Alumni Highlight: Molly Brown

By: Alec Masella

Recent Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) graduate Molly Brown has made a career shift into environmental law this past year, returning to her passion for global sustainability.

Not knowing at first how to go about making this shift, she turned to the Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS). Her experience with the XMNR program provided Molly the support and connections she needed to make her way into her current position as Staff Attorney with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance.

Molly first attended law school in Vermont with a focus in environmental law, but she veered off this path after graduation.  “I did some work in the public and private sectors,” she explains, “but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to go back to school because I didn’t know where to start.”

So upon joining the 2017 XMNR cohort, Molly found clarity in making her move into environmental work. Surrounded by students, faculty, and guest lecturers who either worked in or were moving into the sustainability field, Molly experienced first-hand the benefits of having a network of likeminded and supportive individuals.

I owe my current position [as Chesapeake Legal Alliance Staff Attorney] to the contacts I made in the program… the networking I did with my classmates and the guest lecturers led directly to my position now. ~ Molly Brown

This network helped narrow her career search by giving her insight into the options she would have once she earned the MNR degree. Additionally, many of her fellow students had knowledge of open positions with companies and government work and kept Molly in tune with what she might be interested in. Molly found the relationships within her cohort to be the most valuable aspects of the program.

“We learned a lot about one another, which gave me a deep understanding of who I was—my strengths and weaknesses—and what I’m passionate about,” she explains.

One cohort member in particular provided Molly with the specifics on an open staff attorney position with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance where she works today. At this “small but mighty” nonprofit organization, she facilitates the relationship between clients and pro bono attorneys to improve the conditions of the Chesapeake Bay.

“I owe my current position to the contacts I made in the program, and those contacts continue to be sources of support even after the transition,” Molly explains, “the networking I did with my classmates and the guest lecturers led directly to my position now.” Throughout the program, she was able to develop a strong repertoire of environmental and sustainability job references.

The XMNR program offers students the opportunity to work with others who are both interested in and already part of sustainability work. For this, the program brings together perspectives, expertise, and knowledge of job opportunities for its students.

Molly, for example, worked nearly 10 years as an attorney before admission to the Executive MNR Program. Her studies enabled her to merge her extensive legal background with knowledge about sustainability issues, stakeholders, and the many industries that impact the environment.

She explains, “the program took what I thought about why sustainability was important and expanded it to a global view.”

Since her undergraduate years, Molly always knew she wanted to contribute to global sustainability— she simply needed the resources and contacts to do so. The Master of Natural Resources degree not only provided Molly a network of helpful and caring professionals, but it also empowered her as a unique environmental thinker. She now has the credentials to act on her passion and offer guidance to others who wish to do the same.