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Celebrating summer interns

January 31, 2020 students smiling

As the summer came to a close, so did internships for dozens of students at the Institute for the Environment (IE) and organizations across the Triangle.

On August 15, students who worked with IE and its partners such as the NC Policy Collaboratory, the Three Zeros Initiative, and Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), came together for an end-of-the-summer lunch and a round of presentations detailing projects that the interns worked on.

woman presentingBrown helped develop curriculum materials for K-12 students and put together teacher training workshops at state parks across North Carolina for her internship.

The afternoon, which served as an opportunity for interns to showcase their projects and achievements, was also a time to reflect on the summer and share feedback with their supervisors.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to spend my time equally outside and inside the office throughout the summer,” Shelby Brown, a junior environmental studies major who worked as the education and outreach intern for IE, says. “It was also nice to get to know other members in the IE office and learn more about the work they do.”

Brown worked with Sarah Yelton, IE’s environmental education and citizen science program manager, to develop curriculum materials for K-12 students and put together teacher training workshops at state parks across North Carolina.

“This internship also gave me confidence to make decisions and organize large projects such as these teacher programs,” she says.

Many of the interns were hired through EcoStudio, a program run through IE and the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program to pair students with projects from faculty and community partners. Aside from organizing workshops, interns from a variety of academic backgrounds worked on developing marketing materials, researching policy issues, and even flying drones.

woman presentingKeondra Jenkins discusses her internship experience at Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA).

“Internships have the potential to be transformative experiences and provide students with the opportunity to learn more about what career paths they would like to pursue,” Steve Wall, a policy research associate at IE, says. “In some cases, students come back from internships with a better understanding of what it means to work in a certain field and the types of skill sets that are needed to succeed.”

All summer interns were paid for their work. “It’s an important part of the process to ensure that all students have access and opportunity to participate and take advantage of internships,” Wall says.

These opportunities also gave students the ability to meet people from across the university and beyond — a crucial element of advancing their own careers once they graduate.

If you are an undergraduate student at Carolina and are interested in an environmental internship during the school year or summer, or someone who would like to involve students in projects, check out EcoStudio for more information.

Story by Annie McDarris ’20

Annie McDarris a graduate student within the Hussman School of Journalism and Media as part of the Environment & Science Communication Dual Degree Program. She completed her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies in May 2019 and worked as a communications intern this past summer with the UNC Institute for the Environment. After she graduates, McDarris plans to continue writing about environmental issues, particularly on the topics of conservation and water quality.