Results of Switzer Foundation Annual Survey of Fellows

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Monday, January 7 2013


For the last four years, the Switzer Foundation has surveyed Fellows who are 5,10,15,20 and 25 years out from their Fellowship year. This annual survey allows us to get an annual snapshot of Fellows’ accomplishments, challenges, employment trends and feedback/suggestions for our offerings. As we set out to update our goals to meet our 20 year vision, this seems like a good time to use this data to solicit specific guidance and feedback from ALL of you.  The Vision that the Foundation set five years ago is:

By 2026, Switzer Fellows will be recognized leaders driving positive environmental change for the benefit of natural and human communities.

 At that time, we launched several new efforts, especially expanding Network tools, communications training, spring retreats, Collaborative Initiatives and now Network Innovation grants. The survey results reinforce the value of the networking, leadership development and issue based gatherings/retreats we’ve held over recent years, as well as other services.  As we share this summary of results with Fellows and colleagues, we invite your general feedback and will be asking Fellows for specific suggestions via e-news and other means!

  1. Employment trends - About 45% of our fellows are in academia, either as tenure-track professors, adjunct faculty or soft-money researchers. We know that many Fellows value an affiliation with academia as a mechanism to continue applied research or as a platform to objectively engage with policy makers or practitioners.  The second most common employment sector is environmental NGOs, which shows a decline in the most recent cohort, and the next common sector is government, especially local.
  2. Fellows still work across a diverse range of fields/issues. Conservation Science and Biology, Energy and Climate Change, and Environmental Policy remain the top areas that Fellows ID as their “primary” affinity group.  This has been consistent over the last few years, and our listserve affinity groups help fellows learn about each other’s work across a wide array of issues. 
  3. Among the various network services, the on-line directory is the one most commonly used. The most highly valued services are the website directory, retreats and in-person networking events, and webinars. (The easiest way to help us make connections within the Network is to keep your Switzer bio up to date.  We can help you do that. )
  4. Among the ways in which Fellows are interested in contributing to the Network, there is a consistent and resounding 80%+ interest in serving as a mentor to another fellow. Fellows also are most interested in connecting with other Fellows with common interests and writing for the website or newsletter. We are very pleased to see such a high level of interest in building relationships and supporting the Network! (join an affinity group in your field of interest to stay connected with Fellows in your field).
  5. To strengthen the Network, the most common suggestions were to promote mentoring at any time, connect Fellows in similar fields, increase programs linking science and policy, partner with innovative orgs and expand geography, esp for networking events.
  6. Fellows are collaborating and reaching out to one another in a variety of ways. The data show increases in Fellows strategizing together and they continue to share ideas. The high levels of career advice and personal support also indicate the strength of the relationships built or nurtured.
  7. Most Fellows only “sometimes” self-ID as a Switzer Fellow. This is definitely something to work on improving. (update your resume, include the Switzer Fellowship in your speaker’s bio and your Linked IN profile! Note that your Switzer website bio is one of the TOP results of a google search on your own name – so please keep it up to date!)
  8. Over time, more Fellows are interviewed and profiled in the press and more are interested in becoming experts for the media and others. We are collating the names of those who are offering to be experts and will follow-up. (be sure to use social media to get our stream of Fellows in the News posts, or join an affinity group for compiled news).
  9. Fellows are interested in linking with innovative and leading organizations, and suggest that we use our network to facilitate this.  There is interest in expanding our activities beyond New England CA when possible.   We look forward to your ideas on how we might do this.
  10. When Fellows reference how the Foundation has made a difference, it is often in relation to a specific grant program, generally the Fellowship, Leadership or Professional Dev. Grants, whereby funding was received at a critical stage. Sometimes it launched leadership, sometimes it seeded efforts that have grown or are ongoing. The money does still matter.
  11. The Network Innovation grant funding is providing an important incentive to encourage Fellows to reach out to the Network.  Funding represents opportunity to work “shoulder-to-shoulder” to get something done, and it helps to know resources are significant enough for a project to happen and creates incentive to seek partners. Eventually, all Fellows should have this consciousness so that when they meet informally, this can be in the back of their minds that substantive collaboration could occur, resources are available. (check out the guidelines FMI).
  12. Fellows are thinking about collaboration and networks. How to teach collaborative skills in curricular sense, how to manage networks from organizational perspective. Some people are more naturally inclined towards networks and to self-organizing. Perhaps there are ways to further develop these leaders and approaches. (Let Lissa know if you work involves network approaches or if you might be interested in leadership development in this arena).
  13. Fellows are consistently interested in links between science and policy and how to influence policy in general. Fellows want to have policy impact, or to apply their expertise in policy settings.  This applies across issues and could be more explicit in our program activities.  This could be a very important avenue to reach our vision and make connections for Fellows.  (spring retreats offer a workshop setting and interaction with advocates, decision-makers and researchers, so think about getting involved to plan one in your issue area).

Feel free to share your thoughts via the comments section below or email me at 

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