Environmental Studies majors talk summer internships

The experiences Colby students have over the summer vary greatly.  For some, it is a time of relaxation, for others a time of work.  For a select group of Environmental Studies (ES) majors, it means getting a precious opportunity to intern for an environmental organization.  That is because of the Environmental Studies stipend program, where ES majors submit applications for what they want to do over the summer and the department gives them a stipend to pursue their dreams.  However, not everyone gets accepted.  As Environmental Studies Program Manager Lia Morris explains, “There is a competitive application process and a committee of Environmental Studies Program faculty and staff review the applications.”

Albertha Ladina ’17 was one of the few students accepted into the ES stipend program this summer. She spent her summer working as a Pacific Habitat Communications Intern for Oceana, a nonprofit focused on protecting and restoring ocean wildlife. Ladina flew to Monterey, California where she worked on Oceana’s Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) campaign.  The campaign hoped to protect seafloor habitats from the harmful bottom trawling—where large fishing boats tow a trawl along the seafloor.

“My role was to provide communication support for public and media outreach for the EFH campaign. I created campaign materials such as blogs, fact sheets, campaign stickers, and social media posts that would help secure a decision by federal fishery managers to maintain and even expand seafloor protections off the West Coast,” Ladina said. “I enjoyed that my role varied throughout the summer as I took on a wide range of tasks, such as researching and learning about new material, designing stickers and a schematic for the EFH campaign, and attending conferences to hear experts in the field discuss and debate marine policy issues.”

Jessica Batchelder ’17 was also accepted into the program.  She worked at the Hurricane Island Foundation’s Center for Science and Leadership on Hurricane Island, a small island offshore of Rockland, Maine. She worked as a part of the Midcoast Maine Collaborative Scallop Project. “Some of my primary duties were preparing for field days, collecting data during our scuba dive surveys and then organizing and processing dive survey, spat bag and shell data back on the island.  In addition to the scallop project, there were several monitoring projects on Hurricane Island.  I was in charge of daily water sampling, seal counts, and assisted with phenology monitoring,” Batchelder said. “My favorite part was probably all of the scuba diving I was able to do throughout the summer.  Our field days never felt like work because it meant we were diving all day which is never bad.  One day we were able to dive with an ROV while searching for a lost mooring block in our harbor and that was also a cool experience.”

Jack Sears ’17 is another Environmental Studies major who was accepted into the program.  This summer, he worked in the Experimental Pathology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health’s Cancer Research Center.  “I was researching an alternative fixative to the current ‘gold standard’ which has been used for the past 75 years which is both carcinogenic and not optimal for diagnostics,” Sears explained. As for how his experience was and what he took away from it he said, “It was really great to continue my growth as a researcher and improve my lab bench skills. I [now have] a better understanding of life as a biomedical researcher and the type of work and thought process that goes into running a research project.”  This isn’t the first time Sears has been a part of the stipend program. Last summer he was also able to land an internship and a year later, his research was published. “It was incredibly fulfilling to see my name on a scientific paper,” he said.

Though many Environmental Studies majors apply for the stipend program to pursue internships within the field of science, the program is not restricted to labs and research. Margot Bruder ’17 was able to use her stipend to intern at Weber Shandwick, a public relations agency in New York City.  There she was able to learn about the Public Relations field observation and collaborative project. “My favorite part of the summer was working with a group of interns to respond to a hypothetical [request for proposal] we were given from a hypothetical client that required us to design a campaign start to finish and give a formal pitch presentation,” Bruder said. She believes this experience will help her with both her academia at Colby and in her career path beyond. “This experience really helped me gain a deeper understanding of the kind of work I do and do not want to do after Colby and gave me valuable practice interacting in a corporate setting, conducting research, and implementing strategy into campaign development. I think the most helpful part of the internship for helping me at Colby was meeting research needs thoroughly and in a timely manner and practicing public speaking during a formal presentation,” she said.

The response from those who have participated in the program is overwhelmingly positive. “The [Environmental Studies] stipend program has allowed me to work in the lab the past two summers and has provided me experience and publications that will prove essential in applying to jobs and grad schools. Without the programs support I would not have been able to have this incredibly formative and essential research experience,” said Sears.

Between the valuable learning experiences and the memorable stories, there are many reasons to apply for the ES stipend program. However, above them all might be the crucial networking opportunities. For college students searching for future employment, networking is crucial.  Getting an internship through the stipend programs allows Environmental Studies majors the perfect opportunity to meet people and get their name into their field. “I would simply say that internships provide our [Environment Studies] majors a great opportunity to explore various career paths on a global scale while also building their post-Colby career network,” said Morris. Bruder concurred,“It gives you a chance to make meaningful networking connections that will be helpful to have later.”

Like many other participants in the program, Batchelder concluded by saying that future students should seize  this opportunity because it is not available to everyone. “I would absolutely encourage Colby students to take advantage of experiences that allow them to live and work in a new environment. Also, as ES students we are extremely fortunate to have funding available through the ES department for experiences like these.  It is definitely something every ES student should try to take advantage of.  It’s a great way to connect academic interests to real organizations and jobs and you never know how these experiences will shape the rest of your time at Colby and beyond,” she said.