Energy and Sustainability Policy
Program Office

ESP Students and Alumni in Action


December, 2019 graduate and Pennsylvania resident Kelli DeThomas recently earned her BS in ESP. While a part of the program, she made great use of her time journeying with the GREEN Program to Iceland. An engaging narrative and photos reside on the blog she created for the experience.

Kelli DeThomas
Kelli DeThomas, Penn State class of 2019
image courtesy of K. DeThomas

Kelli wasn't always a gung-ho Penn Stater. She says, refering to the photo below, "My aunt bought me that outfit, and then the rest of my life I vowed never to go to Penn State. So we all had a good laugh about that... ."
Congratulations to Kelli and to all of our 2019 graduates!

K. DeThomas
Kelli DeThomas, age 3
image courtesy of K. DeThomas


ESPBS students at The Radiation Science and Engineering Center.
ESPBS students Ashley Ubil and Charles Jones

ESPBS students Ashley Ubil and Charles Jones recently met face to face during a tour of the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor at Penn State’s University Park campus. Ubil, of Washington state, was taking a tour to learn about the reactor, and Jones has been an intern at the facility for several years.

The Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, the oldest continuously-operating reactor in the United States, “went critical” in August of 1955. This was just following President Dwight Eisenhower’s forward-thinking “Atoms for Peace” speech, which sought to bring nuclear energy and science into public discussion and to be used for peaceful endeavors. Penn State, at the time led by Milton Eisenhower (brother of the U.S. president), soon established its own research reactor and has ever since maintained it as a facility for education, outreach, research, and service.

To learn more about Penn State’s nuclear reactor, read “Nuclear Options: Breazeale Nuclear Reactor Puts Atomic Science to Work for Research.

ESP students, Mason Taylor and Joshua Andresky stand on the lawn of the UC Boulder campus holding a PSU flag
ESP students, Mason Taylor and Joshua Andresky toured the UC Boulder campus this summer as part of the Applied Sustainability in Contemporary Culture course offered through World Campus. The online course with embedded travel to Colorado is an exploration of a variety of novel sustainability applications. Topics include urban and rural food production, "zero waste" policies, permaculture, solar photovoltaics, micro-hydroelectricity, anaerobic digestion, hospitality, oil and gas, sustainable brewing practices and more!
ESP student Kelli Dethomas, shown far right, stands with other Penn State Students on a scenic overlook in in Iceland
ESP student Kelli DeThomas (shown far right) stands with Penn State students Gabriel Schaefer and John Stein in Iceland in June, 2019. Read the Penn State News article about Penn State students and The GREEN Program.
Photo credit: John Stein
Sean Gray, ESP student sits in front of The Climate Reality Project banner at his recent training experience.
Sean Gray, ESP student, at his recent Climate Reality Project training experience.
Credit: Sean Gray

Sean Gray has always counted Al Gore as one of his heroes. So for Gray, a student in the Energy and Sustainability Policy program, three days of training led by the former vice president could not have been more exciting. Gray attended The Climate Reality Leadership Corps’ training in Atlanta, Georgia, which he found to be “one of the most influential and memorable experiences of [his] life.”

Over three days, this intensive training paired climate activists and social justice leaders to explore the intersection between climate crisis and equitable solutions, and focused on building a coalition dedicated to climate justice and thriving communities. Educational sessions were balanced with those dedicated to public speaking, media engagement strategies, and grassroots organizing.

For attendees like Gray, the skill-building and networking went hand in hand. “I was able to gain valuable contact information and to launch the organization of a local climate reality chapter in southwest Florida,” he said, and noted that the experience strengthened his resolve: “This conference reminded me that I am not alone in this fight to make the planet a better place.”

For information about The Climate Reality Leadership Corps and their upcoming trainings, visit the Climate Reality Project website.



Justin Bowen secretary of the World Campus Sustainability Club

Penn State’s World Campus is widely acknowledged to offer students a world-class education. Perhaps less well-recognized is that it can offer students a rich student life experience, too.

READ MORE about the second anniversary of the World Campus Sustainability Club.

