EMS alumnus turns study abroad venture into career in sustainability education

David Kubarek
January 09, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Admittedly, Adam Phoebe didn’t quite know what path to take in the spring semester of 2011.

Then he checked his inbox.

The junior studying energy engineering at Penn State’s University Park campus received an email from the Global Renewable Energy Education Network or GREEN program, which offers eight- to 12-day trips for adventures tied to sustainability learning, and the idea of a short stint studying abroad paired nicely with his aspirations and demanding course load.

“I kind of took a chance and went to Costa Rica. So I went down there for 12 days, and what I learned reshaped and reframed the rest of my life,” said Phoebe, adding that it was a great way to grow because it took him out of his comfort zone.

Flash forward a few years and now he’s the one curating the experience. The 2012 graduate is director of global operations for GREEN, a position he obtained after first becoming a student ambassador for the program.

At GREEN, he connects students with trips to Iceland, Peru and Philadelphia, each offering its own learning opportunity based on the culture and surroundings. For example, Iceland, which creates more than 90 percent of its energy needs sustainably, gives students a front-row seat to geothermal and hydroelectric heat and power plants, while Peru offers a look at water resource management practices.

Phoebe said one of the main perks of the job, aside from frequently traveling to picturesque places such as Costa Rica and Iceland, is being able to craft hands-on programs that show — not tell — some of the world’s most eco-friendly advancements.

“When you see it abroad it’s a great way to get your mind churning on a more creative way of what we see at home and mirror that with some of the problems you see,” said Phoebe.

His job is creating and continuing programs that offer services to the community while addressing the United Nations’ 17 goals for sustainable development. Each GREEN program looks at how a nation confronted and then solved sustainability problems.

“Our biggest mission is to shake up higher education and to bring educational programs that are focused on topics relevant to life. We try to be as hands on as possible,” said Phoebe. “These programs are built by students for students. We know what the college students are looking for, what you need to get ahead.”

Phoebe said Penn State taught him ways to think in a larger global context to find solution to problems, and GREEN gave him a road to continue that message.

Phoebe is quick to point out that everyone — not just energy engineering and sustainability students — can benefit from a trip. Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, however, offers scholarships to defray more than half of the costs of attending the Iceland trip, taught with the help of Reykjavík University’s Energy Graduate School of Sustainable Systems program and the School of Science and Engineering.

“The GREEN program is built to engage you and challenge your current thought process and give you different avenues and adventures to expand your physical horizon to see that you can do so much more than your typical nine-to-five job,” said Phoebe. “It really gives more meaning and passion behind what we’re studying, especially within the STEM fields. You’re seeing everything firsthand and being able to help with community-service projects.”

Phoebe says that as he grows in his career he loves that the company grows with him.

“We are one family and have the creative freedom to build and develop within our own job roles and titles, which is exciting,” he said.

For more on the GREEN program, visit www.thegreenprogram.com.

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Last Updated January 09, 2017