Opening the Door to A Better

How a UW Certificate Scholarship led to a career path for the future — and a chance to help protect the planet.

Passionate about environmental science since she was a teenager, Rebecca Bramwell always wanted to protect Earth’s ecosystems and make the world a better place. 

Rebecca Bramwell in the field

Rebecca Bramwell in the field.

Today, Rebecca is realizing her dream. As a professional wetland ecologist, Rebecca uses the skills she gained through UW education to protect wetlands, streams and shorelines in Western Washington — thanks in part to financial support from a UW Certificate Scholarship.

“I didn't have to worry about the cost of my education — I felt like every door and every window opened before me,” Rebecca says. “Now, I have the opportunity to protect these places that are important for climate change, while helping people develop sustainably.”


After Rebecca earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science and cultural and global studies, she felt she had the right scientific expertise and knowledge, but she needed state-specific training or credentials to progress in her career. 

Because Rebecca attended several colleges as she worked to pay her way through school, she hadn’t regularly worked with professors or career mentors. As a result, when Rebecca moved back to Seattle to start her career, she struggled to determine how to become a strong candidate for jobs in her field. 

When she asked environmental professionals in the area what she could do to boost her resume, Rebecca discovered the UW Certificate in Wetland Science & Management was the key to jump-starting many of their careers. She decided to apply — and was ecstatic when she was accepted.

“I remember feeling like, this is it,” Rebecca said. “It's really going to happen for me now.”

However, one big question remained: How would she afford the certificate program? Rebecca knew the program was the ticket for moving her career forward, but the pandemic had taken a toll on her finances. “I was concerned about the cost and knew I was going to have to cut back how much I was working to be in school,” she says. “Paying for the program felt like a big barrier for me.”

She discovered the UW Certificate Scholarship, applied, and UW Professional & Continuing Education recognized her potential with a scholarship award that covered most of her tuition and fees. 

UW Continuum College launched the UW Certificate Scholarship program to help break down barriers to continuing education and allow more people to build skills for today’s workforce. Since 2017, these need-based scholarships have supported more than 100 students in select UW Professional & Continuing Education certificate programs.

“I didn't have to worry about my finances,” Rebecca says. “I got so much more out of the program because I could engage with the program’s content and my cohort without that added layer of stress.”

Building a Network

Rebecca built strong bonds with her classmates in the certificate program, and says she valued their diverse perspectives and support throughout the rigorous program. “We built study groups, worked together and helped bridge each other's knowledge gaps,” she explains. “Because we could all work together, we got more out of the program.”

Rebecca also had the opportunity to be mentored by faculty and instructors with decades of experience. Every student in the UW Certificate in Wetland Science & Management is matched with a professional in the field who serves as a practicum adviser, allowing them to graduate with at least one professional contact. 

“My mentor and the faculty from the program know the quality of my work,” she says. “The ability to have deep personal and professional relationships with people at the top of their career and who have these incredible reputations is amazing.”

A Bright Future

These networking opportunities proved invaluable for Rebecca. When a faculty member emailed to share a job listing from a local environmental consulting firm, Rebecca sent in her resume and got a call the same day. She interviewed and landed the role two days later.

I felt I had arrived the week I finished the program. And that same week, I got a job and was able to start my career.

 — Rebecca Bramwell , Alumna, UW Certificate in Wetland Science & Management

“I felt I had arrived the week I finished the program,” says Rebecca. “And that same week, I got a job and was able to start my career. That was special, validating that this program was right for me.”

Rebecca loves her current work as an ecologist at an environmental consulting firm, where she’s part of a team that guides development and natural resource management projects in cities and counties across Western Washington. 

She works collaboratively with other ecological scientists, asks hard questions about land use policy and regulations, and solves complicated environmental problems — a career made possible through her hard work and the UW Certificate Scholarship.

“This scholarship program has directly resulted in being able to fine-tune my skills, talents and abilities,” explains Rebecca. “I wake up every morning and am proud of myself and what I do.”

When Rebecca thinks back to what her life was like before she earned her UW certificate, everything is different today. With a clear path for her career, now she gets to look ahead five or ten years, and knows she can achieve whatever professional goals she sets for her future.

“I know that I can handle every obstacle that comes my way because I have so many people who believe in me, the quality of my work and want me to succeed,” she says. “It's only up from here.”

You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Rebecca.