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Julia Snodgrass '21
Hometown: Williamsburg, MA
Major: Environmental Studies
Before she came to Dartmouth, Julia Snodgrass thought she wanted to be a research ecologist, conducting field work and analyzing data. A science policy and diplomacy class with Dr. Melody Burkins her freshman winter, however, made her recalibrate. The challenges of communicating the science of climate change and effecting policy change pulled her interests in a new direction.
As the Irving Institute's first-ever intern, Julia grew more focused on the energy-related aspects of policy and climate. "It was in my work at the Institute that I realized energy is a great leverage point for addressing the climate crisis and quality of life issues — it's a huge area for transformation in this coming decisive decade. Right after that it was all in, all energy for me!"
She isn't exaggerating! In her time as a Dartmouth student, Julia has accumulated an impressive resume of energy-related experiences and accomplishments, taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible to expand her knowledge, networks, and impact.
Julia credits the D Plan, Dartmouth's quarterly academic term system, with helping her gain clarity on what she wants to do. "Something really special about Dartmouth is the D Plan, and how it allows you to take a step back and think about what you want to pursue in terms of career interests, travel. And then you come back to campus with a renewed appreciation for the university environment and being surrounded by amazing professors who want to teach you as much as they can."
For example, an internship during an off-term at a New England utility "taught me a lot about working in a corporate environment and how the energy industry works, and it made me come back to campus wanting to look at things from a more macro level, really understanding what's going on socio-politically rather than just the numbers."
This realization led to an independent project during a foreign study program (FSP) to South Africa and Namibia where she looked at pathways and obstacles to the energy transition in Southern Africa. "Working within a political economy theoretical framework, while being on the ground talking to people about their experiences really made for an immersive project," she says.
The experience was so compelling that she wanted to keep considering this framework as she interned at the United Nations under Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. "They were launching a carbon neutrality project in Europe and I was really interested in the social side of things, answering questions like 'how do cultural shifts and policies really affect people on the ground to make them more aligned with or opposed to their country's climate agenda?' and 'how can we address social equity as a key concern in the renewable energy transition?'"
Julia is also a founding member of the Dartmouth Energy Alliance (DEA), helping the undergraduate energy club achieve official recognition in fall 2019. "The DEA is a great opportunity to get connected to other students -- it's an ambitious assembly of people interested in various facets of energy -- public health, policy, engineering -- there are so many aspects to energy and it's an increasingly in demand area."
After graduation, Julia is off to Chicago, where she will work as a software designer. "It's very surprising and I never would have expected myself to wind up here! I haven't taken a single computer science course, but the company really loves liberal arts students because they're flexible thinkers and are able to pick up things quickly and so they hired me as a software engineer! It will give me a lot of good technical skills that I can apply back to energy," she says. She will also continue her pro-bono energy work with Connected DMV, a nonprofit in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, that emerged out of the pandemic to coordinate a strategic recovery in the region.
And while there's a lot to be worried about right now from a climate perspective, she is made hopeful by what she sees as a lot of positive forward motion in the energy space. "The incentives are aligning, the technology is there, there's a lot of momentum in terms of private investments, in terms of the current US government -- we just need to accelerate this momentum and set ambitious goals. We need this transition to happen even more quickly." She is also inspired by her peers. "My cohort in the DEA is really ambitious and ready to tackle this and hopefully we're not too late to turn the tides."