By Steven MacLeod and Ashley Gordon
The Coastal Society (TCS) hosted three Professional Spotlight sessions featuring TCS members in 2021. Each Spotlight session features seasoned TCS professionals who share their career paths and provide career tips to students and young professional members. These events also serve as an opportunity for members to connect and network. The Professional Spotlight events are hosted as part of the Coastal Connections series to benefit TCS members. The video sessions were recorded via Zoom; TCS members may request a link to these recordings by sending an email here. To receive invitations for future Professional Spotlight sessions, please be sure your TCS membership is current. Join or renew at Membership – The Coastal Society. You can also read more about the Coastal Connections series on the TCS website.
Kristen Fletcher (J.D.), Faculty Associate at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, was our guest speaker during the session held on Monday, May 10, 2021. Kristen provided an overview of her professional journey, stemming from law degrees at Notre Dame and Lewis and Clark Law School. This included working for NOAA Sea Grant for 10 years at the University of Mississippi and Roger Williams University. She then took the role of Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization. During this time, she became involved with TCS and served a term as TCS President.
Kristen and her family later moved to California, where she explored several employment options (such as founding her own environmental consulting firm) before joining the NPS. At the NPS, she has helped lead the development of the NPS Climate and Security Network. Kristen noted several professional lessons learned, including being open to change (whether you choose it or not!) and being generous with your time to connect with others. She encouraged participants to ask for support from their professional network.
Discussion following Kristen’s presentation focused on topics such as facilitating multiple ocean uses through marine spatial planning, balancing multiple professional interests in your career, and the value of identifying metrics to track your professional accomplishments (e.g., percent growth of your organization). View Kristen’s presentation HERE.
Michael Orbach (PhD), Professor Emeritus of the Practice of Marine Affairs and Policy at Duke University, was our guest speaker during the session held on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Mike discussed his educational background leading to a Ph.D. in Anthropology from U.C. San Diego. He then took a position with NOAA as a social science advisor before returning to academic roles at UC Santa Cruz, East Carolina University, and Duke University. He has served on numerous boards and commissions, including a role as President of The Coastal Society in the mid-1990s and a current position as chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Offshore Science and Assessment which advises the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Mike’s research has focused on domestic and international fishery management and social science applications in coastal management and policy. He advised young professionals to be creative and willing to make a change to do something out of the ordinary. Mike also stressed the importance of developing a network of contacts, noting that this was key to his own career transitions and led to a relatively unique position as a “professor of practice”.
Following Mike’s presentation, discussion with participants included a “bottom-up” approach to stakeholder engagement, whereby Mike observed that we cannot “force a solution” and expect to achieve consensus. He suggested that while research and advocacy were important in achieving a conservation goal, most of the work relates to facilitating the coordination and implementation of ideas. Mike also offered tips for pursuing international jobs. View Mike’s presentation HERE.
Rebekah Padgett was our guest speaker for the session on Thursday, December 15, 2021. Rebekah is the 401/CZM Federal Permit Manager for the Washington (State) Department of Ecology (DOE) responsible for water quality certification and coastal consistency reviews, a role she has held since 2004. She outlined her educational background leading to a Master’s in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. She noted brief roles with the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a consulting firm before joining DOE. In 2019 and 2020, she was on sabbatical, performing marine debris research for the Centre for Action Environment Science Society (CARESS) in Tamil Nadu, India.
Rebekah emphasized the importance of building lasting, reciprocal relationships and seeking different perspectives. She also spoke on the value of continuous learning, being flexible, staying open to new opportunities, and volunteering. Rebekah previously served on the Board of Directors for TCS and is currently volunteering with Ecologists Without Borders as their representative to Global Partnership on Marine Litter.
Rebekah’s presentation was followed by a discussion that covered exploring fellowship opportunities as a student, building a network with others in your field, how to highlight skills developed through diverse experiences when applying for a new job, and how regulatory/permitting positions can provide exposure to diverse types of projects.
We thank all our guest speakers for taking time to share their stories!