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January 30, 2012 / Mark Largent

Post from a Recent Grad: Mike Berkowitz

Right after graduating, I got a job working for Virg Bernero’s campaign for Governor. To be completely honest, I didn’t use much of the information I learned in classes from the STEPPS Program, but I used the skills I learned from the experiential component of the program. For my STEPPS field experience, I interned for a lobbying firm where I learned about politics, campaigns, and organizing, all of which were essential parts of my job on the Bernero campaign.

After the campaign ended unsuccessfully, I got a job as the Michigan Chapter Organizer for the Sierra Club, one of the largest and most influential environmental non-profits in the world. I run the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s legislative and political programs. The goal of our Legislative Program is to pass progressive environmental legislation, and stop anti-environmental legislation. I monitor legislation, organize grassroots lobby days in Lansing, help volunteers set up meetings with their legislators, teach our volunteers how to lobby their legislators, get the media to cover our issues, inform legislators of our stances on legislation, and work with other environmental organizations.

The goal of our Political Program is to get environmentally friendly legislators elected to office. I staff the Michigan Sierra Club’s Political Committee and assist them by facilitating our candidate endorsement process, raising funds to give to endorsed candidates, getting our members to vote for endorsed candidates, and working with other progressive non-profits that engage in politics.

Many of the STEPPS classes I took helped prepare me for my job in a few ways. They taught me about the most important and timely environmental issues, many of which I now deal with in the legislative arena. My STEPPS classes also helped teach me how to write, research, and message appropriately, which are all extremely important skills to have when advocating for an issue. One other major benefit to being a STEPPS graduate is that I regularly interact with many other STEPPS graduates that work in the political, legislative, and non-profit world. Since many of us already have relationships, I entered the professional political world with a great support network. Now I get to fight for clean air, clean water, and clean energy for a living, and I couldn’t be happier.

-Mike Berkowitz

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