Meet an Alum: Bill Ostrum, Department of Energy

Bill Ostrum

We asked alum Bill Ostrum (Class of 2012) some questions about his career and time at ENRP. See what he had to say below...

Current job position: Environmental Protection Specialist at the Department of Energy

Hometown:  Middletown, CT

Undergraduate School and Major:  College of William and Mary, Government

Why Bill chose ENRP:  Environmental policy requires a unique and diverse skill set: integrating information from a variety of disciplines, translating complex scientific information into actionable policy, and explaining those policies to stakeholders and the public. ENRP offered more than just an environmental concentration within a pre-existing policy program. Many of the required courses were designed and taught specifically for ENRP students, not just selected from an existing course catalogue. At the same time, students were encouraged to take advantage of elective course offerings across the GWU campus including engineering, policy, management, and science.

How ENRP prepared Bill for his professional career: Since graduating from the ENRP program, I’ve worked in the NEPA offices of two federal agencies. NEPA is the main method by which the federal government integrates environmental factors, from climate change to endangered species to environmental justice, into decision-making. ENRP’s diverse curriculum has meant I’ve always been prepared to apply rigorous environmental analysis, and rarely had to learn a new topic from scratch.

Why Bill enjoys his current job: I always have the opportunity to keep learning and building expertise in new areas. I’ve been able to work closely with specialists to learn directly from their experience, but also to stake out my own expertise and become an agency leader in areas like invasive species (while at FHWA) and climate change in NEPA (at DOE).

Bill's capstone project and how it helped prepare him for his career: My classmates and I worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop recommendations for integrating Pollution Release and Transfer Registry data across countries. Pollutants often travel across borders, but getting a comprehensive picture of local, regional, and global discharges can be a challenge due to differences in national tracking systems. Our project developed recommendations make data from these systems more comparable and was used as the basis for a follow-up capstone project the following year. The report is currently available on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory website: so than a traditional thesis, the capstone project is a professional work project. You work in a team that must figure out how to best take advantage of everyone’s strengths. You have to meet not just your own vision, but your team’s vision, and the needs of the outside party you’re working for. The capstone project gives you a real-world experience to discuss with employers and a real-world project you can show them.

Bill's favorite aspect of ENRP: I liked the ability to follow my interests, even as they changed across the two years of the program. In addition to learning from faculty with experience across academia and the public and private sectors, I worked with students with diverse experience and goals.

Bill's tips for living, studying, and working in Washington, DC: Take advantage of the work and interning opportunities that make Washington, DC unique. Even interns can get involved in crafting policy and reports that can have national implications. Also, don’t be afraid to branch out. You may find a new environmental area that piques your interest, or gain a new skill that will be useful throughout your career.

Bill's recommendations for those interested in careers in environmental policy: Don’t neglect skills like clear writing, comfort with statistics, and good presentation skills. No matter what your environmental interests, these skills will help you get jobs, and just as importantly, make you a desirable member of any project team.

Fun fact about Bill: Go Nats!