Amanda J. Nesheiwat M.S. ’19 is Fighting for a Sustainable Planet
As Deputy Director of Sustainability and Community Outreach at Hudson County Improvement Authority and as the U.N. Youth Representative for Humanitarian Focus Foundation, Amanda Nesheiwat M.S. ’19 believes that we all can contribute to protecting the environment.
When Amanda J. Nesheiwat M.S. ’19 found her career path – and her passion – in environmental sustainability, a world of opportunity opened up for her.
“I have to admit, my parents were a little concerned when I decided to earn my undergraduate degree in environmental science,” she says. “As the oldest of my siblings, there was an expectation that I would take up medicine, law or engineering.”
Actually, it was Nesheiwat’s desire to be a good student that pointed her in a new direction. “When I was taking classes at Bergen County Community College, I thought it would be good for my resume to join a club on campus,” she says. “I saw an announcement for the environmental club and decided to give it a try.”
Nesheiwat, who was deep into anatomy and physiology coursework as part of her initial plan to become an orthodontist, was hooked. “In my courses at the time I was learning about the connection between public health and the environment,” she explains. “I started thinking about the relationship between climate change, food supply and public health.”
When she transferred to Ramapo College to finish her undergraduate degree and chose to major in environmental science, Nesheiwat transferred her extracurricular involvement to the environmental club at the Mahwah campus. “We were making small but impactful changes at Ramapo,” she says.
Any reservations Nesheiwat’s parents might have had regarding their daughter’s chances for success faded as quickly as her achievements multiplied. By 2011, the would-be orthodontist was, instead, serving as the U.N. Youth Representative for the Foundation for Post Conflict Development. In addition, as Environmental Coordinator for the Town of Secaucus, New Jersey as well as Commissioner of the Secaucus Municipal Utility Authority, Nesheiwat was coordinating the town’s environmental priorities and overseeing grant-funded projects that would impact the area’s environment.
As her career gained steam, Nesheiwat decided to deepen her expertise with a master’s degree in Sustainability Management from Stevens. She appreciated the diversity of what she was learning in the program. “Each class was dramatically different in how it looked at problems in sustainability,” she says. “I got good grounding in policy and law, but I also got to work with engineers in research. This helps me when I am reviewing studies and statistics. Plus, the professors were so engaging. It was like learning with friends.”
In 2020, not long after completing her Stevens degree, Nesheiwat joined the Hudson County Improvement Authority as Deputy Director of Sustainability and Community Outreach. “I spent my first six months on the job assisting the COVID-19 Hudson County vaccination effort,” she says. “It was all hands-on deck. We gave out 60,000 vaccines during the time I was there. I’m so happy I was a small part of that effort.”
“Now I’m getting into the swing of the position,” she continues. “I’m helping to develop sustainability goals for the county, reviewing energy usage and analyzing the potential for electric vehicles for our fleet. The state is doing a lot to reduce single-use plastic, including plastic straws and bags, and banning Styrofoam. I will be working on getting the word out to businesses in the county, helping them to prepare and fielding any questions they may have.” Nesheiwat, who is a Certified Recycling Professional, was recently appointed by Governor Murphy to serve on his Plastics Advisory council to explore more ways the state can reduce plastic waste and improve recycling efforts.
In addition to her work for Hudson County, Nesheiwat serves as the U.N. Youth Representative for the Humanitarian Focus Foundation. “I represent the Foundation at U.N. conferences, collaborate with other NGOs to advance the Foundation’s mission and I summarize U.N. briefings for the Foundation’s executives,” she says, adding that she is also a Climate Reality Leader for The Climate Reality Project.
Late nights at the Samuel C. Williams Library have given way to teaching world sustainability at Ramapo College and moderating a panel for the 2019 Civil Society Conference. “It’s awesome to bring global information to local audiences, and also to talk on global platforms about local initiatives that work,” Nesheiwat says. “Often, the U.N. bases policy on what’s happening on the ground.”
Even with so many irons in the fire, Nesheiwat keeps an eye on what is happening at Stevens, such as the university’s recent pledge to source 100% of its electricity from renewable energy.
“I am really happy to see the sustainability management program growing as well, and I am impressed with new research initiatives in renewable energy technologies and removing pollution from the environment,” she says. “It is so important to encourage young people who are thinking of doing big things, and to support them in following their vision. It makes me proud to be a Stevens graduate.”
“We need a lot of people to solve the world’s problems,” Nesheiwat adds. “You can incorporate sustainability into any field you choose. We all have a responsibility to protect people and public health, to protect the environment, and to improve the economy. If we can do all three, the world will be a better place.”