Rhea Suh became president of the Natural Resources Defense Council in January 2015, leading the nearly 500 scientists, attorneys, and policy experts that make NRDC one of the country’s most effective environmental action organizations.
Before joining NRDC, Suh served as the assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior. She was nominated for the position by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2009.
Suh led several crosscutting initiatives at the department on federal land conservation, climate adaptation, international affairs, and youth programs. She was instrumental in launching a complex reorganization of the agency responsible for offshore oil and gas oversight in the midst of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She also led a diversity initiative that included the hiring of the Interior Department’s first chief diversity officer, training sessions, and a network of diversity champions.
Prior to her appointment to the Interior Department, Suh worked at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where she created and managed a $200 million program dedicated to environmental conservation and clean energy in the West. She developed the foundation’s strategy for reducing climate change emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. She also established the first-ever collaboration among nonprofit groups to coordinate conservation efforts in the entire Colorado River Basin, from the headwaters in Colorado to the delta in Mexico.
Suh developed similarly far-reaching programs at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, where she worked from 1998 until 2007. There, she designed the foundation’s highly effective clean energy and climate change initiative and led the effort to create the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the most successful land-protection campaigns in North America. She also launched the New Constituencies portfolio, designed to focus on environmental issues for underserved populations in the United States.
Suh earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Barnard College and received a Fulbright Fellowship to research environmental movements in Seoul. She returned to the States and worked as a senior legislative assistant to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, then earned a master’s degree in education, administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.