Image: Penn State
A new program, called EcoCoin, aims to reduce the number of plastic bags used at the Penn State Bookstore. (Image: Kevin Sliman)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new program aims to reduce the number of plastic bags used at the Penn State Bookstore. The program, called EcoCoin, will launch initially on the University Park campus this summer. The program is supported by the Penn State Bookstore, Sustainability Institute, and University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA).

READ MORE about why ESP student, Sam Anawalt launched the EcoCoin initiative.



Brandi Robinson, ESP instructor and adviser wins Excellence Award.
Kuhn, Robinson receive 2018 Excellence in Advising Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rebekka Kuhn, academic adviser in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, and Brandi Robinson, faculty adviser for the Energy and Sustainability Policy program in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, have been selected to receive the 2018 Penn State Excellence in Advising Award.

Read the full Article

Read the Faculty Focus Blog that also featured Brandi



Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Fuller

ESP Alumni, Amanda Fuller and her husband at Red Rock Canyon
ESP Alumna, Amanda Fuller and her husband at Red Rock Canyon

Mandy Fuller began working for ICF as an Energy Efficiency Program Consultant in August of 2012, after graduating with a BA in ESP. Today, she’s still with the company, and enjoys being part of a team that works to be a positive impact on the communities they serve.

When graduation drew near for Mandy, she jumped into job searching full throttle, “I was checking multiple sites almost daily for positions in sustainability or energy-related work. I used mainstream sites like, green job specific sites, and frequently checked for job postings on the websites of particular organizations.” Her hard work and dedication paid off when she found the position at ICF.

As an Energy Efficiency Program Consultant, Mandy manages the behavioral energy programs for a utility. She evaluates the client’s needs regarding marketing, customer service, and data and budgetary issues. “I also work with the ICF team to continually improve our behavioral program offerings and design.” In addition, Mandy is a member of a team that works to develop new programs based on the newest technologies and trends and then works with clients to bring those ideas to fruition. “I work with a team of other energy efficiency program managers from varied backgrounds. The diversity in experience makes collaboration much more interesting.“

“The best part of this job is working for a company with varied areas of expertise.” In addition to their commercial energy division, ICF also has contracts in defense, public health, climate change, and education domains. Mandy really feels that the diversity of work encourages outside of the box thinking, saying “It’s great to be able to use colleagues as resources!”

Mandy feels that many of her ESP courses prepared her for professional success at ICF. The policy making and evaluation-focused courses as well as the writing and speaking courses were particularly valuable. “Professional writing & public speaking is scary for almost everyone - we can all benefit from extra practice in these areas!”

Mandy appreciates the flexibility her full time position at ICF affords her. “I’m able to set a schedule that works with my carpool, family commitments, or other challenges. I’m also able to telecommute two to three days a week.” The ability to contribute to meaningful work while still taking care of other responsibilities is a priceless perk to the job that Mandy already loves.

Mandy’s advice to current ESP students: “Be patient. Some markets are less progressive than others in terms of energy policy, making jobs fewer and farther between. Once you find something, don’t be afraid to take chances and jump on opportunities. The more you learn, the more valuable you become as an employee and a citizen.”

You can connect with ESP alumni like Mandy by joining the ESP LinkedIn group called “Penn State ESP Majors and Alumni”.



Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Vera Cole, ESP instructor teaching solar technology.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vera Cole, energy and sustainability policy program chair, was awarded the Epstein Lifetime Achievement Award for her roles with Penn State’s energy and sustainability policy online programs offered through Penn State’s World Campus and with the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association. Read the full Article



Student Spotlight

Christine Stallard on graduation day with ESP instructor, Haley Sankey.
Adult learner fulfills lifelong goal, shares experiences through online program
Image: Christine Stallard on graduation day with ESP instructor Haley Sankey.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For nearly four decades, Christine Stallard has dreamed about getting a bachelor’s degree. Now, in her 60s, Stallard finally fulfilled that dream. In May 2017, she graduated from the online Energy Sustainability and Policy program, offered through Penn State World Campus and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The program not only allowed her to fulfill her dream but it also allowed her to share her wealth of knowledge about the electricity industry with classmates. Read the entire article here.



