A&S Class of ’24: For Ander Buckley, a Sociologist’s Skillset is the Key to Building a Better Future

Ander Buckley

Originally an environmental sciences major, Buckley realized that community and environmental policymaking are where he could do the most good.

Ander Buckley graduates this year as a Distinguished Major in sociology.

A Charlottesville native and a transfer student from Piedmont Virginia Community College, Buckley was focused on the environmental sciences but realized that what appealed to him most was not the science as much as it was the policy, especially issues like environmental justice and racial equity.

“I decided I wanted to make more of a social impact,” Buckley said, “And I like how sociology confronts those issue head on.”

A hallmark of his time at UVA has been the work he’s been able to do applying the skills he’s learned at UVA to solving social problems.

He has worked as a research assistant with Dr. Nicol Turner Lee of the Brookings Institution, focusing on digital equity and artificial intelligence governance, and he has worked with Results for America, a nonprofit that helps government leaders use data to develop programs that accelerate economic mobility and improve lives.

In that role, he has worked with local governments in San Antonio, Oakland, Tulsa and Memphis providing government and community leaders with technical assistance in housing, workforce development, strategic planning and improving equity in government contracts.

“As much federal funding as there is available, if local leaders are not informed and accountable in distributing these funds effectively and equitably, not much will get done,” Buckley said.

He’s also worked with Freedman Consulting on the What Works Plus funder collaborative, consulting with public-private partnerships, helping major foundations stay up to date with a changing policy landscape and maximize the impact of federal and philanthropic funds aimed at boosting economic mobility through the clean energy transition.

“Stuff like this excites me, the fact that data can be used to achieve public good,” Buckley said. “I never thought I’d get back to the climate space after deciding not to pursue environmental science, but I am, and it’s worked out really well.”

And he credits his time as a sociology major for giving him “The skills to be able to look critically at power and social relations and how those operate as a function of policy, and how good policy can lead to equitable change.”

“It’s an area that really needs sociologists,” Buckley said.

“The innovation at UVA is really what sets it apart,” Buckley added.  “You can come here to study anything you really want to, and you’re probably going to have the best people in their field teaching you. I wish I’d had another two years here.”

After graduation, Buckley plans to continue to work in strategic philanthropy and impact investing, working to find ways to use policy and philanthropy to make the future a better place for everyone.

“This emerging space is really exciting, in terms of creating good jobs that will help disadvantaged communities through the clean energy transition,” Buckley said. “I would love to continue in this space.”


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