Growing up, Clare Sierawski was not the outdoorsy type.
“My family was not the hikers,” joked the new energy and environmental adviser to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Instead of traveling the world to study and work on environmental issues, Sierawski pictured herself traveling the world as an ambassador — until her college adviser persuaded her to consider environmental studies.
“I hadn’t really considered it before,” Sierawski said. “And then I took a few classes and really loved it.”
Thanks to the suggestion, Sierawski found a new passion and career path.
“I started really realizing the environmental challenges that we face, locally, nationally and globally,” she said.
While attending the University of Pittsburgh, Sierawski spent a year studying environmental issues in China. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she would return to China to work on those issues.
But it wasn’t until she worked on environmental issues at the Department of Transportation that she realized she wanted to travel and attend graduate school.
After leaving the Department of Transportation, Sierawski headed to India, where she spent four months working on a reforestation project.
She then traveled to Australia before returning to China. She spent five months in China working on climate change issues before returning to the U.S. to attend Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Her time at Princeton was interrupted when she was offered a position as special assistant to Todd Stern, the special envoy for climate change. Under Stern, Sierawski worked on developing bilateral cooperation on climate change issues with China.
Sierawski said her time overseas also shaped the way she approaches environmental issues in a broader sense. She said her travels have given her “a global perspective on energy and climate issues,” while she was “really seeing the challenges firsthand with development and the need to increase people’s quality of living.”
“It really challenged me to find the path forward ... where development and sustainability and protecting the environment go hand in hand,” she said, something she hopes to do in Kerry’s office. “I’m really excited to be here,” she said about her new position. “Sen. Kerry is a huge champion nationally and internationally on this issue, and I plan to help him continue that leadership.”
Sierawski said the time she spent abroad and in graduate school has proved valuable in her new job.
“In a job like this, where you have to react quickly and move quickly, it’s really important to have taken that time to really understand these issues,” she said.
Although she may not have been the outdoorsy type as a child, she is now. Since college, Sierawski has taken an interest in hiking, which deepened when she spent time in Australia, hiking along the southern coast of Tasmania, “which was completely amazing. ... There’s nothing between you and Antarctica,” she said.
Now that she’s back in the states, she continues hiking locally.
“There’s no Tasmanian coast nearby,” she joked. Instead, she hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. “It’s really rejuvenating,” she said about hiking, explaining that it helps motivate her at her job.
“It really reminds me of why I’m doing this and how amazing our natural environment is,” she said, “and how important it is to protect it for future generations.”
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