For the past two years, sustainability at UConn has taken the backseat. But it’s not for a lack of trying on behalf of the Office of Sustainability (OS). Fall 2021-Spring 2022 was the school year of remembering –, remembering how to take in-person tests, remembering how to act in a crowd, remembering how to order at the One Plate, Two Plate register, and for the OS, remembering how to persuade UConn administration to endorse sustainable policies. The last being the most difficult in a post-pandemic world. This past school year, Fall 2022-Spring 2023, was a year of progress. Next year, I hope campus continues off that forward momentum, furthering UConn’s sustainable agenda and reducing our footprint. For these last two years, as a Student Intern at UConn’s Office of Sustainability I have had the incredible opportunity to work with many UConn Departments and sit in on countless meetings being able to see how far the school has come, and how far we will continue to go.
If my time at the OS has taught me one thing, it’s that sustainability is everywhere. Before working at the OS, my knowledge of sustainability transitioned from just knowing the definition of the word from a textbook, to seeing it implemented at the municipal level from my time at SustainableCT. Now, I can say that the OS has successfully shaped my understanding of sustainability showing me how it is centered in collaboration, equity, education, and passion. Through my time at the OS I honed my professional skills, learned new competencies, and gained experience I wouldn’t have anywhere else on campus. I worked on surveys such as Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Greenmetric UI, and AASHE STARS, helped lead events such as Green Game Days, Haunted HEEP, and Earth Day Spring Fling. The most important piece of advice I can give to new OS interns and the greater community is that enthusiasm and dedication to a cause goes a long way. Like any job in communications, you are going to be faced with rejection. Sometimes people won’t answer, sometimes people will shoot down your ideas; however, it is important to remember to treat these only as obstacles and not as dead ends. If you are passionate about something, you will find a way to get it done (and sidenote, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help.) I am grateful that not only was my internship a great work experience, but it also helped me find life-long friends that share similar interests. I can confidently say that my fellow interns will make a lasting impact on the world.
Next year, I will be a graduate student at Boston University pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in the field of Environmental Health. This program tackles issues focused on the relationships between people and their environmental including reducing environmental hazards, understanding environmental impacts on health, and critically analyzing increased environmental risk in areas burdened by social inequalities. My internship at the OS helped me narrow down my focus to environmental health and it taught me that the impacts of how we treat the environment are all around us. I am extremely grateful for the hands-on experience I was able to gain through my internship with the OS. I was able to work on a variety of projects spanning creative design, data analysis, environmental policy, and campus-wide events. Exposure to a wide variety of subjects helped me understand focus areas I excel in and ones I want to improve in.
If you are considering applying to the OS, whether for an intern position or as eco-captain, my suggestion would be to absolutely send in an application. The OS shaped my time at UConn and helped me find the path I want to embark on. The future of UConn’s sustainability is bright, especially in the hands of the OS. Thank you to the entire OS team including current and past interns, administrators, and all of the people I met along the way.