My experience as an associate at the Institute for Environmental Negotiation has been invaluable. I did not know about IEN prior to enrolling in the Urban and Environmental Planning program, but I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to work here while in school. One of the reasons I chose the program is because I am interested in environmental conservation and food systems, and at IEN I have been able to work on projects that are directly related to my interests and have an impact on both the community in Charlottesville and localities throughout the state. I have also gained skills in facilitation and mediation that I think will be useful in my career.
The fact that the Institution for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) exists as an extension of the Urban and Environmental Planning program is one of the determining factors I used in deciding which school I desired to attend. IEN provides students with real-world experience that is rarely able to be obtained concurrently when in pursuit of a higher education degree. This experience will have a direct impact on my ability to garner satisfactory employment upon completion of my degree. Facilitation of meetings is the main theme of much of the work, which includes not only best practices and experience in how a productive, all-inclusive, efficient meeting is run, but also exposure to the amount of prep work prior to a meeting that needs to be undertaken in order to ensure smooth execution and desired outcomes. The value of seeing how different organizations with various viewpoints interact and view one another provides an insightful preview to the encounters that will likely be experienced once I enter into the workforce. Exposure to a wide variety of topics is offered and students are allowed to pick their interest, which ensures student buy in and commitment to their work. I have personally had the opportunity to participate in projects located in the Southside and Southwest portions of Virginia which is where my family is from. These areas are economically suppressed and being able to participate in initiatives that aim to partner with these areas to help them improve the lives of the people who reside there is very rewarding work. Camaraderie is fostered amongst classmates due to the close nature of the workspace and general work environment at IEN which is beneficial from educational as well as networking aspects.
The work that I have engaged in at IEN expands beyond any course curriculum and delved into the practical, professional, fun, and innovative. IEN’s projects move on numerous fronts to advance a vision of a greater Virginia and region, building upon our natural community assets and giving voice to everyday people who have beautiful visions and fiery passion to improve their communities. My experience here has been a rare one in that IEN’s model of operation puts community members in positions to drive change instead of trying to engineer or do it on their behalf. It is a model for bottom-up change and seeks to build upon commonalities and move past divisions that blind many communities to their promise and cripple their collective vision.
Hello! My name is Mariah Gleason and I'm from Salem, Virginia, in the southwestern region of the state. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia and graduated with a degree in Environmental Science in 2010. Having focused on marine and coastal work with a dab in forestry, I landed, after a series of fortunate events, in Washington D.C. working with the U.S. Forest Service's Cooperative Forestry Staff. There I discovered my passion and interest in Green Infrastructure work, and am now back at UVA pursuing a graduate degree in Urban Planning. While in school I work part-time for IEN primarily on coastal issues. I look forward to the opportunity of working with you in the future alongside my company compatriots!