Jeremy Diner says the highlight of his undergraduate career at NC State was learning about some of the world’s biggest problems and, as an Environmental Technology major, gaining hands-on skills that could solve these problems. His academic advisor, Dr. Robert Bruck, inspired Diner to pursue the path of an environmentalist.
After completing his Bachelor’s degree in 2008, Diner spent two years working as an environmental scientist at CH2M Hill. He then relocated to Brisbane, Australia, where he completed a Master’s degree in Integrated Water Management at the University of Queensland.
“My career path has certainly not been a straight line,” said Diner. “I tried the corporate thing and it just didn’t work for me, and after two years I felt my skills were quickly becoming pigeonholed. Pursuing my Master’s allowed me to broaden my perspective and learn ways to apply my existing skills to entirely new situations.”
Upon completion of his Master’s degree, Diner spent four months working for a nonprofit on a climate change adaptation project in Cambodia. His research focused on what type of outcomes-oriented monitoring and evaluation framework could help improve project management, within the all-too-common constraints of extremely limited time and budget. He says working for $1.25 per hour as the only foreigner was the most fulfilling work he has ever done.
“The two most meaningful lessons that I learned through this experience are that: 1) Yes, a small group of hard-working passionate people can make a difference in their community, and 2) Patience. Things happen very slowly in developing countries and if Westerners are going to try and help, we need to respect this simple fact.”
Diner plans to continue on his path of sustainable development. His perspective is that conservation is most successful when local people are empowered to be the environmental managers; if they have more livelihood opportunities, they will take better care of the environment. Diner is seeking creative ways to foster this idea, currently through development of an ecotourism and education project.
When asked what advice he would offer to current students interested in pursuing a career in sustainable development, Diner shared, “Understand that there will be a sacrifice of yourself, but out of this sacrifice you will discover the most profound lessons and personal fulfilment. Also, learn to love rice.”
Story by Laura Turner