Meg Wieger in IrelandKelli Volkomer in Switzerland
Energy and sustainabilty policy students take advantage of flexible program
Image: Meg Wieger in Ireland and Kelli Volkomer in Switzerland.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Meg Wieger finished high school early to pursue her dream of becoming a country music singer. Now, she’s pursuing another dream: earning a college degree and beginning a career in the renewable energy industry. Recently, she visited Ireland to fulfill the study abroad component to her energy and sustainability policy major at Penn State’s World Campus. Read the entire article here.



Alumni Spotlight

Marielle Martin snowshoeing in the mountains
ESP Alum, Marielle Martin puts her education to work!
Image: Marielle Martin

While an ESP student, Marielle Martin completed degree requirements from her home in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Nowadays Marielle can now be found in Denver, Colorado, working as a Senior Photovoltaic Site Modeler for Sunrun Inc.

After graduation in December 2015, Marielle scoured the job ads, focusing on opportunities in the renewable energy field. After applying for a position as an Energy Adviser with Sunrun, Marielle was contacted and asked if she’d be interested in interviewing for a Photovoltaic Site Modeling position instead. She agreed, and now Marielle works on a Site Modeling team with 16 other people in Sunrun’s Design Engineering Department.

Sunrun currently operates in 14 states and seeks to “provide planet-changing home solar in a simple, inexpensive, low-risk way.” They provide customized solar systems, designed and installed to fit “customer’s homes, lifestyles and savings goals.” Sunrun uses a trademarked technology that enables them to design a system using basic information and satellite imagery of customer’s homes. They also offer payment plans that make solar installation more accessible to a broader range of people. (Sunrun, 2017)

The Site Modeling Team at Sunrun is responsible for creating digital models of potential customers’ homes and surrounding property, and then generating preliminary solar system design options. Marielle’s primary responsibilities include the creation and maintenance of a reference guide that contains the process and reference materials needed for each potential project site. She spends the majority of her days updating content and fielding questions, while also communicating and coordinating processes with Design Engineers.

The reference guide Marielle created allows the Site Modeling team to easily access important regulations and requirement information based on the project’s location. For example, each “Authority Having Jurisdiction” or AHJ (e.g. villages, municipalities, cities, boroughs, etc.) maintains different regulations regarding roof setbacks (the distance that solar panels need to be from the side and top edges of a roof). Marielle’s reference database makes this type of information easily accessible to the Site Modeling team. For the Modelers, it’s critically important to be able to access quickly the local AHJ’s regulations when designing potential systems. Since Sunrun works in multiple states, and with multiple sales partners and installation branches, it is imperative that each of the variables are taken into consideration when modeling each site.

February 1, 2017 was Marielle’s one year anniversary working with Sunrun. Marielle is happy with her position and says she enjoys the variety that the position offers and the people she gets to work with. “I get to work on different projects and tasks every day… it’s the enjoyable work environment that really seals the deal.” In addition to the reference guide, Marielle also provides quality review for the Site Modeling team, and updates Sunrun’s internal website content. She also serves as a leader on the company’s Engagement Team, organizing things like Lunch & Learns, volunteer opportunities, and social activities.

Experiences gained while a student in the ESP program have helped Marielle be successful in her current position. “The simple necessity of learning to communicate effectively through technology is critical to my job. I also use general policy concepts like SWOT analysis to compare potential tools, resources, and process changes. In a more technical sense, understanding energy concepts (power, energy, efficiency, etc) is important when talking with sales representatives.” Marielle credits courses like EGEE 102, EME 444, EGEE 401, EGEE 495 and GEOG 432 with providing her with a solid foundational knowledge in energy and solar concepts and an understanding of the potential future of energy. However, she states that the Capstone course, “EME 466, may have been most important to my position, which taught me to how to prepare and present an idea. I use this skill whenever I modify or write a new process, or present an up training session.”

In her last year as an ESP student, Marielle interned at EcoStrategies, LLC in South Burlington, VT. During her internship she worked on several projects including the Capital Commuters Program, the Go Vermont initiative, and worked with the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network. While interning she attended multiple outreach events and created various materials to communicate effective strategies to help commuters conserve resources and increase energy efficiency.

