Dara O'RourkeThe goal of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program — now in its 26th year — is to support highly talented graduate students in California and New England who are committed to a career in environmental improvement and who demonstrate the potential of leadership in their field. (Ten fellowships are awarded in each region.) The fellowship provides a one-year cash award of $15,000 for graduate study to individuals doing a wide variety of environmental work (e.g., science, law, policy, engineering).  The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation specifically seeks innovators and problem-solvers who have the ability, determination, and integrity to become environmental leaders in the 21st century. More information and applications are available on the Switzer website. This year’s fellowship application deadline is January 10, 2013.

View a video of comments (YouTube) by Switzer Fellows, including Berkeley faculty members Dara O’Rourke (ESPM) and Michael Wilson (Public Health). 

robert c. switzer
Bob Switzer

The Switzer Fellowships were created by a Cal alumnus, Bob Switzer, who came here on a Scaife Foundation scholarship to study chemistry, aiming at a career in medicine. While working in a railyard, Switzer suffered a head injury that sent him into a coma for months. His recovery required him to stay in a darkened room. To pass the time, he and his brother Joe, both amateur magicians, experimented with fluorescent minerals to enhance magic tricks. They invented the world’s first fluorescent paint. As they devised a variety of uses — including making money — for what Bob called Day-Glo colors, they founded a company. Over the years, the high-visibility colors have appeared on warplanes, tennis and golf balls, traffic signs and cones, safety clothing, detergent boxes, and more. A lifelong environmentalist who also happened to be an executive in a regulated industry, Bob Switzer became concerned about a growing dearth of scientific expertise, so when the company sold in 1985, he used some of the proceeds to start the Switzer Foundation in order to help graduate students interested in solving environmental problems and to encourage them to become future environmental leaders. Today, the foundation supports a network of over 500 Switzer Fellows who are leaders in the nonprofit, public policy, business, academic and government sectors.