Fresh Energy has a commitment to nurturing talent and building new clean energy leaders. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are profiling a handful of “Fresh Energy Alums” who worked with us early in their career.
Fresh Energy’s senior engagement specialist Alexis Williams spoke with alum Todd Reubold, who interned with Fresh Energy in 2004, about his time at Fresh Energy. Todd currently works as the director of communications for the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, as well as publisher of Ensia—a magazine sharing environmental challenges and solutions with a global audience.
In 2004 you had just received your Masters of Science in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from the University of Minnesota. What motivated you to come intern at Fresh Energy?
Todd: When I started graduate school, my plan was to work for an environmental non-profit after I graduated. So early on, I researched a number of environmental non-profits in the Twin Cities. Towards the end of my graduate career, I reached out to Fresh Energy and learned about a six-month, full-time internship. It sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about environmental issues and the non-profit sector while applying the skills I’d developed in graduate school.
What were some of the core projects you worked on, and what were some of the highlights of your time at Fresh Energy?
Todd: The biggest project I worked on while interning with Fresh Energy was creating a Global Warming Policy Statement which was adopted by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. I also analyzed different strategies for curbing climate change impacts in the Upper Midwest and researched the economics of state-based renewable energy standards.
One highlight for me was the connections I made with others at Fresh Energy and the larger renewable energy community in Minnesota. Additionally, I gained first-hand knowledge about how policies are crafted and negotiated here in the state. Some of Fresh Energy’s staff have decades of experience working with the Minnesota legislature, so I was able to learn from their expertise. When a bill is passed, you might see the signing ceremony or read about it in the news and not think twice about the work it takes to get to that point. But it takes a lot of work to make that happen. Through working with Michael Noble and J. Drake Hamilton, I was able to better understand all the negotiating, lobbying, and research that goes into getting something like a renewable energy standard passed in the state.
How would you describe your career path since leaving Fresh Energy? Was there anything you learned during your time at Fresh Energy that helped guide your career?
Todd: Currently, I have two roles: director of communications for the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and publisher of Ensia magazine, which covers global environmental challenges and solutions. The environment has been a theme throughout my entire career, but right now I’m able to merge my interests in environmental policy, communications, and media.
I learned a lot at Fresh Energy that still influences my career today. I learned how to dig into research and prioritize primary sources, making sure to use the most accurate and up-to-date information. For Fresh Energy, this skill was critical in drafting policy statements, and for my work today, it’s critical when we’re researching story ideas or developing new communications materials.
I also learned early on the importance of building relationships with others who support a clean, healthy, vibrant environment and renewable energy goals. It’s important to find those allies and advocates and then work together. These issues are so big and complex that it’s necessary to find others to tackle these challenges together.
Anything else you would like to add about Fresh Energy or your time here?
Todd: What really impresses me about Fresh Energy is the organization’s ability to get things done—whether that means helping the state pass renewable energy legislation or creating awareness of critical climate change issues. I’ve been very impressed by the organization’s growth and impact over the years.
Lastly, I believe the internship I had at Fresh Energy, early on in my career, was critical to my being where I am today. It allowed me to develop confidence as a leader, gain important new career skills and form valuable connections with people in the field. I also witnessed the importance of networking, negotiation, and compromise in reaching big goals. I think that without my internship at Fresh Energy, I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today.