Rhea Suh became president of NRDC 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.
Powered by the support of more than two million members and activists, NRDC creates solutions and enforces laws that preserve clean air and water, open spaces, public lands, and healthy communities for all Americans, regardless of income, ethnic heritage, or race.
Under her leadership, NRDC has helped steer high-level discussions that led to the historic global climate agreement in Paris; joined the citizens of Flint, Michigan, to ensure an end to the city’s toxic drinking water crisis; and stood united with a sea of social justice advocates as a presenting partner at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.
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 Senate in 2009. Suh led several cross-cutting 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 spearheaded the creation of the department’s first chief diversity officer position.
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 nonprofits to coordinate conservation efforts across the 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. While there, she designed the foundation’s 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 a 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 for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, then earned a master's degree in education, administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.
With her expertise in environmental and public health solutions, Suh is a media commentator making frequent appearances in the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, NPR, and other outlets.