Switzer Foundation Mission and Vision
Switzer Fellows will be recognized leaders driving positive environmental change for the benefit of natural and human communities.
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation identifies and nurtures environmental leaders who have the ability and determination to make a significant positive impact, and supports initiatives that will have direct and measurable results to improve environmental quality. The foundation accomplishes this by awarding academic fellowships and project grants, sponsoring professional development activities, and fostering a growing network of Switzer Fellows, environmental practitioners, and organizations.
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation holds the following values:
- Belief in Individuals. We believe that talented and committed individuals from varied backgrounds can make a difference in this world and create positive change. With funding, training, and engaged networks and collaborations, individuals can achieve greater impact.
- Environmental Stewardship. The foundation seeks to protect, improve, and sustain our natural environment for the well-being of people and the planet. Switzer Fellows use science, policy and public engagement to advance environmental goals.
- Sustainability. We recognize the urgency of living within our ecological and physical means, and embrace holistic approaches that support and maintain the complexity and interconnectedness of natural and human systems.
- Social Equity and Diversity. We believe environmental progress requires systemic approaches that include social equity and justice as a lens through which we evaluate success. Selecting fellows from a range of social, cultural, racial and economic backgrounds as well as from varied issue interests and professional sectors will build a stronger environmental field.
- Systems Thinking and Problem-solving. What we define as “environmental issues” continues to expand with the knowledge that they are always situated within a constellation of social, scientific, environmental and economic issues. We believe that working at the intersection of a wide range of perspectives will yield innovative solutions.
- Maximizing Impact. We seek to maximize positive environmental impact through individual and collective activities and leveraged grant resources. The foundation has an ongoing commitment to promote excellence, increase effectiveness and adapt to changing needs and circumstances in the environmental field.
Renewing Our Vision
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation’s vision has been to elevate recognition of Switzer Fellows’ leadership and ensure that both natural and human communities benefit from environmental policies and practices. Increasingly, environmental solutions must be intersectional, and address social, economic and political dimensions of a problem. Whether engaging in climate change policy and climate justice, biodiversity protection and cultural survival, or toxics use prevention and development of emerging technologies like green chemistry, Fellows will be at the forefront of this intersectional view of environmental work.
Throughout our history, we have sought to model exemplary environmental leadership through our programs and Fellows’ work in the world. Switzer Fellows advance tangible improvements in environmental quality while also seeking greater social equity within their work. Going forward, we want to create an inclusive environmental community for leaders across race, class, culture and gender so that all can find supportive pathways for success throughout their careers.
Current Program Strategies
The foundation awards academic fellowships and project grants, supporting a continuum of environmental leadership from graduate school through professional careers, and nurturing a network of leaders who are instrumental in driving positive environmental change. The foundation also sponsors professional development activities, facilitates communication and information-sharing among fellows, and fosters a vibrant and growing network of fellows, environmental practitioners and organizations dedicated to our vision, mission and values.
Foundation Goals: Environmental Leadership-Equity-Impact
The Robert and Patrica Switzer Foundation’s core focus has been and will remain centered on environmental leadership, graduate study and supporting a wide array of disciplines and issues that support a healthy environment through science, policy and public engagement. For the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation to be a leader, we must directly support and foster intersectional environmental work that also achieves greater social equity while advancing positive environmental and community impact. The elements to achieve this are described here.
Environmental Leadership — Switzer Fellows use their expertise in the sciences and related environmental professions for outcomes that also advance social equity. Switzer Fellows are scientists, lawyers, policy analysts, conservation biologists, climate change negotiators, environmental health advocates, community organizers and more who draw upon scientific research, applied study, policy and action in pursuit of environmental goals. The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation will continue to select and develop leaders to work on pressing environmental issues with an awareness of the systemic inequities that have created disproportionate environmental burdens on some communities. Intersectional approaches, collaborative problem-solving and public engagement will be the defining leadership capacities for the future and the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation will help fellows build these skills.
Equity — To achieve environmental and social progress and for results to endure over time, equity considerations must be embedded into environmental work. This includes adding social equity as a lens for our grantmaking and as a goal for leadership development in the Switzer Fellowship program. Supporting environmental leadership opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups including people of color, students from low-income backgrounds, first generation college students, and others helps us to address historical disadvantages and improve future environmental decision-making. The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation will continue to work to remove implicit biases and structural barriers in our own programs to ensure achievement for all fellows. Furthermore, building social equity as an integral element of our programs will enable our fellows, alumni and grantees to effectively use their expertise, experience and positions to find intersectional approaches to improve environmental conditions for all.
Impact — The Robert and PatriciaSwitzer Foundation fosters a network of environmental leaders representing a broad spectrum of topics who work in academia, nongovernmental organizations, government, business and community-led organizations. We support environmental leaders who are doing applied work, are willing to engage affected communities and constituencies, and who are committed to developing their personal leadership and policy communication skills to solve environmental problems. Environmental improvement occurs on many scales, from grassroots to global, and all are valued. Switzer Fellows will individually and collectively use their positions, leadership and partnerships with one another to create positive environmental and social impact.
"We believe that there is and will continue to be a need for impact from highly skilled environmental scientists for both correction and prevention of further damage. These people must be fully dedicated to improvement rather than further destruction. They must be tough enough to withstand heavy pressures and controversies in order to do what is right rather than what is more profitable."
Robert S. Switzer