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Sara Emmons hits her stride with She’s in Power

Finding a voice and landing opportunities through mentorship and career-focused volunteer work

Sara Emmons’s commitment to sustainability is well documented, starting with a high school psychology paper penned by her brother. Emmons was the 9-year-old subject of the assignment. When asked about the biggest concerns in her life, her first and only response was, “How do we take care of our environment?” This driving concern — and curiosity — has driven her life and career ever since.

Emmons is the Operations Manager for the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which is tasked with accelerating an electrified transportation system so everyone can ride and drive electric. She spends her days supporting the current administration’s goal of building out 500,000 new electric vehicle chargers across the United States by 2030. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, so her work has a big impact on the U.S. goal of cutting emissions 50–52% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

In short, she’s doing exactly what she’s always wanted to do: take care of our environment. Emmons credits She’s in Power with giving her the tools to land her dream job.

She’s in Power is a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to advancing women and those who identify as female in clean energy. Its mentorship program pairs women interested in the industry with experienced mentors to work together on real-world clean energy projects. Emmons found the group after moving from Denver to Fort Collins.

“I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer locally where I could make some new professional connections,” says Emmons. “At the time, I didn’t know a goal of mine was to find mentorship or experience professional growth. I was just trying to build a sense of community for myself.”

Emmons reached out and was invited to sit in on She’s in Power Board meetings. Initially, the experience was intimidating. Emmons was working in the clean energy arena as a government contractor.  She considered it an  administrative role. At She’s in Power Board meetings, she says, “I was surrounded by all these powerhouse women and was feeling ill-equipped to sit at the table with them. But I showed up anyway.”

Emmons found herself more and more involved. She was asked to serve on the Mentorship Committee, then the Board itself. She was the Volunteer Program Manager for a year. All the while, she was acquiring and honing skills in her chosen field, project management, as well as in nonprofit oversight, board involvement, leadership and executive decision making. And the women she found so intimidating at first ended up becoming trusted mentors and friends. 

“I watched them and learned by example. I leaned on their insight and expertise when I had key career decisions to make,” says Emmons. “But one of the best things they gave me is a voice.”

Emmons continued to pursue additional clean energy roles as a government contractor. Her views were rarely, if ever, solicited by the team members she supported. She’ll never forget one meeting in particular: “I was in a room full of men, and I was told to be quiet and let the smart people in the room handle it.”

“What She’s in Power gave me was the opportunity to learn how to use my voice when I wasn’t able to in my paid work. Here, I had a seat at the table. And if I wanted to commit the time and energy, I was able to take the lead on work that allowed me to grow in a way that I wasn’t growing at work. If I hadn’t volunteered at She’s in Power, I don’t think I would have gained the confidence to interview as well as I did for my current role.”

Emmons also gained a fuller understanding of her value as an experienced project manager. “I used to feel like there wasn’t a place in the clean energy arena for individuals who didn’t have technical expertise. Now I see just how critical the work that I’m doing is. I no longer feel like my piece of the puzzle is less important than the technical team members,” says Emmons. Every skill set is important. “You don’t need to be a technical expert to be a part of the clean energy movement.”With her career in full swing, Emmons is transitioning from mentee to mentor, helping others on their clean energy career journeys in her professional life and through her continued Board work at She’s in Power. “The three components that are really going to help women and those who identify as women to grow in their career are confidence building, hard skills they can put on their resumes, and relationships to help find and land opportunities,” says Emmons. “She’s in Power gives participants the chance to get involved in an actual hands-on mentorship project, where you can gain experience, expertise, confidence and connections.”

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Welcome Executive Director Lucinda Kerschensteiner

Leading She’s in Power in a new phase of advancing women in clean energy

Lucinda Kerschensteiner joins She’s in Power with more than 20 years of experience in the social sector and 25+ years building community in Northern Colorado. She is known for herding cats, building teams and launching impactful initiatives. Her diverse background includes building a nonprofit hub, creating a U.S. arm of an international nonprofit organization, leading workforce programs, providing career transition services and developing an arts incubator program.When Lucinda heard about the executive director opening at She’s in Power, she was immediately interested. Supporting the education and empowerment of girls and women is in her DNA.

