Jonathan Steele

Climate Change Coordinator, U.S. Department of the Interior

MSES ’04

Jonathan Steele is not your typical environmental studies major. After discharge from the U.S. Army, Steele earned associate and bachelor’s degrees in telecommunications. But while he majored in video production, he minored in geography.

That interest in the Earth brought him to the Environmental Studies Program at Ohio University. Despite being a nontraditional student, Steele loved the college experience.

“This might sound nerdy, but my favorite memory as a student was just learning—being in class, studying in a coffee shop, cramming for finals—all of it,” he said. “You continue to learn for the rest of your life, but nothing is the same as learning in college.”

It helped greatly that he was studying something he loved. “Some students just pick a fallback topic: something they are not exactly interested in, but something they can do,” he said. “However, if you do it right, your thesis project can allow you to make connections and become knowledgeable in a unique topic, which can be a real stepping-stone to your career.”

Steele’s own thesis, which focused on how Ohio watershed managers included the public in their management plans, helped him secure a position in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution after he completed his degree in 2004.

Steele recently was appointed the Department of the Interior's Climate Change Coordinator.He coordinates climate change activities internally across the Department of the Interior's nine bureaus and externally with other federal agencies, the White House and other partners and stakeholders.

Steele said, "I can say with confidence that I wouldn't have this opportunity without my MSES degree."

Although Steele did not have a traditional educational background before applying to Ohio University, his passion for the Environmental Studies field helped him find success.

“The Voinovich School provides such great opportunities to get involved in local and regional issues,” he said. “Even if you don’t stay in Southeast Ohio, the experience that you can gain will stay with you and benefit you in your career.”

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