Environmental heroes work towards a healthier California at CSE

As part of an ongoing series to spotlight GPS’s top employers, we profile why CSE hires our graduates, plus why current alumni enjoy working there

Aug. 30, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is not your traditional nonprofit. Providing clean energy program design and technical advisory services, they are leaders in the energy sphere.

At the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), our graduates excel at developing customized solutions to solve problems, thinking outside the box and utilizing their GPS toolkit to address global challenges.

CSE frequently requires new staff with advanced skills in research and analysis to work on its various clean energy market transformation programs, ranging from electric vehicle adoption to distributed energy resources, according to David Armour, CSE director of human resources.

“When we see a job applicant with a degree from GPS, we know that individual is well prepared with real-world knowledge to plot and visualize complex data in ways that accurately represent and communicate the essential results,” Armour said. “We also find that GPS graduates are strong in areas of the environment, public policy and economics, which fits perfectly with our mission to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world powered by clean energy.”

Below we highlight three GPS alumni changemakers at CSE.

Vallerie Gonzalez, MPIA ‘14

Vallerie GonzalezWorking toward a healthier California, a life-changing moment happened for Gonzalez while taking a tour of the South Coast Air Quality Management District headquarters. Learning how air pollution is monitored and the clear distinction of contamination along freeways, she realized the true depth and impact of CSE’s work.

“The best part of my job has been learning about my home state. I have spoken to thousands of individuals and travelled to remote regions of California in order to speak about what I am most passionate about, the environment,” said Gonzalez.

At GPS she studied international environmental policy and notes that the coursework and the curriculum’s focus on environmental impact and policy legislation helps her daily in her current role in the Equity Transportation Department at CSE.

“Professor Joshua Graff-Zivin’s courses highlighted the impact of air pollution from cars and the air quality benefits from electric cars,” said Gonzalez. “We analyzed a study from Mexico City and discussed the same impacts found in my hometown of the ever so car-friendly City of Los Angeles.”

Vallerie GonzalezGonzalez has primarily been working with marketing outreach of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a statewide incentive program for plug-in vehicles. Passionate about clean energy and the environment, she has loved traveling around the state tabling events and conducting presentations on energy efficiency modes of transportation.

“CSE has given me the opportunity to learn and work hard at current environmental legislation measures that will help curb climate change, decrease air pollution and enrich environmental standards of life for Californians,” said Gonzalez.

Tyler Petersen, MPIA ‘11

Tyler PetersenAs senior manager at CSE, Petersen wears a number of different hats – whether that’s managing program implementation teams to preparing business plans to leading brainstorm sessions on strategic developments.

Petersen remembers the course Quantitative Methods III at GPS well, which has proven extremely helpful today when learning how to manage large datasets and conduct robust analysis at CSE. Overseeing various electric vehicle initiatives, he also works as the senior strategic advisor for the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program – a statewide incentive program for public electric vehicle infrastructure.

He also noted that how Professor David Victor structured his classes, which emphasized critical thought and team-building, improved his ability to recognize the importance that incentives play when trying to understand how key drivers and stakeholders influence markets.

“GPS did a fantastic job in preparing me for my current role,” said Petersen. “The broad curriculum, from policy research to quantitative analysis, helped me develop the necessary skills to work in a fast-paced environment and add value in multiple areas.”

While there is no typical day, he credits the staff as one of the main reasons he loves his work. One highlight that comes to mind was winning their bid to manage the $1 billion, 10-year multi-family affordable housing solar program designed to bring clean energy technologies and solutions to communities that might not have had access.

“We worked on preparing for this opportunity years in advance. It was a large team effort and a definite highpoint in my career,” said Petersen. “CSE is an organization filled with extremely smart, dedicated and mission-driven people. People come here to make a difference in the world, that’s for sure.”

Pamela Covarrubias, MPIA ‘97

Pamela CovarrubiasCovarrubias echoes a similar appreciation for the preparation fostered at GPS. In her current role as the project manager for Clean Transportation, she works in system development for platforms running incentive projects for electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

“The course Policy Making Processes introduced me to decision-making concepts and challenges that are applicable in all organizations,” said Covarrubias. “The breadth of classes I took over my two years at GPS taught me to look at problems holistically.”

As the liaison between program managers and website and database developers, she credits the passion and camaraderie of CSE as a key reason for enjoying her job. While much of her day is spent communicating in order to guide the implementation of new websites, systems or features, it is her colleagues that make CSE a special place to work.

“Working with smart, passionate people at a mission-driven organization is by far the best part of my job,” said Covarrubias. “I enjoy knowing that the work we do contributes to a more sustainable future for my children.” 

Want to work at CSE? GPS alumni advise to…


“…take an energy 101 or basic engineering class. Brushing up or learning the basics of energy, like the difference between a kW and kWh, will go a long way in your career.” — Tyler Petersen ‘11

“…learn about the organization, watch the postings on the CSE website and come to outreach events.” — Pamela Covarrubias, ‘97

“…review key environmental legislation, especially about environmental development within California. Legislation is moving toward identifying and assisting the communities that are faced with greater environmental justice burdens.” — Vallerie Gonzalez ‘14

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