Lucinda graduated from an all-girls school in Columbus, Ohio and an all-women’s college, Bryn Mawr, where she played varsity sports. Throughout her career, she has contributed to the operations of numerous womens’ networking groups, causes and events. She’s in Power is a continuation of those efforts, in alignment with both her work experience and her life’s work.

“She’s in Power helps girls and young women carve out a career path that either wasn’t available to them or never felt accessible,” says Lucinda. “That can change the course of a person’s life — creating better outcomes, both in terms of meaningful work and economic stability.”

Access makes a tremendous difference on the individual level, she says, plus “there’s the larger impact on the industry of creating a more equitable workplace and bringing more women to the table of leadership.”

A career path that bends toward service

Before transitioning to the nonprofit sector, Lucinda was in private practice providing career and business coaching, facilitation and training services. She was one of the first professional coaches in Northern Colorado and worked with hundreds of people (mostly women) to help them create meaningful changes in their lives.

“Coaching is a recurring theme in my career, whether it’s been part of a job description or not. I am a huge advocate of mentoring,” she says.

Looking for a way to serve more people, Lucinda joined the Larimer County Workforce Center as a career coach. Her responsibilities soon expanded to workshop and training development, including establishing a new entrepreneurship program with an economic development focus. She went on to collaborate with the Workforce Investment Board.

It was about that time that Lucinda became involved with the Rotary Club of Fort Collins and its international initiatives to promote physical, economic and environmental well-being. Her volunteer work made her feel more connected to the world and led her to rethink her career. She enrolled in Colorado State University’s Impact MBA (formerly Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise) and began her transition to the nonprofit sector.

As a member of the first Impact MBA cohort, her student team studied the business model of distributing appropriate wheelchairs in Africa. This experience led to Lucinda developing a U.S. nonprofit, Uhambo USA, to support the work of long-standing South African social enterprise Uhambo.

Since then, in addition to running her own organization, Lucinda has consulted with nonprofits up and down the Front Range to help them thrive. She’s served as Executive Director of the Center for Social Change in Miami, Florida, leading a hub that served more than 70 organizations and overseeing day-to-day operations. And she’s been the Senior Director at Educate Tomorrow with locations in Florida and Colorado.

In the nonprofit space, Lucinda has hit her stride and found her purpose. There’s always something new to learn and something of value to contribute.

A seat at the table

Lucinda is excited about immersing herself in the clean energy industry with She’s in Power, “a sector that is so important in this day and age, this moment in history, this very minute, when everything is happening so quickly.” Innovating clean energy solutions for our planet is more vital than ever, she says, and the best way to ensure that is by making sure everyone has a seat at the problem-solving table.

When Lucinda isn’t busy changing the world, you’ll find her out enjoying it. She loves to travel, ride horses and spend time in the mountains. A resident of Old Town Fort Collins, Lucinda relishes the sense of community, living in a walkable neighborhood and playing the Lightning Golf holes with her husband David and their friends.

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New board members advance She’s in Power mission

She’s in Power relies on the real-world experience of our board to have real-life impact through our mission, vision and the hands-on work we do in the community. We are delighted Dr. Barbara Hughes and Tyler Cobb have brought their experience and skill to our board.

She's In Power Board Member Dr. Barbara Hughes

Dr. Barbara Hughes

Dr. Barbara Hughes is the Vice President of Energy Storage for Forge Nano. An expert in the synthesis and characterization of next-generation materials for energy conversion and energy storage, she has a doctorate in Physical Chemistry from CU-Boulder and worked in the Materials Science Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) before joining Forge Nano in 2016.

Barbara is a strong proponent of representation and mentorship in the clean energy field: “Aside from my own Ph.D., I am most proud of the young women in renewable energy fields whose careers I’ve impacted as a mentor. We lead by example, and She’s in Power is an excellent example of empowerment by walking beside those we seek to empower.”

She's In Power Board Member Tyler Cobb

Tyler Cobb

Tyler Cobb is the Social Media Manager for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment Office of Communication and Technology. Her background includes nearly 10 years in education as a teacher, Dean of Students and director of a youth-serving nonprofit organization. Tyler is a founding board member of the City of Fort Collins’ Juneteenth Planning Committee and volunteers for Phenomenal Women, Inc.

