Eliot Metzger, Bachelor's in Environmental Science '05
Creating Big Shifts in Sustainability
Addressing an Urgent Need for Resources
"USF instilled in me the idea that I could change the world."
For Eliot Metzger ‘05, it is easy to get up and go to work each day when that work strives to make real change in the world. Since graduating from USF’s Environmental Science program, he has been working as a senior researcher at the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Center for Sustainable Business managing projects that aim to solve global challenges such as climate change. The groups he manages present their ideas, research, and analysis to businesses in order to influence them to operate in a more environmentally conscious manner.
How did the Environmental Science program help prepare you to work at WRI?
I often find myself reflecting on how lucky I was to land in USF's Environmental Science program. I wanted to bring together concepts from multiple fields of study and the wide range of classes gave me exposure to many different topics. I could be learning about air quality and wetland restoration in the morning, then pivot to GIS and environmental economics in the afternoon. Having the ability to switch topics and connect dots between different disciplines comes in handy when you are working with partners across different industries. Likewise, it has been helpful to be familiar with "nexus" areas, such as the interconnected nature of water and energy resources.
Why did you choose to major in environmental science?
I chose environmental science because it was a program with a clear purpose and addressed an urgent need in our world. That, to me, translated to two things: it would offer fun, interesting, important challenges; and there would be plenty of job opportunities for me when I graduated.
How did the faculty help you throughout your time in the program?
There were so many fantastic professors and I could easily list a dozen that inspired me. But I do have to single out one individual whose support, encouragement, and mentorship was life changing: Professor John Lendvay.
By sheer luck I got sent to Prof. Lendvay's office when I was an undeclared science major looking for an adviser. He helped me test out the program for a semester and, when I took to it, offered me an opportunity to join his research team. He had been working to set up a research program that trained and empowered students in the Bayview Hunter’s Point community to collect data on local water quality. It was a tremendous opportunity to see environmental science in action. There was field work, lab testing, community engagement, and we even had the opportunity to present the results of the research at national and international conferences.
Prof. Lendvay continued to serve as my adviser and supported me in doing some rather unorthodox things. First, I added a second major in Business Administration. Then, I added a Loading... that involved a semester in the USF in DC program. It was an internship I found during that semester that ultimately landed me the job I have today.
Prof. Lendvay made all that possible for me and several other students. We all look back on those experiences as the beginning of a lifelong passion for environmental science.
What do you like about working at WRI?
WRI is a unique place where a relatively small team can "punch above its weight" and catalyze big shifts in the way we use the world's resources. Here you have a chance to work with world class researchers and partners that can prompt new thinking and help create real change in the world.
One of my favorite moments at WRI was a meeting we hosted with a number of major investment firms. We were sitting down to talk about clean energy opportunities. To our surprise, the investors did not need much convincing when it came to shifting their portfolio to renewable resources. They showed us their investment plans, which included several tables and charts that looked familiar. It took me a minute or two, but I eventually realized the figures were from a report we had released a few months before. It was nice to see our work having such a direct impact on investment decisions.
How do you continue to carry on USF's mission?
USF instilled in me the idea that I could change the world. That idea still drives me and the work I do at WRI. It is a powerful idea and mission, particularly when talking about environmental science. There are communities around the world that want to create better futures for their children, with cleaner air, water, and energy. We urgently need new approaches to managing our resources if we are to create those futures for billions of people, rather than just a fortunate few. That is the world USF students aspire to help create and I'm proud to be one of many working toward that now.