Five 2017 graduates of the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources are working for agencies of the State of Vermont this summer. What else do these grads have in common? They were each a Rubenstein School Perennial Summer Intern with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) while a student.

Is there a connection?

“There certainly is,” said Carey Hengstenberg, Planning Manager in ANR’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who works closely with the Rubenstein School to place interns at the Agency. “Year after year, Perennial Interns impress ANR staff with their skills, ability to work on a team, and enthusiasm for the Agency’s mission to protect Vermont’s environment. When an entry level position opens up, former interns often are the top candidates because they are already familiar with the work of the Agency and have proven themselves to be dependable and engaged employees. We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcomes of this partnership – it works!”

The Agency has partnered with the Perennial Summer Internship Program for the past five summers, beginning with the agency’s first sponsored perennial internship in 2013. The partnership has grown into six internships with ANR this summer.

“It is invaluable that students have the opportunity to work within state government on environmental issues they’re passionate about and learn from supervisors who are eager to mentor and supervise them.” said Anna Smiles-Becker, Rubenstein School Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator who manages the six-year-old Perennial Summer Internship Program. “ANR and other host sites in the Perennial Internship Program benefit from the energy, ideas, hard work, and professionalism that Perennial Interns bring to their work.”

The Agency hired five former Perennial Interns who graduated from the Rubenstein School this past May.

As a 2015 Perennial Summer Intern, Kelsey Colbert (ENSC ’17) worked in the DEC’s Lakes and Ponds Management and Protection Program. She collected water quality and biological samples at lake and river sites, conducted lab work, and assisted in cyanobacteria monitoring.

“I was able to relate a lot of my chemistry, biology, and natural resource background that I had gained from classes directly to this internship,” said Colbert, who returned to the Lakes and Ponds program after graduation in a six-month position as an Environmental Technician II.  “Once I had completed the internship, I realized how much I enjoyed the work.” The internship experience earned her a position this summer conducting the same sampling work.

“From here, I plan to continue to pursue seasonal field work because my love for working outdoors won’t let me subscribe to an office job yet,” said Colbert, who hopes to head out west to apply the knowledge she has gained at ANR and begin to learn in different ecosystems.

Two-time Perennial Intern Jordyn Geller (ENSC ’17) is an Environmental Technician at the Vermont Agriculture and Environmental Laboratory this summer. She tests surface and groundwater from all over Vermont. In September, she will serve with the DEC in their Clean Water Initiative Program through Vermont’s ECO AmericCorps, a service corps created by the DEC. Geller plans to serve as an ECO AmeriCorps member for one year, while studying for the GREs and applying to graduate school.

“The Perennial Internship helped me network and create connections with people working in ANR and others working in the environmental field,” said Geller, who interned with the DEC in 2015 as a Coordinator for the ECO AmeriCorps and in 2016 as a Source Water Protection Intern in partnership with the Vermont Rural Water Association. “Right after my first Perennial Internship, I was eager to learn more, so I volunteered to collect lake water samples. Through each small experience, I was able to build up my skill set and my network, which helped me get other internships within the DEC.” 

As Aquatic Invasive Species Perennial Interns, both Ryan Colarusso (ENSC & WFB ’17), in 2015, and Joe Taft (WFB ’17), in 2016, spent a summer working with the DEC Lakes and Ponds Program. They assisted with aquatic invasive spread prevention efforts at Vermont’s 250 public boat accesses and actively removed invasive aquatic plants from Vermont’s lakes, ponds, and wetlands. This summer, both were hired back to work in the Program.

Farrah Ashe (ENSC ’17) was a Perennial Intern with the ANR Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2016. At the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, she monitored waterfowl nesting boxes, maintained waterfowl usage records, helped to run state-wide goose banding surveys, and conducted a vegetation survey.

“During my internship, my boss acted like a mentor to me. She provided me with valuable feedback that allowed my confidence to grow, while guiding me to better understand myself,” said Ashe who also took a Rubenstein School service-learning course, Environmental Assessment and Analysis, in which she worked on an aquatic invasive species project in partnership with the DEC. “By maintaining communication with community partners and asking many questions, I was able to gain more data analysis, professional, and GIS skills that added to my skill set.”

Ashe’s experiences and skills helped her to obtain a year-long position beginning this September in aquatic invasive species management on the Batten Kill Watershed as a DEC ECO AmeriCorps member. 



Shari Halik
Jordyn Geller and former Governor Peter Shumlin
Former Perennial Intern Jordyn Geller met former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin at an event for the launch of Vermont ECO AmeriCorps in which she is now a member serving with the Vermont DEC Clean Water Initiative.
Farrah Ashe helps to band a goose
Former Perennial Summer Intern Farrah Ashe helped the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife during their annual goose banding survey. Beginning this September she will help to manage aquatic invasive species as a Vermont ECO AmeriCorps member.