Meet an Alum: Amanda Peterka, Environmental Reporter

Amanda Peterka

We asked alumna Amanda Peterka (Class of 2012) some questions about her career and time at ENRP. See what she had to say below...

Current job position: Environmental Reporter (covering air quality issues and biofuels) for Environment and Energy Publishing LLC - a news organization devoted entirely to environmental and energy policy. We have about 50 reporters, most of them (including me) in D.C. but others spread around the country. We’re subscription based, and our readers include congressional offices, government departments, environmental groups, trade groups, state agencies and law firms.

Hometown: Hillside, Illinois

Undergraduate School and Major: Michigan State University; Journalism

Why Amanda chose ENRP: I looked around the country for a master’s program in an environmental field. The ENRP program seemed like a good mix of science, policy and economics, and the location in Washington, D.C., was ideal. I happened to get an internship at E&E that began at the same time as the ENRP program, so everything came together nicely.

How ENRP helped prepare Amanda for her professional career: The program introduced me to the broad array of environmental and energy topics that we cover here at E&E. In my current position reporting on air quality issues, I draw daily on the environmental law class I took in the ENRP program. The introduction to the Clean Air Act and other major environmental laws put me a step ahead in covering complex regulatory and policy issues.

Why Amanda enjoys her current job: Because E&E is geared toward people “in the know,” I get to cover environmental and energy issues with a depth that often doesn’t exist in mainstream media outlets. I love diving head-first into wonky policy subjects and shaping them into stories. I also love exploring how D.C. policy affects people and companies on the ground, and E&E gives me a chance to travel to areas around the country to see what’s going on outside the Beltway as a result of actions taken by lawmakers and regulators.

Amanda's capstone project and how that helped prepare her for a professional job in environmental policy: I worked with EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory program. My classmates and I studied databases kept by countries around the world on pollutant discharges to land, air and water by industrial facilities. Our goal was to come up with a way to combine datasets that sometimes differed substantially into a single, readable form so that one could get an accurate picture of global industrial pollution. The project mirrored a professional setting in that we had to figure out a way to combine the ideas from a diverse group of people into a cohesive final package. We also had to revise, and revise again.

Amanda's favorite aspect of ENRP: I liked that it was an interdisciplinary program that focused not only on environmental science but also on policymaking, law and economics. The interdisciplinary nature really gave us the ability to choose from a wide array of electives and to figure out what direction we wanted to take our careers in the broader field of environmental policy.

Amanda's tips for living, studying, and working in Washington, DC: People think of D.C. as some twisted, dark place that’s all government. The truth is, you’re in one of the greatest cities in the world. Get up and explore it. Don’t just go to the monuments and museums but also to the neighborhoods where tourists usually don’t make it. Go to free events and festivals. Catch a ballgame. Kayak in the Potomac River. Go to the arboretum. Have fun while you’re here.

You’re probably in D.C. because you want to do something policy-related -- make the most of the fact that there are likely many people in the city already doing what you want to do. Make an effort to meet people who can guide you in the right direction.

Amanda's career tips for those interested in environmental policy: Environmental policy is a very broad term -- it can mean anything from designing the right solar power incentives to conserving wilderness tracts to working on an international basis to come up with climate change financing mechanisms. Be open to exploring all aspects of environmental policy but try to home in on areas that you’re really passionate about.

A fun-fact about Amanda: I love to travel. I’ve been to 26 countries and four continents, and my trips have included solo backpacking in New Zealand and Peru, study abroad in Australia, a summer spent in rural Czech Republic and a few trips to Japan (I studied Japanese in college). I also love to travel to national parks in the United States – my favorite is Glacier National Park in Montana.