Promoting composting: An Intern making a difference
By Maddie Cross
The pandemic turned the typical college experience on its head when UVM suspended in person classes in March. Professors and students moved to the digital world and students adapted to remote learning. As the community got used to the new normal, adjusting to college life in a pandemic, several questions loomed in students’ minds: how do I complete an internship when I can barely leave my house? How do I continue to investigate my areas of professional interest during these unprecedented times?
“I was determined I was not going to let this get me down” said Ali Drew, an ENVS Major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Determined to get an internship in an environmental field to foster connections and build her skills, Drew put her ingenuity to work.
“I knew that more people were spending more time using social media,” Drew said, “so I looked up various environmental-focused nonprofits.”
Drew wanted to combine her environmental interests with communications.
“I was interested in social media, and I felt like I would have more success getting an internship if I could actually find something specific that the nonprofit needed help with,” Drew said.
So she browsed around, researching many Vermont-based environmental non-profits, and checking out their social media presences. “A lot of them were completely nonexistent. They didn't have an Instagram account at all or had very limited activity on Facebook,” Drew said.
When she found an organization that interested her, without social media tools, she wrote them directly offering her services as an intern. Getting your message out will take social media, Drew argued, hire me and I’ll make it happen for you.
Drew landed at the Composting Association of Vermont (CAV), that works to support the production and use of compost as a crucial connection between soil health and sustainable agriculture and communities.
“I'm an environmental studies major, so the field of composting is definitely related to that,” Drew said. “I'm pretty interested in environmental education, which I feel like I've learned a lot about from this internship, because a lot of what the nonprofit does is create environmental education materials.”
And pretty soon her role grew beyond her initial social media assignments.
“The director of CAV found me more projects related to web site development that I could work on, so it led to more things other than social media,” Drew said.
And Drew is right in the middle of one of the biggest public policy shifts in the state – on July 1, the Vermont banned food scraps from landfills.
“That made my internship more exciting,” Drew said. Curiosity about composting shot up around the state, and Drew is in the center of providing new composters with information and support to begin the process in their homes. “I created a content calendar, ran analytics, and essentially built the Instagram account from nothing,” Drew said.
These resources helped CAV get their message of sustainability out to the public, Drew said.
What type of internship is right for you?
Drew suggested that there is inherent value in seeking out an organization with a smaller staff.
“I've been doing all the nitty gritty things, like building them a new website and checking for broken links. This web site development stuff is new to me, but I’m glad I’m dabbling in it now.”
At a smaller company or non-profit, there are myriad ways to make yourself useful, especially as a young person with knowledge of social media, Drew said. Although her initial pitch was social media manager, Drew has been eager to say yes to learning new things and taking on more responsibility.
For other students looking for internships, Drew suggests they pick smaller organizations.
“Look for non-profits, because they basically always need extra help. It doesn't have to be social media—look at their website, see if they have a blog post section that hasn't been updated in three months, and offer to write blogs for them,” Drew said. “Just try to find one thing they definitely need help with that would be an easy thing for you to do.”
As working from home becomes the norm and social media and the internet become even more powerful tools for non-profits, this is a perfect opportunity for students to jumpstart their careers and start doing meaningful work in their arenas of interest.
Maddie Cross is a Senior English Major who likes to write. Her many internships include a stint as social media intern at the Burlington-based Emily Post Institute.