Cultivating emerging leaders and advancing our sector’s workforce

Willamette Partnership and our partners share a responsibility to help develop a strong, diverse, future-ready workforce. To get there, we need to support emerging leaders as they define and grow their own mission, values, and skills.

Over the last 5 years, Willamette Partnership has grown a fellowship program that is a key part of how we meet our mission to help people and nature thrive together. Our fellows have taken on important projects, including computer modeling and data analysis, developing policy platforms and guides for federal, state and local decision-makers, and co-authoring white papers that support the work of WP and our partners.

How it works

We provide fellows with a friendly and inclusive workplace, fair compensation, and training and mentorship in skills like project management, fundraising, policy analysis, facilitation, and collaboration with public and non-profit partners. Fellows also have an opportunity to develop a capstone product for their professional portfolio and connections to potential future employers (including ourselves – we’ve hired two former fellows as full-time staff in recent years!). 

Given the success of this informal model, we’re offering our public and private sector partners an opportunity to help us grow it into a stable, consistent part of the way we contribute to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities. With your help, we’re aiming to establish a regular cohort of 3 summer fellows, with the potential to grow into a larger, year-round program over the next several years.

Why sponsor a fellow?

Because everyone wins when we provide emerging leaders with strong mentorship, real-world work experience, strong networks, and a grounding in collaborative leadership.

The Sponsorship Program:

  • Is a way for sponsors and the Partnership to invest in a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce
  • Creates opportunities for professional development and career advancement
  • Helps grow collaborative leaders that know how to work effectively across boundaries and sectors

Who is eligible to be a fellow?

Applications are open to people of any age and of any educational level. We seek individuals who demonstrate an interest in sustainable infrastructure, resilient habitats, working lands, and/or equitable access to the outdoors.

Hear from past fellows!

Silvia Arizmendi
Fellow, Owens Farm Community Engagement
Summer 2021

Hear about Silvia's Experience

Originally from a farming community in eastern Oregon, Silvia Arizmendi became acutely aware of the health and recreation resources her hometown lacked as she began pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Public Health at Oregon State University.

Fast forward to her senior year, when she became a fellow with Willamette Partnership’s Health & Outdoors team. Under the mentorship of Barton Robison, she dove into a community engagement process to gain feedback for the design of an inclusive hiking trail at Owens Farm in Corvallis. She focused on identifying potential barriers to people of color, users of public transportation, and people with physical disabilities. She interviewed over 20 community members regarding their experience on the site, identifying themes and useful insights. She analyzed and presented the interviewees’ responses in an 11-page Community Engagement Report which was read by numerous partners and advisors, like the Greenbelt Land Trust and Benton County Health Department.

Silvia gained both confidence in speaking and new skills, both quantitative and qualitative. “Being a fellow really helped me work on perfecting my organizational skills,” she explains. These skills helped structure her workflow as a health educator with Marion County, where she is contributing to the Health Modernization Program. “It’s a new position, so I needed a lot of organization to keep track of what’s coming in. And they were looking for me to design it on my own, so it really helps having that skill from my fellowship.”

She also became much more comfortable having conversations with new people, thanks to the extensive interviewing required of her fellowship. “It made it easier for me to reach out, to build connections–which is what you need as you seek a higher degree or a career. You need those networking skills, you need to know people to be able to get jobs or into school programs.”

Silvia is now eyeing the possibility of earning a master’s degree in global health, and she anticipates that her newly-formed skills and experience will boost her application to grad school and beyond.

Skills Gained

  • Interviewing diverse audiences
  • Recording and transcribing interviews
  • Data collection 
  • Report organization and writing

Advice for Applicants

Do your research. Be well informed about what the organization is, and see if your goals really meet what they’re trying to do.

Advice to Sponsors

I didn’t grow up with a lot of resources. Sponsorship would really help give people like me the opportunity to learn and be more involved with something they’re passionate about. It would give someone the opportunity to learn and go further into their career and do great things.

Clare McClellan
Fellow, Agriculture-Municipal Partnership
Summer 2020

Hear about Clare's Experience

Clare McClellan became a fellow while pursuing her master’s degree in environmental management at Portland State University. Due to her strong interest in our region’s socio-hydrology, her fellowship project focused on the innovative, growing field of agriculture-municipal (ag-muni) water partnerships. 

