MENTORSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Pursuing a Career in Resilience

This week’s Mentorship Program Spotlight focuses on a trio of participants! Meet Mentee’s Josephine Justin and Damaris Borden as well as Mentor Julia Chase.

Pictured from left to right: Mentee Josephine Justin, Mentee Damaris Borden, and Mentor Julia Chase.
Pictured from left to right: Mentee Josephine Justin, Mentee Damaris Borden, and Mentor Julia Chase.

About the Mentees and Mentor

Mentee: Josephine Justin 

Josephine recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill’s Master of City and Regional Planning program. Previously, she has worked with the Southeast and Caribbean Disaster Resilience Partnership (SCDRP), San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), AmeriCorps California Climate Action Corps Fellowship, City of Los Angeles’ Climate Emergency Mobilization Office, and US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Josephine is passionate about disaster and climate resilience, equity and justice, creative communication, and community engagement. LinkedIn: 

Mentee: Damaris Borden 

Damaris Borden is a graduate of the Bard College Center for Environmental Policy with an M.S. in Climate Science and Policy and a B.A. in Environmental and Urban Studies. She has worked with a number of organizations, including the Erie and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuges, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, NY.  Damaris is invested in the intersection of food security, marine conservation, urban adaptation, and environmental justice in the context of climate change and is passionate about facilitating local action to bring forth adaptive and just outcomes along the city-to-sea gradient. LinkedIn:

Mentor: Julia Chase
Julia Chase is the first Chief Resilience Officer for the City of San Diego and a certified sustainability planner who has worked in climate and sustainability planning in both the private and public sectors. Julia has led the development of climate change vulnerability assessments, the creation of adaptation and resilience strategies, and planning documents for local governments, and has extensive experience in stakeholder and community-focused outreach and engagement. Julia is passionate about climate resilience planning with a strong focus on equitable outcomes and nature-based solutions. She holds her Master’s in Environmental Science from SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry and Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from Villanova University. 

Mentorship Program Experience

The beginning of this mentorship journey coincides with the beginning of Josephine and Damaris’ career journeys. As recent graduates looking to work in the climate adaptation and community resilience space, their mentor, Julia, has been guiding them through the process of finding their place and thriving as adaptation professionals. 

Julia, Damaris, and Josephine’s conversations have largely focused on what it looks like to be working in the resilience space from both public and private perspectives. Julia has shared some of the projects she’s been working on, one of them being Climate Resilient SD, which is a comprehensive climate adaptation and resilience plan that addresses the primary climate change-related hazards for the City of San Diego. She’s also been involved in developing a Coastal Resilience Master Plan to identify specific resilience and conservation needs along San Diego’s coastline. Damaris and Josephine are both interested in how nature-based solutions can be used to promote resilience, as well as how to find funding to support resilience efforts that can help better prepare communities in the face of climate change and disasters. 

One topic that is of particular shared interest in the group is the topic of equity and community engagement. For example, the mentees learned about San Diego’s Climate Equity Index, which is a tool developed to measure the levels of access to opportunity residents have in different areas and the potential impacts of climate change on those areas. This is the first tool in the United States made to guide adaptation efforts based on the distribution of climate change impacts, environmental pollution, as well as vulnerable populations. Julia was recently a panelist at a climate conference on the topic of protecting and empowering vulnerable communities and shared her experience. The group discussed how community engagement is not a closed loop, it’s important to keep that conversation open and ongoing. Engaging with the public can also bring about certain obstacles and challenges, especially when it comes to transforming vulnerable land used for recreation, such as golf courses, or waterfront properties to nature based solutions. 

They also discussed how building trust is key when it comes to communicating risk to a community, especially when talking about topics that have large degrees of uncertainty. The mentees learned that while public meetings are necessary and important, you can reach more diverse audiences and gain a lot more useful information by also meeting people in their own communities and attending community events. Julia emphasized that while an adaptation professional can present themselves as subject-matter experts who can offer guidance and support, it is important that they also listen to and learn from community members who are themselves local subject-matter experts. 

As Damaris and Josephine are both in the job hunt process, Julia has provided some helpful advice and tips to keep in mind. They talked about how one-on-one informal conversations can help us better understand the work and team culture and how it is important to ask how your performance is going to be evaluated at the beginning of a new job. Her advice when accepting an offer is to think about what position you want to be in long term in the future, and if the new role would build your knowledge and experience forward in that direction. 

Some of the mentorship experience has also been about getting to know each other and learning about what each of us likes to do outside of the workplace. We have learned that we all enjoy spending time in nature, while Damaris and Julia both enjoy yoga and spending time with their cats, and Josephine and Damaris both enjoy design, fashion, and SCUBA diving. 

So far, participating in this mentorship group has been a very valuable experience as the mentees have already learned a lot from each other and their mentor. With Julia’s mentorship, Josephine and Damaris feel more ready than ever to become adaptation professionals, and they look forward to the helpful early-career advice they can expect from Julia once they find the right jobs. Hopefully, the end of the formal mentorship by September will only be the beginning of three fruitful friendships and two new and impactful adaptation careers!

Thank you to all for sharing what they have learned! Take time to learn more about ASAP’s Mentorship Program.