Alumna Honored for Work in Ocean Sustainability Education

Daniela Fernandez

Daniela Fernandez receives Christopher Benchley Youth Award

Daniela Fernandez (C’16) has been awarded the 2016 Christopher Benchley Youth Award for her work as chair and founder of the Georgetown Sustainable Oceans Alliance (SOA) to educate and empower the Georgetown community—and Millennials in particular—to support and make a difference in ocean sustainability in their careers, regardless of field or industry. It is the first student-led organization of its kind in the country.

Often referred to as the “Academy Awards for the ocean,” the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, which will take place May 20 in San Francisco, are the world’s preeminent ocean awards. The awards are unique in acknowledging outstanding achievement across many sectors of society leading to the protection of our oceans and coasts, as well as the communities that depend on them. Past winners have included four Heads of State, U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, senators, leading marine scientists, journalists, explorers, youth leaders, and citizen activists.

After hearing about the passion for environmental sustainability Fernandez had displayed since high school, Maria Devaney (I’90), former Board of Governors senator and past Georgetown 1789 Scholar, invited Fernandez to attend a meeting at the United Nations focused around ocean sustainability.

“While I was there, I learned that the oceans’ fish could be gone by the year 2050—affecting the global economy, food chains, and tourism. I knew that I had to take action,” she said.

Fernandez founded SOA in 2014 as a platform to bring together multiple universities and sustainability experts to work on this important issue. Her work led to the first annual Sustainable Oceans Summit on April 25, 2015, with representatives from more than 30 colleges and universities participated to learn from ocean luminaries and leaders in government, science, business, and policy. The event was a great success and has led to partnerships with other university student groups.

“I’m really so grateful to everyone who worked to make the summit come together. Administrators, students, and especially alumni really worked hard to help us have a great event,” said Fernandez.

Currently, SOA is mentoring five chapters at various universities to further their unique goal. The 2016 Sustainable Oceans Summit takes place on April 2 at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. It will be co-hosted along with the George Washington University chapter of the Sustainable Oceans Alliance.

In addition to with her work for SOA and her undergraduate coursework, Fernandez sits on the Board of Governors’ Licensing and Oversight Committee Environmental Committee and is also a student leader in the Georgetown Global Social Enterprise Initiative.

Sustainable Oceans Summit 2015During the fall 2015 semester, Fernandez was excited to study abroad in Madrid, where she took business and international relations courses. While it was especially challenging for her to leave the country at such a busy time for SOA, she was able to make the trip and used the opportunity to help expand SOA's international contacts as well.

“I got to speak with other students about the importance of ocean sustainability and learn about many other NGOs dedicated to sustainment in the United Kingdom and France,” she said.

This month, Fernandez was also named one of Glamour's 2016 College Women of the Year. "I know how we can save the oceans," she told the publication. 

After graduating in May, Fernandez aspires to work on impact investing through a career in finance, to continue her work in ocean sustainability, and ultimately to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Updated 4/7/16