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By Lily Bermel ‘21
  • CALS Global Fellows Program
  • Environment
  • Climate
Lily Bermel ’21 is an Environment & Sustainability major with a passion for climate science, government policy and international relations. Below, Lily shares highlights from her CALS experience that are helping her pursue a future in international climate policy.

CALS has propelled me down the path of my dream career, and along the way I've had amazing and unique opportunities. I’ve appreciated being able to explore my passions academically and professionally through my coursework, summer experiences and guidance from professors and advisors.

As a sophomore transfer to Cornell University, I found an immediate home in my Environment & Sustainability (E&S) major. I made so many E&S friends through my first semester classes, and I relied on professors and CALS Student Services to help me explore environmental careers and strengthen my professional skills.

During my CALS Global Fellowship, I experienced my first office internship – and in Sydney, Australia! I was an intern at a sustainability consulting group, which provided a realistic perspective of corporate sustainability and environmental finance, an area I had yet to explore on campus. The chance to spend my summer in Australia — exploring national parks, climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, meeting kangaroos and koalas, and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef — was so special.

Upon returning to Ithaca, I took my favorite class yet. “Global Change Science and Policy,” a course for both graduate and undergraduate CALS students, opened a new world for me academically and professionally.


We were placed in small teams and tasked with creating deliverables for a partner that would align with the international environmental treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Our goal was to support the partner’s preparation for upcoming international climate change negotiations to take place at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25).

My team and I worked with officials from the Kingdom of Tonga, a Pacific island nation. We produced a series of policy briefing notes for the Tongan Climate Change Office, and submitted an adaptation trust fund proposal to their Ministry of Finance. Ultimately, some of us were chosen to attend one week of the UN conference at the negotiations venue, and, this year, COP25 was held in Madrid, Spain.

It was definitely the best week I’ve ever had as a Cornell student. Not only were we tourists in a beautiful city, but I got to network and explore a playground of government, climate action and international relations which I was realizing are my exact interests! Attending COP25 was pivotal for me and such a privilege.

These experiences have resulted in two upcoming dream internships. Beginning in fall 2020, I will intern at the U.S. State Department's Office of Global Change (the U.S. negotiators for international climate policy), and later in the year, I’ll be in Germany, working at the United Nations Climate Change headquarters (the UNFCCC secretariat). I am so excited to see where these two internships take me.

After just four semesters in CALS, I’ve explored my interests, solidified my passions and enjoyed learning from incredible professors and classmates. Now, as I look toward my future, it’s clear that coming to CALS has been the best!

Lily also participates in the CALS Student Advisory Council to the Dean, the Peer Review Board for Cornell Housing, and the CALS Ambassador program. She has served on the executive board for Epsilon Eta, Cornell’s professional honors sustainability organization, and is pursuing a Certificate in Engaged Leadership from Cornell’s Office of Engagement Initiatives.

In Lily’s role as the student sustainability coordinator for Cornell Dining, she was named “Member of the Year” and was awarded "Initiative of the Year"  – both university-wide sustainability awards. She has also received awards from the CALS Alumni Association, Engaged Cornell and the Cornell Institute for European Studies, for her research and off-campus experiences.

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