Raised on a farm in Wasilla, Alaska, Colleen Fisk graduated from the University of Maryland before returning home to earn her Masters from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Recently, she became the Energy Education Director at the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, where she spends much of her time educating students and teachers across Alaska about clean energy and energy conservation. Colleen is a great reminder the clean energy revolution requires much more than analysts, engineers and salespeople. For one, it requires educators. As Colleen says, “It’s so important to teach our youth about energy. Students need energy literacy. They are tomorrow’s voters, tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s decision makers.” She is right. To change how we consume energy, society requires a much clearer understanding of not only what these concepts mean, but why they are important. To accomplish this, Colleen emphasizes the importance of flexibility, and a willingness to make use of today’s ever evolving methods of information delivery. In a world where education is changing and information travels fast, the role of quality educators like Colleen to engage tomorrow’s leaders on energy cannot be overstated. I had a great time learning from Colleen about her experience. I hope you will, too. Enjoy!
Name, Title and Organization
Colleen Fisk, Energy Education Director, Alaska Renewable Energy Project
Educational Background (e.g., college, major, any graduate school or additional certifications)
B.S. Animal Science University of Maryland, College Park; M.Ed. Secondary Education University of Alaska, Fairbanks
What does a typical day look like in your current role? What are your primary responsibilities?
As the Energy Education Director, I spend a lot of time in classrooms and working with teachers presenting about the curriculum that we have on sustainable energy. One of our biggest projects is the AK EnergySmart which is a curriculum on energy efficiency in buildings that is Alaska-specific and has lessons for K-12 classrooms. We also present Wind for Schools curriculum and provide information for different resources for teachers to use in their classroom related to renewable energy. I get to travel around the state, including to remote areas, to present in classrooms and do teacher trainings. I am constantly networking with teachers and those who are interested in renewable/sustainable energy education.
Why did you first want to work in renewable energy / clean technologies?
I’ve always been interested in sustainable energy in my personal life but didn’t plan on making a career in it until the opportunity presented itself to work for REAP. I had worked in education for several years then two years at DEC as a microbiologist doing food testing but neither was quite the right fit for me. Once this position opened up, it seemed the perfect combination of teaching and science in an area that is so important for our future. I had been feeling like I wasn’t making a difference or contributing to society in a meaningful way. I think education will help so many of our problems in our society, and if I can convince even one student that renewable energy is important, or even if it has them start the conversation with their parents at home, then I think I’ve made a difference.
What are your two favorite aspects of your job?
Teaching the students and traveling around the beautiful state of Alaska.
If someone was interviewing for your role, or a role like yours, what would they need to demonstrate in the interview to give themselves an advantage?
That you are comfortable in classrooms of all types and that you have the capacity and desire to learn. They don’t expect you to know everything about sustainable energy in Alaska, but that you are able to learn the information you need to present the material.
To perform your job well, what is the most necessary skill or personality characteristic, and why?
Confidence! If you have confidence, the students and everyone around you will feel that much more comfortable with you. You don’t have to pretend to know everything, but be confident in your knowledge and skills.
What is the one bit of advice you would offer a young person hoping to break into renewable energy / clean technologies?
Keep reading everything you can about it and understand the pros and cons of everything. Don’t try to say that something is the perfect solution to all our problems because no one will listen to you, even if it is somehow true. To get buy-in from a wider audience, you have to be willing to talk about downsides as well as upsides. The more you know, the more you can have these conversations and help people really think about renewable/sustainable energy.
What is something you have learned in your job that surprised you?
That so many people would be interested in what I do. I would not have thought anyone would want to do a bio on me, but I think that there are so many people wondering how we can make a change, but not sure where to start that they are excited to hear about how I am trying to make a difference in my small way.
Other than the focus of your work, which realm (technology, geography, or other) of renewable energy / clean technologies is particularly interesting to you right now and why?
Rooftop gardens as a way to conserve energy in buildings as well as a sustainable food source. I know they are out there but I don’t know how to make it happen in places I live and work. I think sustainable food supply is important to our conversation about renewable energy and clean technologies since the production and transport of food is such a large portion of our energy use that if we can combine food sources and building efficiency, that’s even better!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Free plane tickets/transportation to communities around the world, especially if it is an ecotourism location!
Thanks Colleen! Keep up the great work!