She interviewed over 20 experts from both the municipal and agricultural side, and did a deep dive into the sector’s current literature. Her final product was a report that delivers a comprehensive overview of approaches to ag-muni partnerships, including case studies, successes, and challenges. 

Clare appreciates the guidance and latitude provided by her mentor Kristian Teige Witherill. “It was a really perfect balance of support when I needed it and then being given the space to figure out this new landscape.” Kristiana encouraged Clare to craft her own approach to the project’s process design and final report. “She told me, ‘I’ll always be here as a springboard for questions or to give you feedback or ideas, but this is your project.” 

She gained many skills that she utilized in her master’s program. “I learned how to develop a plan of action, how to think through small-scale project management, and also how to conduct interviews.”

As a student aiming to build a career that benefits both people and natural resources, exposure to the Partnership’s mission-driven ethos was a revelation for Clare. “I had been struggling to understand how can the way that I want to approach this kind of work actually be applied in a career? The Partnership showed me a highly functional way that your values can be applied in the workplace.”

She also touts the benefits of observing the Partnership’s profoundly collaborative, welcoming spirit. “Experiencing a culture that is genuinely supportive and invested in the growth, success, and contributions of each individual was really valuable.”

Skills Gained

  • Survey and analysis of research and sector trends
  • Project design and management
  • Interviewing subject matter experts
  • Report design, writing, and presentation

Advice for Applicants

Don’t be intimidated by the caliber of people you’re going to meet. Know that you were selected for a reason. Even if you’re still in graduate school, you bring something important to the table.

Advice to Sponsors

The fellowships expose people to the way that the Willamette Partnership approaches work on environmental and  social issues – and I really think that their approach is the future of how to make progress. We’re not going to make progress just by working in silos, that just doesn’t work anymore. Things are so interconnected and complicated. The only way forward is by connection.

So I think that the more potential fellows who can come into their orbit and work in that way ends up being a huge benefit to all of us. Because anyone who’s going to work on solving these kinds of problems should be equipped with those kinds of skills and be able to see issues in a holistic way.

Ly Duong
Fellow, Health & Outdoors
Fall 2021

Hear about Ly's Experience

Born and raised in Vietnam, Ly Duong prizes nature’s power and is on a dedicated, joyful path to share its benefits with others. She became a fellow of Willamette Partnership’s Health & Outdoors Initiative while pursuing her master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education at Portland State University, thanks to the Fulbright Scholar Program. 

Her fellowship focused on designing, refining, and delivering nature walks for visitors at the Leach Botanical Garden. The attentive mentorship and encouragement she received from Barton Robison, as well as other Partnership staff, helped her to articulate her goals and bring them to fruition. “They really listen to your ideas. Even if they’re not real yet, they’re willing to spend time and energy to hear about them.” 

Being supported and guided by people who understood both her potential and her vision was transformative: “I’ve realized that this work is a part of me now, it’s a part of what I want to do in the long term.”

The quality of her fellowship work resulted in the offer of a paid position from the Garden. Today, she pursues her life’s work as an educator at Magnolia Forest Preschool and a forest bathing guide north of Seattle. “I love outdoor activities because there are benefits for people and especially for child development. Nature can empower them to be the best of themselves.”

Skills Gained

  • Design and delivery of educational programming for adults and children
  • Project design and management

Advice for Applicants

Live 100%, live fully with your idea and the Willamette Partnership is going to be there with you.

Advice to Sponsors

The fellowship gave me a chance to bring my ideas to life. Willamette Partnership opened the door to make my ideas much more possible. I feel so empowered to keep working on my projects.

Opportunity that resulted from Fellowship

Employment with Leach Botanical Garden.

Check out all the work of our past fellows!


What does your contribution support?

$10,000 provides full funding for one fellow and the opportunity for a named fellowship. This cost includes a half-time summer fellowship at a fair living wage, the use of a laptop and shared office space, mentorship and administrative support from WP staff, and costs of networking and capstone events where you can meet and learn from our fellows.

Sponsorship Levels

Sponsorship level benefits

Want to learn more about sponsoring a fellow?


Sara O’Brien | Executive Director
email | obrien@willamettepartnership.org


Banner image from Silvia Arizmendi’s Fellowship at Owens Farm