When asked if she could give fellow ESP students some helpful advice as they enter the job market, Marielle responded, “The jobs are out there!” She also added that distinguishing yourself is a great idea, suggesting that students near graduation, “take NABCEP training, strive to be an EMSAGE Laureate, or get LEED certified!”

You can meet ESP alumni, such as Marielle by joining the ESP LinkedIn group called “Penn State ESP Majors and Alumni”.

Written by: Haley Sankey

February 3, 2017



Student Spotlight

Tip Stama at dairy farm
College marshal starts career before graduation with help from online degree
Image: Tip Stama

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Choosing to finish a degree through Penn State World Campus was easy for Tip Stama, but he still faced hurdles during his educational journey. In August, after taking a hiatus from his studies, Stama will graduate with a 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy (ESP), an online College of Earth and Mineral Sciences program. He will represent his graduating class as college marshal and is the second ESP graduate selected for this honor. Unlike most students who start working full time after graduating, Stama began his career as an environmental compliance specialist in May. Read the entire article.



Student Spotlight

Mike Reichart at wetland
EMS student among first in world to earn society’s sustainability certification
Image: Mike Reichart.

Mike Reichart, an energy and sustainability policy student, is one of the first people in the world to receive professional certification through the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. Read the entire article



ESP students attend EnergyPath

front row (l-r), Bethany Steiner, Jamie Hetrick, Kayla Kalinoski, Michael Reichart, Al Rutter
back row (l-r) Mark Moore, Kelli Gohn, me, Brian Hillard, Mark Mulhollem
Photo credit: James Volkomer

Recently the Sustainable Energy Fund held the 2015 EnergyPath Expo at University of Scranton. Eight Energy and Sustainability Policy students attended. Six of which participated in Dr. Vera Cole's solar boot camp and two others attended one of the other bootcamps offered.

There are full scholarships available to students, so check out the website and be sure to put it on your calendar for next year. The Expo and Bootcamps will be held at the Penn State University Park campus in 2016.



More ESP Graduates!

ESP Graduates Mark Staub, Vanessa White and Geoffry Soura with Brandi Robinson
ESP Graduates Mark Staub, Vanessa White and Geoffry Soura celebrate graduation with ESP Faculty member, Brandi Robinson.
Photo provided by Brandi Robinson.

Over the weekend the ESP program celebrated three graduates: Geoffry Soura, Mark Staub and Vanessa White. All three were able to attend graduation and take part in the World Campus reception. ESP faculty member Brandi Robinson was able to attend the ceremonies and celebrate our graduates' accomplishments! Congrats to our graduates!!



Study Abroad or Intern?

You can read about the experiences of our ESP students who completed their internship and study abroad experiences in the Summer 2012 semester.

Learn more about Justin Polosky's internship experience by checking out his blog.



First ESP Graduates

Over the weekend the ESP program celebrated its first graduates; Todd Venetz and Amanda Fuller. Mandy was able to attend graduation and take part in the World Campus reception where she got to meet other World Campus students and ESP faculty members Brandi Robinson and Dr. Vera Cole. Another ESP student, Rory Spangler, walked in Commencement and hopes to complete his degree requirements this fall. The photos below were provided by Brandi Robinson.

You can visit Penn State Live to read the press release about these first ESP graduates!

Summer 2012 Graduation at Bryce Jordan Center, State College PA
Summer 2012 Graduation at Bryce Jordan Center, State College, PA.
ESP Graduates Accept Diplomas on Stage
ESP Graduates Accept Diplomas on Stage
Brandi Robinson, Amanda Fuller (ESP Grad), and Dr. Vera Cole
Brandi Robinson, Amanda Fuller (ESP Grad), and Dr. Vera Cole
Brandi Robinson, Rory Spangler, and Dr. Vera Cole
Brandi Robinson, Rory Spangler (ESP Grad), and Dr. Vera Cole
Dr. Vera Cole, Mandy Fuller and Brandi Robinson at the World Campus Graduation Celebration
Dr. Vera Cole, Mandy Fuller and Brandi Robinson at the World Campus Graduation Celebration