Tyler joined the She’s in Power board to make an impact on our community by inspiring and empowering women of color: “As a Black woman in technology, I am passionate about helping create opportunities and spaces for young women who look like me.”

Meet the She’s in Power Board

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$75k donation supports women in clean energy

The Woodward Charitable Trust awarded the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster (doing business as She’s in Power) a $75,000 grant — $25,000 over three years — to advance the She’s in Power program and establish a Gender Commission and Voluntary Workforce Standard.

A significant focus internally at Woodward is diversity — gender, ethnic, thought, perspective and background. We’re deeply committed to supporting our local community. As a company that centers on improved efficiency and reduced emissions, ensuring the future of clean energy is of vital importance to us,” explained Chris Fawzy, General Counsel of Woodward and President of the Charitable Trust.


“CCEC’s objectives are very much in line with our values, and we’re excited to support its programs.”

Beyond the Charitable Trust’s funding, Woodward leadership has committed to supporting She’s in Power clean energy projects with its time and talent. The company is already working with the CSU Energy Institute on a hydrogen Power Project and plans to provide Energizers (mentors) for future projects. It’s a win-win-win for our Sparks, our community and the industry as a whole.

The Gender Commission and Voluntary Workforce Standard is a new program of the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster (CCEC) made possible by the new grant, in addition to support from the Mighty Arrow Foundation, CSU Energy Institute and City of Fort Collins. The Gender Commission will be convened from clean energy employers with successful gender equity efforts underway. In partnership with CCEC, the commission will develop a voluntary verified clean energy workforce standard and associated toolkit — actionable steps businesses can take to improve equity, from recruitment to training, mentorship to leadership.

“It’s so important to focus on diversity,” added Fawzy. “Without initiatives like the Gender Commission, there can be a tendency to end up in a place where diversity is lacking, not just in our industries but also in our communities.”

While convened out of Colorado, the Voluntary Workforce Standard will have national appeal, covering the full ecosystem of clean energy employers: start-ups, corporations, utilities, research institutions and beyond. To support this national reach, CCEC has two board members who are C3E national ambassadors, a high-profile network of senior women leaders in clean energy.

Together, with the support of forward-thinking organizations like the Woodward Charitable Trust and the engagement of leaders across the country, we will develop the diverse clean energy workforce of tomorrow.

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Shining a light on solar power in Fort Collins

In the summer of 2020, Colorado State University electrical engineering student Giuliana Seretti was supplementing her learning with an internship at the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). Her growing interest in solar energy, both in and out of the classroom, led her to John Bleem, a research associate at the CSU Energy Institute and former PRPA employee who was working on a She’s in Power initiative.

The goal: Estimating the total amount of solar power energy being produced in Fort Collins. With more than 1,700 photovoltaic systems producing data simultaneously throughout the city, this is no small task.

Seretti had to get up to speed quickly on the years-long project and solar energy jargon. “It was a big learning curve for me at the beginning,” she allowed. But before long, she had developed her own machine-learning model that predicts solar output based on temperature, global horizontal irradiance and other parameters. She also examined all models, existing and proposed, for data accuracy — work that continues to this day.

“Basically, I’m trying to demonstrate the benefits of certain models and how they should be applied to measuring solar output in Fort Collins,” Seretti explained.

Her mentor Bleem has been impressed with the results and Seretti’s perseverance: “The She’s in Power project allows Giuliana to learn about solar energy modeling (not part of the curriculum) and provides a real-world application for machine learning. She is gaining both ‘hard’ (technical) and ‘soft’ (collaboration) experience.”

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Adding brilliance to the She’s in Power board

She’s in Power draws on the immense experience of our board to shape the organization and drive our programming. We were thrilled when Ellen Morris and Tami Bond joined our brain trust in December 2020 and September 2021, respectively.

Ellen Morris CCEC Board

Ellen Morris

Dr. Ellen Morris is the Director of University Partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and holds a joint appointment at the Colorado School of Mines in the Engineering, Design and Society program. A world-renowned expert on energy and international development, Morris’s work focuses on policy analysis, research, strategy development, and writing on energy access, gender equality and business models.

