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Written by Dana Francisco Miranda

The Campus to Congress-Corporation Fellows workshop, commonly known as C2C, is an opportunity for current students and young professionals to network and further their skills in sustainable business and politics. The C2C Fellows workshop took place February 14–16, one of three occurring this year, at Bard College. Fifty-five undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a handful of young professionals, trudged through the winter weather to attend the workshop. It was appropriate that a workshop dedicated to leadership in sustainability, in response to global warming, had to face an extreme weather event.  In the span of 24 hours, 20 inches of snow had fallen on Annandale-on-Hudson.

The workshop was filled with a mix of environmental awareness and entrepreneurial spirit.  Each participant seemed eager to learn about a variety of topics, ranging from the “carbon blanket” surrounding the Earth, to skills like lobbying for funds for political or business ventures. One of the most interesting aspects of the C2C Workshop was an interview panel with young professionals. Fellows were able to speak with Sean Eldridge, congressional candidate for New York’s 19th District, Miles Crettien, co-founder at VertiCulture a leader in urban aquaponics, and Julian Lesser, founder of Compost Valley.


Furthermore, the eclectic mix of people and interests in the room allowed for a greater dialogue about furthering fellows’ individual projects against the fear of failure. “As a business owner with clients, you have an idea which you are selling to the world. It’s hard to take a step back and go in a different direction, even when it’s a better move.” Hearing about embracing failure was encouraging.  “By not worrying about failure, it allows my business to evolve and change,” said Brittany Chiles, manager and business owner of 8 to 8 Barbershop.

As such, C2C is not only about connecting students and young professionals now: much like the issue of climate change, the program is also future-oriented. Jess Scott, workshop director of C2C Fellows, envisions that by 2018, 25 of its fellows will be involved in national-level politics and 25 more in high-level positions in sustainable businesses. In the short term, C2C is actually preparing an initiative on sustainable leadership. “Beyond Cynicism will be a national day of action next spring focused on political inaction and climate change. Modeled off of past national actions that C2C has launched, it will identify 100 young people across the country who will commit to running for national-level office in 2016 or 2018,” said Scott.

The Campus to Congress-Corporation Sustainability Leadership Workshop brought together 50 young leaders from across the nation and provided them with the opportunity to lead without the fear of failure. The message of the workshop was that if we fail to act, failure is the only possibility. Eban Goodstein, the director of C2C Fellows and of Bard’s Graduate Programs in Sustainability, even had a mantra for this. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, from the song Dancing in the Dark, “You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart.” The C2C workshop was about how passion and practice can coincide in a world ready to fall apart. “I just want to help you guys light a fire of your own,” said Goodstein.


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