RSENR’s Successful Perennial Summer Internship Program Enters 3rd Year
- By Anna Smiles-Becker & Shari Halik
Eager, professional, and skilled Rubenstein School students working with organizations and companies finding solutions for critical environmental issues. Could there be a better match?
Perennial intern Myles Cox (ENVS ‘14) spent the summer of 2013 working with La Prima Catering, a green catering company that operates out of five kitchens in College Park, Maryland and surrounding cities. Myles finalized the certification for their Philadelphia kitchen making La Prima the highest rated restaurant in Pennsylvania by the Green Restaurant Association. He worked with local farmers and kitchen managers to create a more efficient system for ordering fresh produce. Finally, he helped to institute a culture of sustainability among employees at La Prima, by developing a handbook and training kitchen staff.
“This was difficult in some cases as my Spanish was rusty, and some employees knew little English,” he admits. “The training was a great experience because I worked with many different cultures and languages and had to tailor my training to the various cultures.”
Myles’ supervisor at La Prima acknowledges, “Myles has provided a fresh new approach for our staff and our policies. Myles has gone above and beyond the requirements of the position.”
After two successful summers, the Perennial Summer Internship Program at the Rubenstein School continues to build and strengthen long term relationships with environmental companies and organizations while providing valuable internship opportunities for a group of our students. Chosen through a competitive process by a team of RSENR staff and faculty, interns are matched with partner organizations or companies. Interns provide 20 to 40 hours per week of paid work. In return, they receive academic credit and one-on-one mentorship from partner staff. Cost share for the internships is provided by the partner and the Rubenstein School.
This past summer, six interns gained life-changing experiences with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), a national environmental consulting firm with an office in North Ferrisburg, Vermont; Avatar Energy, a national renewable energy company specializing in methane digestion with offices in South Burlington, Vermont; Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District, Rubenstein School Aiken Center, and Town of Williston Conservation Commission, all in Vermont; Waterkeeper Alliance in New York City; and La Prima Catering in College Park, Maryland.
Interns built on what they have learned in the Rubenstein School. They also added new skills to their repertoire that will help them along their career paths.
Perennial intern Liz Bennett (ENSC ‘14) put to use all she has learned in the Rubenstein School in her position with VHB. “I am employing knowledge in several fields that I’ve acquired in school over the past three years – basic ecology, water quality, GIS and mapmaking, technical writing – and taking it to the professional level,” she notes. “I feel significantly more confident entering the job market having had this experience.”
As a perennial intern with the Williston Conservation Commission, Tommy Niewenhuis (ENSC ‘14) worked closely with the town’s Planning and Zoning Department and gained a better idea of his future job interests. “Going into the internship I had a small interest in GIS and creating models and maps, and I was exposed to a lot of that over the duration of the program,” he shares. “ Upon graduation (and even now), I intend on looking for jobs and careers in the environmental consulting field that have a heavy emphasis on GIS – something I know I enjoy doing now because of my experiences at the Williston Planning and Zoning Office.”
Other interns gained valuable knowledge of mechanical processes and parts as well as the importance of taking initiative. Charlotte Adams (ENSC ‘16) spent the summer interning with Avatar Energy in South Burlington, Vermont and at a dairy farm in Stowe, Vermont that is using an Avatar methane digester to divert manure emissions from entering the atmosphere and capturing it to generate electricity. At the start of the summer, Charlotte spent time in the shop completing necessary and important tasks. She then discovered that by inquiring about other projects or how she could help further, her supervisors provided additional challenging and fulfilling work.
She shares, “…my favorite days of all were spent on the farm, fixing the separator pump, rewiring electrical cords, taking temperature readings from a thermocouple stuck in the digester ports, or painting the separator box in the sunshine.”
Interns acknowledge that they grew personally and professionally during their internships. Intern Sam Wallace (ENSC ‘14), gained experience in stormwater education and research through a joint internship with the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District (WNRCD) and the Rubenstein School. “Through both my work with the WNRCD and with the Rubenstein School, I was able to develop valuable communication and research skills as well as learn how to conduct myself in a professional setting,” she confides.
Cleo Doley’s (ENVS ‘15) internship with the New York City Waterkeeper Alliance, not only gave her the opportunity to learn new office, networking, and event planning skills but also allowed her to connect with the community for a cause. One of her favorite experiences was helping to organize Swimmable Water Action Day.
“This was a day where Waterkeepers from all over the world swam in their local water source with their community to promote clean swimmable waters and also to have fun!” explains Cleo. “This was a great day to encourage communities to use their waterways for recreation and also to connect the work the Waterkeeper Alliance does in the office to the real and tangible cause.”
Summer 2014 looks to be a summer full of great Rubenstein Perennial Internships with a diverse group of organizations and companies all focused on important environmental work.
Potential partnering organizations and companies who are interested in sponsoring a Rubenstein School Perennial Summer intern may contact Rubenstein School Career Services Coordinator Anna Smiles-Becker at 802-656-3002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rubenstein School students interested in the 2014 Perennial Summer Internship Program should expect internship descriptions to be released in January 2014 with application deadlines in early February 2014.