Alex Skowron

Alex Skowron served as a data fellow in the Office of Sustainability for 10 months through the Strategic Energy Innovations Climate Corps program.

As a research-oriented institution that’s a partner of the University of Maryland Medical System, the University Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) offers fellowships in a range of clinical disciplines including anesthesiology, dentistry, neurology, maternal and fetal medicine, surgery, psychology, and trauma.

But few know the University also offers fellowship opportunities outside of the medical and clinical fields. This is how a Washington & Jefferson College environmental science graduate wound up with a fellowship in the Facilities and Operations (F&O) Division in Administration and Finance at UMB.

Alex Skowron had the honor of serving as F&O’s first sustainability data fellow through the Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) Climate Corps program.

The SEI Climate Corps fellowship is a bridge-to-career fellowship that runs 10 months. Skowron was placed within UMB’s Office of Sustainability on Jan. 3.

“After graduating in May of 2022, I started looking for jobs at the end of summer,” Skowron said. “I didn’t want to end up working a generic entry-level job where I was stuck doing things I didn’t want, so I looked for fellowships like this one — specifically, ones that had an external training and development aspect that allowed me to build skills outside of what I was doing in the fellowship. This helped me in my future job search as I was able to develop specific marketable skills.

“Once I applied for the general fellowship, I was matched with institutions matching my skillset. Since I was on the East Coast —  the majority of fellowships are in California — and had a background in math and GIS [geographical information systems], I was paired with UMB.”

Fellowship Goals

The goals of the fellowship are for recipients to receive extensive training and support, including orientation, monthly trainings, and a personal development plan; to implement climate change resiliency projects, develop sustainability skills, and build partnerships in the community; and to benefit from the robust, ever-growing Climate Corps network of partner organizations and fellows alumni

At UMB, Skowron’s program allowed him to study environmental science and mathematics at Washington and Jefferson in southwestern Pennsylvania. During his undergraduate studies, Skowron sought numerous out-of-classroom experiences that included assisting with research on the emerald ash borer in the Allegheny National Forest, being a member of the college’s sustainability committee, conducting research on increased tourism in national parks, and interning at two Pittsburgh-based environmental firms.

Skowron worked on numerous projects during his time with UMB including field data collection, data analysis and visualization, and outreach and communication.

One of the biggest projects Skowron worked on was an inventory of all trees within the campus borders including measuring the height and diameter at breast height, determining species, using GPS to mark the location, and taking photos of each tree. He surveyed approximately 1,000 trees, and the data captured was used to generate reports on the benefits the trees bring to the UMB campus and community.

Sustainability Data Dashboard

Another large project Skowron undertook was a Power BI dashboard displaying metrics related to energy use and sustainability on UMB’s campus. These metrics included energy use intensity, electricity and steam use, recycling rates, and more. Skowron also worked on a project to install a weather station on top of a University of Maryland School of Medicine building. This weather station will provide real-time, localized data on numerous weather metrics. The data will be available to the UMB community, researchers, and the emergency management team.

Besides these main projects, Skowron also helped with numerous other initiatives including the self-service waste program rollout, tabling at sustainability events, creating sustainability-related GIS maps, and water fountain asset tagging.

After completing his fellowship, Skowron accepted a position as a carbon and energy data analyst at Philadelphia International Airport. “I am working in their capital development office on sustainability projects doing data collection and analysis,” he said.

His fellowship enabled him to hit the ground running. “Some projects we’re working currently are developing an electric bus fleet, tracking and presenting GHG [greenhouse gases] emission reductions through various electrification initiatives, pursuing rebates for energy efficiency upgrades, and in the new year I will be beginning the process of conducting a comprehensive GHG inventory of the airport.”

When asked if he had any advice for other individuals considering a fellowship with SEI Climate Corps, he said, “Start early with the application process. I applied in September 2022 and started working January 2023, so plan accordingly! Also, the compensation may seem low at first, but if you can make it work, I promise it will be worth it in the end!”


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