At the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we strive to provide top-notch assistance to communities through training and applied research. But this training would not continue to be possible without educated and experienced environmental finance professionals. That’s why the EFC is dedicated to training the next generation of this industry’s leaders, in our offices and in the field.

On Thursday, May 17, we launched the Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) Fellowship program as part of this effort.  This fellowship acts not only as an enterprise to develop UNC students into first-rate leaders in the environmental finance field, but to also foster even stronger connections with our partners.

For our pilot program, we selected six students to work at host sites with an environmental finance focus for ten weeks over the course of summer 2018. The students are a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, and study everything from information science to city planning to environmental science. This summer, our students are hosted by Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), the Recycling Partnership, UNC Energy Services, Envirolink, NC Greenpower, and the Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG). After the summer fellowship, students will return to the EFC in the fall to work on a research project related to their summer work. The LEAF Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the N.C. Policy Collaboratory, and Envirolink. Continue reading to meet the Fellows and see how each one is impacting the environmental finance sphere this summer:


Kate Fialko, Orange Water and Sewer Authority

Kate Fialko is a rising senior studying Environmental Science with a minor in Information Science. Kate has been with the EFC for a year working as a data analyst on Rates Dashboards. This summer, she is putting her experience with water rates to good use as a Fellow with OWASA, working on a model for a service availability fee that incentivizes water-efficient development for new commercial, industrial, and institutional customers.




Tori Molyneaux, Triangle J Council of Governments

Tori Molyneaux is a rising senior majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Environmental Science and Studies. As the TJCOG Fellow this summer, she is focusing on the implementation of an integrated water resources management approach in the Jordan Lake watershed to better address eutrophication (when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients that induce excessive growth of plants and algae) and the region’s growing demand for potable water.



Elizabeth Roknich, NC GreenPower

Elizabeth Roknich started at the EFC in 2017 as an undergraduate rates analyst working on the Rates Dashboards. She graduated from UNC with a degree in Environmental Science in 2017 and continues to work with the EFC while pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Informatics. This summer, Elizabeth is working with NC GreenPower to update the organization’s financial models that help with budgeting and forecasting. She will also create two Tableau dashboards showcasing the work that NCGP has done with renewable energy generators and the Solar Schools program.


Ryan Rinehart,  UNC Energy Services

Ryan Rinehart is an incoming senior majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Geography and Statistics. Ryan is completing his fellowship at UNC Energy Services. Currently, many of the irrigation systems on UNC’s campus are not connected to the reclaimed water line. Ryan is investigating the cost of connecting the irrigation systems and whether or not it would be financially beneficial.




Lily Schwartz, The Recycling Partnership

Lily Schwartz is an incoming senior at UNC, where she majors in Public Policy and Environmental Studies. As the Recycling Partnership’s Fellow, Lily is helping to manage a database that tracks the national recycling landscape and analyzing data to help with the organizations’ decisions to build resources for community recycling programs. Lily is also working to assess the availability of multifamily recycling and how those services are financed in communities across the country.



Evan Kirk, Envirolink

Evan Kirk started at the EFC in 2016 as a rates analyst. In 2016, he graduated from UNC with a degree in Environmental Science and later earned a master’s certificate in GIS from UNC in 2017. He is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning with a concentration in land use and environmental planning. Evan is working with Envirolink this summer, constructing a survey to assess utility management practices by modifying an existing survey. Evan is also working on a brief report outlining the existing framework for trading nutrient credits from nonpoint source to point source polluters in North Carolina.


We’re excited to see what our students accomplish this summer and how they’ll leave a lasting effect on the environmental finance field. Check back in August for posts from our Fellows about their summer experiences and fall research plans. If you’re interested in being a host site for the summer 2019 LEAF Fellowship, please contact Allison Perch at

Allison Perch joined the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. As Program Coordinator, she works primarily on the Smart Management for Small Water Systems project, managing project logistics and communications. Allison also serves as the EFC at UNC Student Coordinator. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.