Morris has been addressing equity and inclusion in the clean energy workforce her whole career: “By working with rising stars and seasoned veterans interested in changing the world, I believe we can realize a clean energy future for Colorado and beyond.”

Tami Bond

Dr. Tami Bond is the Walter Scott, Jr. Presidential Chair in Energy, Environment and Health and a mechanical engineering professor at Colorado State University. Through her work, Bond aims to understand the human activity that leads to environmental impact. Her research explores the intimate relationship between technology choice, human need and infrastructure.

Bond is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a 2014 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, and was recently named to the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board with a dual role on the board’s Climate Science Committee.

Meet the She’s in Power Board

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Welcome She’s in Power’s new Program Assistant!

The She’s in Power team is proud to announce their newest team member, Alyssa Uhl.

Alyssa started as a Spark in Spring 2021 working on a solar energy education project. She blew us out of the water with her tenacity and passion for this work. With additional funding provided by partners we were able to hire her on part time to build the momentum around She’s in Power. Alyssa is finishing up a BS in environmental public health at CSU, while also minoring in global environmental sustainability and Spanish Language. She is interested in the connection between sustainability and public health through the lens of community education. Alyssa will be helping assist She’s in Power projects, planning events, and ramping up our social media.

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SiP Power Tool Series

Leaders within the clean energy arena speak during monthly She’s in Power meetings to offer insights on their career paths and the hard and soft skills needed to excel in the industry.

Speakers include:

  • CSU research scientist Dr. Evan Sproul
  • City of Wheat Ridge Sustainability Coordinator Kayla Betzold
  • ElektrikGreen Co-Founder Jane Allo
  • Namaste Solar Commercial Project Manager Sara Demetroff
  • APEX Analytics Senior Associate Katie Parkinson
  • The Cadmus Group Senior Associate Allie Marshall

These meetings have covered topics such as sustainable city planning, solar installation, executing sustainability initiatives in the community, chemical differences between various greenhouse gases, and efficient project management. Overall, Sparks are able to network with guest speakers in a close virtual setting while simultaneously increasing their understanding of the diversity within the clean energy workforce.

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Meet our new Power Player, Diane Ernst

Diane Ernst first heard about She’s in Power and the program manager position through the Sustainable Living Association. After reading the job description, she was all in.

“I’m super passionate about empowering the next generation,” enthused Ernst. “I thought the position would give me the ability to do that while tangibly helping tackle the real issue of women in clean energy. I wanted to be part of it.”

Ernst is no stranger to catalyzing young people. As a City of Fort Collins Public Engagement Specialist, she saw a gap in programming for local teenagers. So she created and still runs a free program where teens and mentors work together on environmental stewardship, leadership and climate action. She considers it the best part of her job.

“It’s what I love most: empowering those teenagers,” said Ernst. “She’s in Power gives me the opportunity to do more of what I love. It’s also about filling a gap in programming, reaching out to and providing opportunities for a certain subset of the community that may not feel they belong in the space of sustainability or clean energy.”

Ernst brings more than 10 years of experience in public engagement and environmental education to She’s in Power. She credits her success to seeking out strong female mentors who have coached and inspired her, along with actively pursuing professional development opportunities like the sustainability training that led her to She’s in Power.

The future of the She’s in Power program looks bright with Ernst at the helm. She and the rest of the She’s in Power team have a clear vision for the program in the months and years ahead. The first big focus will be making the program more inclusive, equitable and accessible — not just reaching young women and girls, but also young women and girls of color. Next, the team will work to retain She’s in Power alumni, creating a pipeline for the program.

“Maybe that means a Spark becomes an Energizer or an Energizer becomes a Power Partner, or a Power Partner donates money to continue the program,” explained Ernst. A great way to start building that pipeline, she said, is sharing personal stories about how the program has impacted people. “What if somebody does a Power Project and then two years later, gets a job in the clean energy field? Let’s tell that story! That’s so exciting and allows more people to see women in clean energy, to spark that inspiration to do this work.”

The She’s in Power Team is also working on scalability. Ernst is a big believer in collective impact and plans to package She’s in Power in such a way that other communities can take it on — both in and outside of northern Colorado. “There’s so much power and greatness in this program. I’m excited to open doors, hear from people and really get things going.”

Read our full conversation with program manager Diane Ernst.

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