Alumni Spotlight: Vanessa Gerber ’11

Tell us about your life today.

After graduating from UC Berkeley last spring, I am now a bit farther from home doing my masters at Oxford! At Berkeley I designed my own major within the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and loved the interdisciplinary approach I was able to take in looking at energy and resource issues. Looking for an opportunity to learn even more and fully engage in the world of climate science, energy systems and policy, and solution-oriented business models and governance systems I found just what I was looking for in the MSc in Environmental Change and Management here at Oxford. I will be doing my dissertation this summer in the realm of energy and development, hopefully traveling to Zambia to work on a project regarding solar-powered mini-grid infrastructure and their role in rural electrification projects, as well as various knock-on effects.

A few new friends and I also decided, particularly in light of all of the political developments back home in the States, that we should restart and revitalize the abandoned Oxford Student American Society to create a platform for events and discussion regarding politics, culture, and other stories happening in the US. Oxford is a very international place, and it has been great to see a variety of people engaging in these issues, as well as a way for US students to remain involved and active in discussions regarding critical issues from which we may otherwise feel removed.

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Vanessa with Ben Bogin, Maddy Scheer, and Talia Krahling in the 2011 MA Yearbook.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

At Cal I was on the Women’s Rowing Team for four years and hoped to be able to continue rowing at a competitive level at Oxford, though the demanding schedule of my course had other plans for me. Now I am spending more time going to a variety of fascinating lectures around campus, volunteering at the local farmers’ market, and playing my guitar in my ‘free’ time!

Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which had the greatest impact on you and why?

Honestly, I cite J O’Malley’s English II class my sophomore year as a critical turning point for not only the quality of my writing, but also my relationship with writing… I love to do it! Additionally, I would say AP Environmental Science was probably the point at which I confirmed my passion for environmental studies and action, and influenced my choice of major at Cal, my current masters, and my future career aspirations.

What is one of your best MA memories?

I absolutely loved the senior backpacking trip to Pt Reyes in our final weeks. Getting to really talk with my classmates, enjoy Marin’s beauty, be outside, and look back on the wonderful four years we had spent together was a beautiful and memorable cap to my time at MA.


On the windy Welsh coast at the end of a field course on marine and coastal ecosystems and management challenges.

On the windy Welsh coast at the end of a field course on marine and coastal ecosystems and management challenges.

If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

I would make more of an effort to get to know folks outside of my immediate friend group on a deeper level, and that includes teachers. Something I still struggle with is talking with professors about ideas and questions, and I think if I had done that more in high school I could have fostered a better ability and comfort with doing it now, too.

Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.

Spirit Week during the Fall of my freshman year I went big. I was still in the awkward early stages of freshman year in high school, but that didn’t stop me from getting creative and wearing ridiculous costumes (like a full black and glitter halter-top jumpsuit, go-go boots, a wig and a jacket some might describe as some sort of velvet cape on Disco 70s day…). It was the kind of thing where I felt fine about it at home, but the second we rolled up to the Circle my stomach dropped with immediate regret, but I got out of the car, owned up to my awesome costume, and I think I made some friends that day. I realized how trivial so many things are that make us self-conscious, and I realized how fun it was to just be out there.


Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series?  Fill out our Alumni Spotlight Questionnaire or send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!

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