fellowships

recorded information session with Switzer Fellow alumni is available here, and answers many commonly asked questions. 

What kind of candidate is the Selection Committee looking for? 

The ideal candidate possesses a strong personal commitment to solving problems and effecting change in the environmental arena. They should possess solid leadership and communication skills, an excellent technical and/or analytical background and superior academic credentials. Non-academic work and/or community-based experience is highly valued. We seek individuals who are deeply committed to their own leadership development. 

In selecting the final pool of interview candidates, we seek a variety of approaches to environmental change, as well as representation across schools, academic programs, and fields of study. We actively seek fellows from a diversity of backgrounds, life experience, and perspective. This includes applicants who may be new to the environmental field or coming from a different field or focus with valuable and transferable skills that make their shift to environmental work very successful and compelling.

Individuals who have some professional or work experience between undergraduate and graduate study are often more competitive candidates as a result of their greater understanding of what is required for promoting positive change within complex systems. 

Please see the profiles of our current or past fellowship cohorts for an idea of the diversity of expertise and backgrounds of Switzer Fellows.   

Do I need to be studying in a “hard” science area to compete successfully?

No. Applicants from a wide variety of natural and social sciences, policy and related fields, do compete successfully for Switzer Fellowships as long as the candidate clearly applies those skills to environmental improvement. Commitment to environmental goals and leadership potential are essential from ANY field. Environmental and social/community outcomes are valued.

What is the most important factor in submitting a successful application?

Preparation. It may seem obvious, but a thoughtful application makes a difference. You should carefully read the program guidelines to understand the objectives of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Take the time to seek out fellow alumni to ask about their experience. Foundation staff can connect you with a fellow alum who can offer guidance or answer questions about the application process. Please fill out this form by December 21st if you are interested in connecting with a Switzer Fellow. Your written materials, especially your essay and your resume, are the primary means by which your application will convey a sense of your aspirations and motivations.

How should I prepare the content and format of the essay?

Please read the essay requirements in the guidelines. The essay is the most critical component of your application for the initial screening and is the best way to convey your personal commitment to the field and to driving positive environmental change. A precis of your Master’s or doctoral thesis is NOT what we’re looking for in the essay. The essay must not exceed the 10,000-character limit in the online application. (This equates to approximately three pages, single-spaced, at 12 point font.)

Who should write my two letters of recommendation?

This is an important decision! The letters of recommendation will have substantial weight in the evaluation of your application. It is critical that you obtain recommendations from individuals who can provide the best overall perspective on your leadership and professional potential, abilities, and dedication. Especially for Ph.D. students, it is very helpful for one of the two letters to be from an academic advisor, committee member, or academic colleague. Your second recommender need not be from academia. You may choose former employers, community leaders or colleagues as references. It is less advantageous to ask a peer to write your letter since it is harder to evaluate leadership potential when compared with other applicants. You may only submit two letters of recommendation. 

How important is financial need in determining Switzer Fellowship awards?

This is NOT a need-based award. No candidate is screened out based on their financial circumstances. However, financial need can be a factor considered by the final selection committee in situations where candidates are equally qualified. 

I will complete my studies before the end of the academic year 2023-2024. May I still submit an application for partial funding?

No. The fellowship is intended to support full-time matriculation for the entire 2023-2024 academic year. You must plan to be enrolled on a full-time basis for 2023-2024 in order to qualify for the Switzer Fellowship.

Can mid-career students compete successfully for Switzer Fellowships?

Yes. The Switzer Fellowship program is interested in candidates in all stages of their careers, as long as they have a clear focus on how their graduate education will position them to have greater influence on environmental issues and outcomes. The fellowship is intended to support accomplished leaders as well as those for whom the fellowship can significantly advance their career.

Can students at institutions outside of New England or California apply for the Switzer Fellowship?

No. The Switzer Fellowship is currently available only to students enrolled at accredited graduate institutions in California or the six New England states (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, or ME).

Do I need to submit an official academic transcript along with my application?

No. You may submit a current unofficial transcript with your application if you are unable to obtain an official transcript by the time the application is due.

I am not a U.S. citizen, but I am living in the U.S. while I attend graduate school.  Can I apply for the Switzer Fellowship?

If you have permanent resident, asylee or refugee status, or you are a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient or a resident under the Dream Act of 2021, you are eligible to apply. International students are not eligible.

I am interested in the Switzer Fellowship, but I am financially independent and I do not need the fellowship funds. Can I apply for the fellowship but decline the funds so that they can be used for someone else?

Yes. The foundation is interested in awarding the fellowship to qualified candidates. Recipients may receive full fellowship benefits even if they opt out of the funding. This final determination is not made until the award decisions are made and is kept strictly confidential.


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DEGREE REQUIRED

IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development