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(In)frequently Asked Questions: The Unofficial Guide to Meridian’s Ruckelshaus Fellowship

2 December 2022
By The Current Ruckelshaus Fellows


“So, what do you do?”  

This is a challenging question that every Ruckelshaus Fellow, at some point, is asked. Challenging not because there isn’t plenty to say, but because the uniqueness of this program and position means there is simply no concise response. Writing, research, and communications are some of our most common to-dos, but these labels do not encompass the rich set of activities, responsibilities, and opportunities that come with the fellowship. 

While most job applications come with a formal set of FAQs, (including ours), upon kicking off this year’s fellowship application process, a few of the current (and past) Ruckelshaus Fellows decided to provide answers to some of the questions we really wanted to ask before applying. With the added uncertainties of navigating the job search process, this unofficial guide is intended to paint a more detailed picture of the ins and outs of our time as Ruckelshaus Fellows—and to help you envision what working at Meridian could look like for you!

Recognizing that no day at Meridian is the same, what might a typical workday look like for you? A unique one?    

Elliott (former Fellow):  

I usually start the day opening emails and crafting my to-do list. I typically work on tasks such as creating documents, designing agendas, crafting emails, and updating databases. After that, I have several project-related meetings, ranging from topics such as food sector decarbonization and protein diversification to corporate forest strategy and curtailing finance linked to deforestation. I will sometimes have meetings or responsibilities related to the Fellowship, such as Alumni Engagement or supporting Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion activities. I also enjoy days that include individual check-ins with other staff members and doing some strategizing. 


Every day in the life of a Fellow at Meridian looks a little different, depending on the projects you are working on and what stage a project is at. One unique workday I’ve had was in Monterey, CA, where Meridian hosted roundtable conversations on innovation in mitigation banking and stream restoration under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. I woke up early for a sunrise walk along the beach, then joined roundtable participants for breakfast before meeting with the Meridian team to prepare for our morning session. I took detailed notes for a series of case study presentations given by people working in the mitigation business, as well as federal agency researchers and stream ecologists.  

After the presentations, I facilitated a small group conversation about challenges to and opportunities for innovation in the 404 stream mitigation space. In our afternoon session, I took detailed notes as roundtable participants discussed different areas for innovation that would improve ecological outcomes and program administration. Our meeting adjourned at 4:45 PM, just in time to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. After taking in the view and going for a brief walk with my colleagues, the Meridian team reconvened to recap the day. Together, we updated the agenda for the following day of meetings and drafted slides to guide our upcoming sessions. After dinner with roundtable participants, l had the opportunity to further socialize and network with attendees before crashing after a busy, energizing day of work. 

What has been your favorite project to work on during your time at Meridian, and why? 


Ocean Justice Advocacy Group (OJAG). This project realizes Meridian’s JEDI Principles and aligns strongly with my values and passion for a just and equitable environmental movement. It is energizing working with both community groups and national organizations to strategize a framework to influence local, state, and federal policy from the ground-up. 


Supporting a World Bank Workshop on “Accelerating Climate Action”. I had the opportunity to grow my skillset through crafting a budget and proposal, facilitating meetings, working directly with clients, and managing a variety of workstreams under the direction of the former Managing Partner. 

How is the Ruckelshaus Fellowship program different from other entry-level positions? 


You get to be “in the room where it happens”, directly interacting with experts across the board in the environmental space. Similarly, you work closely with Senior Partners in the organization — it is not uncommon for Fellows to even work directly with the CEO. 


The Ruckelshaus Fellowship program gives you real responsibility from day one. It offers exposure to a wide variety of topic areas and stakeholders in the environmental arena. 


Fellows have the opportunity to connect with leaders across the environmental field, leverage their own ideas and perspectives, and drive meaningful impacts while developing strong friendships throughout the process. 

How has Meridian facilitated your professional development? 


After the fellowship, I feel confident that I can hold my own at any organization at any level. The program and my colleagues encouraged me to hold myself to a high standard and helped me develop the hard and soft skills to advance in my career post-fellowship. 


Meridian has supported my involvement in several professional organizations related to environmental peacebuilding and foreign affairs, as well as taking language classes. I have used professional development hours to connect with experts, attend events, and participate in conferences. Professional development is also woven into projects through taking on tasks like running meetings and leading interviews.  


You have the opportunity to work on a variety of subject areas to hone-in on the area of work you want to move forward with in your career. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working as a Meridian Fellow?    


Meridian challenges me to think introspectively about what I want in my future and works intentionally to make sure I exit the fellowship prepared to achieve it. I have expanded my network, leveraged my strengths in my work, and identified areas for growth; none of it would happen without Meridian’s deliberate and genuine interest in my professional development, interests, and goals. 


In my experience, the most rewarding aspect of working as a Meridian Fellow is the support that is offered to me by my colleagues to take initiative on tasks and to learn through those opportunities. I am grateful to work in an environment where my project teams trust me to contribute in meaningful ways, where my perspective is sought out, and where– even as entry-level staff– I feel like a valued member of the team. 


The agency given to Fellows is unlike that of other entry-level positions and can be very rewarding as you get to work on important strategy pieces and reports. 


Visiting the farms of producers who are working to advance regional, sustainable food systems. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 


When I am not perusing one of D.C.’s many free museums or eating at its many Central American or Ethiopian restaurants, I spend as much time outdoors as I can! DC has very walkable streets, and several accessible parks, including the enormous Rock Creek Park inside the city limits. Outside the city, Shenandoah National Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park are just an hour and a half drive away. I’ll also spend time trying new restaurants, playing basketball, stopping by my favorite bookstore, or cooking my dinner after a long day at work. 


I use my Meridian skills outside of work to plan events in my neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, D.C.!


In Their Own Words: Meridian Fellows Describe Meridian, the Fellowship, and their Colleagues: 

While each Ruckelshaus Fellow’s experience at Meridian is unique, we share the opportunity to learn and collaborate and thereby create tangible, positive impacts in the world during our time in the fellowship program (and… the inevitable inability to concisely describe our job).

If this opportunity and our answers make you think – yes, I want to do that! – be sure to apply here before 10pm EST on January 23, 2023. In addition, Meridian Institute will be holding an online informational session on the Fellowship program on January 9th at 2pm EST. Click the link here to register. 

Apply Today

Interested in joining the next cohort of Ruckelshaus Fellows? Read our official Fellowship Guide and submit your application before 10:00pm ET on Monday, January 23, 2023!