Alumna working to direct the country's energy policy
Jenah Zweig is a supervisor of policy and technical assistance for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Through its 40 Under 40 program, the UGA Alumni Association annually recognizes 40 outstanding young alumni who have achieved great success in their professional and philanthropic pursuits. The 2016 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon was held Sept. 8 at Flourish Atlanta and yet again, featured four dozen impressive Bulldogs who are changing the world early in their careers.
One of this year’s honorees, Jenah Zweig (JD ’11), is now a supervisor of policy and technical assistance for the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. The Alumni Association caught up with this accomplished alumna to learn more about her UGA experience and what she’s doing now to effect change in America’s energy sector.
Describe your UGA experience.
I spent as much time as possible outside of the classroom, rigorously pursuing UGA Law’s less traditional offerings. (After all, in my 1L year I realized I had no interest in practicing traditional law, so I needed the exposure to figure out how I was going to pay my bills after graduation). Specifically, Maria Eugenia Gimenez’s Global Externship Program first exposed me to IP, international, and environmental law; co-chairing the Red Clay Environmental Law Conference furthered my interest in environmental, sustainability, and energy issues; serving as editor in chief of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law sharpened my writing and editing skills; and Alex Scherr’s Civil Externship Program heightened my passion for the public sector. These experiences paved the way for a career that I love in the energy sector, and I am grateful to the mentors and programs at UGA Law that helped me find my way.
What is your favorite UGA memory?
Before going to law school, I assumed I would go into education policy post-graduation. After all, I served as the first alumni preschool teacher at my alma mater and camp counselor for years, and was confident that “I would make a difference.” Unfortunately, the more I learned, the more I realized I’d get burnt out or desensitized before ever making a dent in the issues, which is why I have an immense respect for the difficult and impactful work led by exceptional people like my former classmate, Emma Hetherington’s Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic. I was at a crossroads. This is when I met Anne Marie Pippin (BSED ’03, MBA ’11, JD ’11), a classmate a year ahead of me in the law program, at the Blue Key Honor Society Initiation Ceremony my 1L year. Anne Marie suggested that I use my leadership experience and desire to find a new specialization to co-chair the Red Clay Environmental Law Conference the following year. Long story short, this began a domino effect of me following in her footsteps. I also served as the editor in chief of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, moved to D.C. to work at the U.S. Department of Energy, and am also fortunate to have her as one of my best friends.
Tell us about your role at the DOE?
At the U.S. Department of Energy, I serve as the Supervisor of Policy & Technical Assistance in the Office of Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). My team empowers state and local partners to make informed clean energy decisions. Ultimately, this work supports our vision of a strong and prosperous America powered by clean, affordable and secure energy.
How you are helping change the world? (Don’t be modest!)
I identify strongly with the Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam,” which means “repairing the world.” As the first woman in my family to graduate from a four-year university and the first person in my immediate family to attend graduate school, I interpret this phrase as a commitment to serving and improving communities that have afforded me so many opportunities. I have worked on the local, state, regional, national, and international level to provide others with the opportunity to access more resources that can provide them, their families, and communities with a brighter future. The clean energy policies I work on save citizens substantial amounts of income that they can reinvest in other needs, such as buying a home and affording a college education. I strive to continue advancing energy policy, broadening the opportunities, income and resources available to as many citizens as possible.
In your opinion, what is the most important energy-related issue right now?
The traditional U.S. power generation mix is changing. Oil, solar, and natural gas prices are at historic lows. Coal plants and utility employees are retiring in record numbers. Our energy infrastructure and buildings continue to age, making our communities and our citizens even more vulnerable to the increases in natural disasters. Energy storage (e.g., batteries) continues to advance. More cities, states, and countries are making substantial clean energy commitments. In a nutshell, as the nation’s first off-shore wind farm that is scheduled to launch later this year demonstrations, both literally and figuratively, we’re in uncharted waters. The choices we make today will chart a course for ten, twenty, even fifty-plus years from now, so we need to make these decisions wisely in the best interest of both businesses and citizens.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in working in Washington or in the energy sector?
Find work you love. Don’t come to Washington or take an energy sector job because other people tell you it’s a good idea; pursue it because after evaluating the alternatives, you can’t imagine being anywhere or doing anything else. Then, once you’ve found work you love, pursue your passions rigorously.
To learn more about the other 39 outstanding 40 Under 40 honorees, visit alumni.uga.edu/40u40.