Activist Turned Strategist
On any given day, Hilary Frenkel might be found planning a fundraising event or mobilizing others to join forces for effective social change. She juggles a host of responsibilities in her role as community organizer for the League of Young Voters in Portland, Maine. Most recently, she spearheaded the Maine Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MaST), a coalition of environmental and alternative transportation organizations, which promotes affordable, reliable and sustainable transportation for all state residents.
“When I was much younger, I used to think, ‘we’re going to change the environment. People don’t matter’,” she said. “But, if you want to change the environment, you need to change things through policy. You need to work with people because they’re the ones who vote. You need to inform and educate people about important issues so they can vote correctly.”
Motivated by her passion for the environment, Hilary, 31, launched her career as an activist more than a decade ago. Immediately after earning an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she worked at various times over seven years as a canvass director for Clean Water Action and Working America. Not only did she set up offices around the country, but trained individuals to organize in support of environmental issues and workers’ rights.
Hilary wanted to advance her career beyond door to door canvassing and found the training she sought at AUNE. The school’s master’s degree program in Environmental Studies with concentration in Advocacy and Organization proved to be her perfect match.
Life Beyond Canvassing
“Before AUNE, I was pretty much worn out from canvassing but didn’t know what else I could do,” she said. “At AUNE, I learned that I could stay in the field I was passionate about, and expand my skills. I learned different ways to do advocacy work that weren’t canvass-related. I learned strategy planning and the importance of relationship building.”
Following her 2007 AUNE graduation, Hilary was recommended by a fellow student as a job candidate to the League of Young Voters in Portland, Maine. She joined the organization in her current position in September 2008.
“That’s another great thing AUNE gave methe networking opportunities,” she said. “AUNE is a community of people with the same vision on similar paths. That makes it so much easier to find a job after graduation.”