Sean Lastig/Contributing Photographer Sara Culotta, business development and marketing manager of Taitem Engineering, spoke to students about her own path to a career in the clean-energy industry at a panel on Wednesday evening. Students in attendance came from a variety of majors, a fact that that panelists said will benefit the field.

On Wednesday evening, six panelists convened in the Fountain Room of the Innovative Technologies Center to discuss opportunities within the clean-energy field. The event, moderated by Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, was co-sponsored by several organizations, including Southern Tier Solar Works, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition and the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development.

According to Adam Flint, program manager at Souther Tier Solar Works, who spearheaded the planning of the event, panelists were strategically selected to represent diverse perspectives. Paul Deamer, senior assistant director of employer and alumni outreach at the Fleishman Center, said he hoped students took away a better understanding of how to get into the clean-energy industry.

“We decided it was important that we showcase that this industry is a growing field that would be relevant for students in many disciplines, not just engineering, which is typically what people think when they think of clean energy,” Deamer said.

Flint said there are 146,000 New Yorkers employed in clean energy, with 2,400 in the Southern Tier alone.

The other panel members were Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell); Carl Lipo, director of the environmental studies program; James Bedrin, ’14, project manager at the Southern Tier regional office of Empire State Development; Sara Culotta, business development and marketing manager of Taitem Engineering; and Amanda Setteducate, lead energy corps intern at Southern Tier Solar Works and a senior double-majoring in biology and environmental studies, were featured speakers at the panel.

Lupardo, who is also a member of the New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said she’s trying to champion environmental causes, although she’s battling local leaders who she said are dismissive of this work.

“Locally, we’re seeing some successes and those successes are breeding some optimism,” Lupardo said. “The skeptics are seeing that and seeing some tangible results coming from this.”

One example of these successes is Charge CCCV, a BU startup that will employ more than 230 people in developing methods of storing renewable energy in Endicott.

During the audience discussion, students voiced challenges they’ve faced in getting peers and elected officials to address the need for sustainability. Culotta encouraged students to continue developing their ideas in the face of criticism.

“Keep looking, if you’re feeling frustrated, keep looking because you will be able to find people who can help you,” Culotta said. “Some folks will think your ideas are crazy but a lot of things that we take for granted now started as crazy ideas.”

After the formal discussions, students got the chance to network with panelists, gaining further insight into the field and possible internship opportunities. Setteducate said her internship allowed her to expand her opportunities in the field beyond research and impact the greater Binghamton community.

“Making these opportunities visible and available for students is really important and things like this do that,” Setteducate said. “It shows you the different paths you can take from wherever you start.”

Wei Xiao, a senior double-majoring in economics and philosophy, politics and law, is currently conducting research in clean-energy use and waste management on an international level. He said having Lupardo on the panel related the conversation to his interests in public policy.

“I wanted to hear more about how professionals feel about clean energy, from a local perspective,” Xiao said.

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