Fran Solomon

Seattle, WA

After working for 25 years as a government agency environmental scientist, I unexpectedly launched an encore career. I am having a wonderful time bringing my work experience and knowledge to the classroom, educating current and future environmental scientists and environmentally-aware global citizens.

In my encore career, I teach courses and give seminars for university students, environmental and health care professionals, and the general public about water quality and impacts of pollutants, especially toxic chemicals, on human health and the aquatic environment.

My primary academic homes are the Evergreen State College Tacoma campus, where I teach racially, ethnically, internationally and generationally diverse adult learners, and Western Washington University, Huxley College of the Environment on the Peninsulas where I teach adult learners who are planning environmental careers.

Additionally, I created a teaching business called Environmental Teaching International. Although I am based in Washington State, teaching assignments have also taken me to California, Alaska, Canada, and Japan.

In 2004, I had an opportunity to teach environmental science at a university in China. I discovered that I love teaching. After returning to Seattle, I sought regional teaching opportunities while continuing my agency position. I mixed up my week with teaching days and agency work.

Quickly, I noticed where there was energy. Teaching energized me, and agency work drained me. In 2007, at age 62, I resigned from my agency job to focus on teaching. The results have been positive and exciting!

My encore career is in sync with my core value of making a difference for future generations. And it combines several of my favorite activities: synthesizing and sharing information, writing, mentoring and doing new learning myself. By teaching, I continue the feminist, environmental and civil rights activism that have been continual threads in my life.

Students tell me how they are sharing and applying what they learned in my classes. Some science-phobic students decide to pursue environmental science careers, while others tell me that I have inspired them to look beyond what they thought was possible for them. An advantage of being an older professor is that I have extensive work experience as an environmental scientist. Students appreciate hearing my professional and personal stories.

My encore career is the culmination of my previous work and life experiences, and is the happiest and most fulfilling chapter of my professional life. I look forward to continuing this rewarding and creative work for many more years.