Jomar Floyd; 2014 NWF Emerging Leaders Fellow
Interviewee: Jomar Floyd
2014 NWF Emerging Leaders Fellow
Alumnus, Florida A&M University
Interviewer: David Corsar, NWFJomar is an Alumnus of Florida A&M University, and he has been active with NWF in Florida as well as nationally. Jomar was co-chair of NWF’s Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) and was a 2014 Emerging Leaders Fellow with his project “Science for Us” 4-H Club Charter: Engaging Youth in STEM/Environmental Awareness, for which he also received the 2015 National Conservation Youth Leader Award.
David Corsar: Your 2014 Emerging Leaders fellowship project engaging youth in STEM/Environmental Awareness through 4-H was a great success; what are you up to these days on your academic and professional path for sustainability?
Jomar Floyd: At the moment, I am applying to graduate school at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). I’m seeking admission into the SPEA program to start this fall for a Master’s in Public Affairs with a concentration in Sustainable and Sustainability Development.
DC: How did you decide on that program?
JF: I visited the school back in early November while I was in a training with Organizing for America (OFA) for a Field Management Professional Fellowship in Chicago, IL. A professor from my Alma Mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of Environment highly suggested for me to apply to the program. The SPEA program has an interdisciplinary approach to various issues, to the environment, to economic development, and sustainable development. So, you really get to dive into different aspects of sustainability and environmental and economic affairs, and how they coincide with one another. That’s why I selected the program as my number one choice; I want to be a part of a program that has a multidimensional approach when it comes to the environment.
Also, this program has some of the best, erudite professors in the program; they have a professor that’s one of the founders of the EPA. So, it has a really well-distinguished scholars there, and I’m definitely looking forward to both research opportunities and also study abroad opportunities.
DC: Speaking of opportunities abroad, I understand that you were able to attend COP21. What was that like for you?
JF: It was a great experience to meet people from around the world; it was my first time traveling to Europe. I landed in Brussels, traveled from Brussels to Paris, and I was there for two weeks. I was there with other folks; I met some delegates from Sierra Club and other groups from the U.S.
It was a really great experience attending COP21. There were workshops and side events in terms of what various countries, NGOs, non-profits, etc. are doing, how they’re addressing climate change, reducing their carbon footprint, and how they’re approaching native and indigenous rights. There was a whole gamut of issues related to the environment. So, for me, getting the opportunity to interact with people from various organizations, NGOs, youth organizations, organizations from the African continent, organizations from Europe, etc., it was a rewarding experience to have conversations about how they are addressing issues in their respective countries moving forward in the 21st century.
While I didn’t have access to some of the areas that were restricted access, I still had a chance to meet very well-known people from around the world. I met with a former ambassador who had worked for the UN Secretary General; she was from the Caribbean. And they’re going to be the first to be hit by sea level rise. So, being able to interview people and see how climate change is impacting their communities, it was very insightful and I’m looking forward to working on solutions. I think a lot of people were very optimistic during the conference and about the post-COP21 actions to follow. For me, being a part of that dialogue, those conversations, meeting young people and others about climate change and solutions, it was a really rewarding experience.
DC: What would you say is your personal mission for sustainability?
DC: What motivated you to begin this path?
JF: Good question. I got involved with an organization on campus called FAMU Green Coalition, which from the local level, in Florida, focused on the awareness of sustainability and how it affects our communities in terms of technology and clean energy. So that was pretty much how I got involved and educated from this campus organization. But it wasn’t until Power Shift in 2009 that I really started to see the bigger picture of things. That was my first time attending such a large conference with young people and having conversations around climate change, and so that really sparked my interest. Then, when I came back from the conference, that’s when I got involved with workshops on campus, hosting workshops engaging with the local government. That really opened doors for me to learn more about the climate change movement, but also from a student perspective, in terms of what role we play getting the message out and engaging communities.
So that’s really when my path in the climate change movement shifted from being a student organizer to focusing more on lobbying and informing legislators. I was constantly involved in extracurricular activities to be part of this climate change dialogue from one thing to the next, from the opportunities with NWF, going to DC, Power Shift, experiences in voter registration, my Green For All Fellowship. And from those experiences, it really allowed me to develop my organizer skillsets to where it eventually led to working on the president’s campaign in 2012.
I think, from all these experiences, it’s leading me down a path to become an expert and to also further my education by obtaining a master’s degree with a focus on economic development and finance, because that is key - well there are many aspects - but it plays a pivotal role in how sustainability initiatives will be financed. For me, that will be the next big step in terms of my education and training to get more involved in financing and economic development for sustainability development.
DC: Who are your primary “influencers” or inspirations in the sustainability movement?
JF: I would definitely say Van Jones is a big influencer for me, from the green jobs perspective and also from the conservation aspect.
Also, the National Wildlife Federation because I’ve been a part of your organization for quite some time while I was in school and also being out of school. NWF has been a big influence by affording me opportunities starting with local opportunities in Tallahassee, through the Emerging Leaders Council, and with the advocacy aspect and going to DC to attend different conferences with the Young Leaders Assembly. They definitely open doors for me in terms of understanding the different aspects of environment from a green jobs perspective.
DC: Did you have any mentors or career coaches assist you in developing your academic or professional path?
JF: I would say one of my key mentors or advisors was with the FAMU Green Coalition; there was a professor by the name of Dr. Donnellan. As an advisor to our green coalition, she kept us up to date and involved with campus sustainability related initiatives. That definitely helped me with my academic and professional path because if it wasn’t for her due diligence in keeping me and the students organized, I probably would never have stayed involved with group for the many years I was involved until graduation, and I was even awarded the FAMU volunteer of the year award around organizing students in 2011.
DC: How can participation in EcoLeaders help shape young professionals’ personal and professional paths?
JF: When I first got involved with the Emerging Leaders Council, we talked about webinars and offerings for young professionals under EcoLeaders regarding what it could be and what we’d like to see it become.
I definitely see professional development as an ongoing process, so I think it is pivotal that EcoLeaders provides that platform for current students and also for young professionals so they can continue their leadership development through training, professional development opportunities, and also sharing the knowledge that we have in terms of what we’re doing on our respective campuses or where we are in the professional world as well.
It is definitely needed; it’s important to have a platform that really allows young professionals to have a voice but also to be able to share with and mentor one another; I think that’s critical moving forward.
DC: What was the top thing that you learned from your experience at NWF?
And so if I think back right now, the many things I got involved with on campus and at NWF led me to where I’m at now - coming back from COP21 - and where I’m headed moving forward. Right now, I’m working on some upcoming initiatives with the EcoLeader platform, with Crystal Jennings, where we are looking at the possibility of having an outreach initiative for Catawba College in Salisbury NC with three other organizations during Earth week. I think moving forward, I’m shifting my focus to become more of a trainer or a speaker, and so I’ve been seeking opportunities were I can go and speak on behalf of NWF down here in Florida about engaging youth and climate change. I would definitely say that professionally NWF continues to expose me to opportunities to grow as a young professional.