|Deborah Huntzinger, PhD|
Internships in Climate Science and Solutions:
Graduating Students with an Advantage
The internship experience for the Climate Science and Solutions Professional Science Master’s degree program gives students on-site, direct experience with a private firm, non-governmental organization (NGO), or government agency working in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Students begin preparing for their summer internship during their first semester in the program.
Preparation for applying:
1. The first step, and often one of the most challenging, is for students to define career interests and goals and to identify some target organizations. To help them through this process, we ask the students to write down what their ideal internship experience would be. Then, within that statement, students work to identify the specific components that make that internship "ideal" for them. Is it the location? Is it a particular organization or company they have always dreamed of working for? Is it the types of tasks they see themselves doing in that position?
This exercise helps students not only better define what they are looking for, but it also guides them in their internship search. By defining what makes a particular internship ideal for them, students begin to prioritize and strategize their internship search, both for the ideal and for the acceptable position.
2. We also require students to conduct informational interviews with different companies (of their choice) in order to learn more about different occupations (e.g., climate policy analyst), as well as what companies and organizations are looking for in their new hires. Together, we work through this iterative process with students and help them develop a timeline of tasks and goals to keep them on track during their internship search.
3. When applying for internships, we encourage our students to develop a resume and cover letter specific to each opportunity. We work with students on their cover letter and teach them to look carefully at the position description and requirements, and to provide in their cover letter concrete examples that demonstrate how their experiences, education, and skillsets meet or exceed the requirements of the position. We also strongly encourage our students to attend conferences and workshops in their area of interest in order to expand both their knowledge and professional contact base.
How well does this process work?
Annikki Chamberlain was a GHG Program intern at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in Washington DC. Her primary focus was to research the major water standards and initiatives driving water management in the private sector and to evaluate the potential for associated accreditation and/or certification programs. Chamberlain spent her time researching the differences between the water footprint standard being developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 14046, and the Water Footprint Network water footprint standard. She prepared a report of her findings for the TC 207 committee to facilitate understanding the potential implications of the two standards in the market place.
Annikki is now a member of the ISO TC 207 committee and is actively involved in the ISO 14046 Water Footprint standard development. As a result of Annikki’s internship experience, along with the knowledge and experience gained in the Climate Science and Solutions MS program, she is currently working for SCA Tissue, NA to implement an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.
Billie Ford worked for the National Park Service as a GHG consultant to calculate the GHG emissions generated from operations at Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon and several other national parks have joined the National Climate Friendly Parks Initiative, a voluntary accounting and reporting program designed to help national parks track and report annual emissions. At the end of the summer, Billie provided the park a detailed report outlining her findings along with suggestions to reduce the park’s GHG emissions in the coming years. She is now employed as the Sustainability Manager at Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Mt. Rushmore National Park.
The internship experience helped Erik Green define his strengths and skills, and helped him realize what he did not want for a career. Erik interned for an environmental commodities company that specialized in the buying and selling of renewable energy credits and carbon offsets. This experience helped Erik realize that a career in carbon finance was not for him and that he wanted to merge his master’s education with his extensive IT experience and apply this knowledge and experience in the area of climate science.
He pursued this path and is now working in a post-master’s position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory using his extensive IT skills to provide data management and analysis support to atmospheric scientists, ecologists, modelers, and many other researchers all over the country that are studying the response of natural systems to changes in climate.
Finally, Jarrett Childers interned at Architectural Environmental Associates, Inc. here in Flagstaff, designing, sizing, and installing various green building applications, such as soar PV, solar hot water, rainwater catchment, and grey water systems. Jarrett is now working and training as an auditor for Solar City in Denver.
We have found that the internship experience, whether it leads directly to employment or not, gives our graduates a distinct advantage with future employers. There is no substitute for relevant, hands-on experience. Our coursework expands the breadth and depth of our students' professional skill set, and the summer internship provides them with an opportunity to put this knowledge into action.