Dear Trees, Water, People (TWP),
I am presently looking for employment in the Pine Ridge area in sustainable community development, project management, and nonprofit work. After a conversation with John Motley I discovered the possibility of funding a long term paid position for myself with Trees, Water, People and Lakota Solar Enterprises by writing grants. I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is developing sustainable affordable housing and green spaces for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal of my current work is to use simple and effective sustainable environmental friendly housing designs and land cultivation techniques to empower people to live better lives. Often communities in low income areas do not have access to quality living environments. Development of quality affordable green buildings and land designs offers to ameliorate the stress associated with poverty. Currently, I am working with the Lakota people on Pine Ridge Reservation with Henry Red Cloud. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made with locally derived resources and labor. The blocks are thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. While working on the house, I realized that the majority of people work on the house are from outside the reservation. To address this issue, I am working on a second project, the Solar Poem Machine, a solar powered $35 computer for running software to teach youth sustainable building techniques digitally. The same computer will be used to help engage young adults in music making that touches on Lakota culture, modern issues, and hope associated with solar energy and green building. By engaging youth in green work, arts, and education, I hope to increase the amount of Lakota youth community engagement in the real life construction projects of Lakota Solar Enterprises.
Please accept my application materials for this position. As you will see, I have a diverse background in a range of areas, all of which are pertinent to working in a project manager role. I believe this training, as well as my acute attention to detail, my goal-driven personality, and my ability to successfully work on a team and independently, have prepared me for this position. I have a diverse research experience as a chemistry Ph.D. graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, ranging from organic chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics to structural chemical biology. During my graduate career I balanced two different projects. I gained a breadth of research training by pursuing these two diverse projects, ideal for application construction project management. In my post-doctoral work, I worked in the area of green chemistry catalyst design for biofuel production. I have learned to effectively communicate, both written and spoken, on a variety of science areas. Furthermore, I have an extensive and varied experience in science education, having worked for several years in faith-based and secular nonprofit settings. I am confident in presenting my work to diverse audiences, capable of writing reports for grants and other program evaluation activities. I was awarded a poster presentation award at the annual meeting of the Protein Society, as judged on my ability to orally communicate and visually present my dissertation research in an organized and logical fashion. Furthermore, I was given the honor of presenting my doctoral dissertation research to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science as an Inaugural Article on behalf of my graduate advisors David Wemmer and Michael Marletta. I have extensive project management skills, having completed a Ph.D. at one of the top chemistry schools in the world. I maintained full control of managing the financial and logistical aspects of my dissertation work, working in teams when necessary.
Over the past six years, I have battled bipolar disorder I and through the walk associated with healing from this serious mental illness I have developed a heart for youth suicide prevention through environmental work. Writing a blog (https://drwilliamkayaerbil.wordpress.com/) through the journey the past few years has been key in reaching out to others about the struggle. Choosing to be open and transparent about my condition on the blog opened me to the huge stigma associated with bipolar disorder, and gave me first hand insight into discrimination. I have learned about human nature in this way, dark and light, empowering me to work with youth who face suicidal depression on a daily basis on reservations. Choosing poetry as a vehicle for channeling my anger about the stigma associated with mental health issues, I see a parallel path taken by local Pine Ridge youth hip-hop artists. Art is, and always has been, a healing space. Perhaps it may be a path to stop the epidemic of suicides “On the Rez” through green development and Lakota language and culture restoration in a way that is modern and appealing to youth?
I believe that a position with TWP would be an ideal fit for my talents as I am able to rapidly and effectively assimilate new topics. I am equally capable of doing the hard physical work of field work and the complex mental and social work dealing with developing projects. In the position, I would learn building, business, and management skills that could improve my ability to help the Lakota people. I am comfortable adapting to new cultural situations, having worked extensively with African-American and refugee populations in Atlanta. I am confident that working with TWP would provide a stimulating environment in which I could thrive and deliver support to communities that I have developed empathy for through my own struggles. I look forward to the prospect of communicating with you soon!
William Kaya Erbil, Ph.D.