Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 2012 Sustainability Profile: Campus Sustainability Internship Program

The Campus Sustainability Internship (CSI) program is a year-long course and internship designed to engage students in campus sustainability work. CSI provides students with trainings and resources to enable their success as future environmental professionals and leaders. The program pairs students with staff mentors to work on campus projects related to green building, waste reduction, energy conservation, and more.The application deadline is approaching quickly--staff applications are due March 16 and student applications are due April 4. Click here to apply now!

To give readers a first-hand account of the program, Student Newsletter Coordinator Melissa Ott interviewed two of the participants in the program to learn about their experiences in CSI. Kathryn Cunningham is a Strategic Sourcing and Sustainable Procurement Manager in Procurement and Business Contracts (P&BC) and CSI staff mentor to CSI Intern and Environmental Studies Senior, Christian Frederick (pictured below).

Melissa: What is the project that you’re working on, and why it's important for sustainability efforts and for the UCSC campus?

Christian: I am working with Procurement Department on creating a training program to education staff about “greenwashing,” which refers to false or misleading marketing claims aimed at promoting a product for its sustainability or environmental friendliness. By creating this training program, campus buyers can teach their on-campus clients how to identify environmentally preferable products more effectively and steer clear of marketing schemes geared toward misleading customers. This work will further campus sustainability by improving our green purchasing efforts and increasing the number of sustainable products at the university.

Kathryn: We want the program to use current products purchased by UC Santa Cruz personnel to explain and illustrate green washing tactics, and then offer alternatives that are better choices for the environment and society as a whole. Developing and delivering a green washing training program for P&BC will provide a better understanding of how marketing strategies can cloud good purchasing choices. With this understanding and the training program generated P&BC personnel can carry this to their campus clients. Once the campus clients—those making daily purchasing decisions—have the same knowledge, it is expected they will make more sustainable purchasing choices thereby improving UC Santa Cruz’s environmentally preferable purchasing metrics.

Melissa: Christian, the CSI program requires you to participate in class lectures and professional development trainings in addition to your internship work. Why has CSI been beneficial for you?

Christian: It allows me to take an active role in sustainable efforts within my (campus) community. I gained appreciation for sustainability through various classes here at UCSC but never truly felt I had any impact in matters until I started this program. This program has not only shown me how to take an active role in green purchasing but in all aspects of environmental awareness on campus. Through the class, we learn about institutional change and how students play a huge role as long as they participate. Through this class, and my work so far, I have become involved in multiple organizations on campus, including the Sustainability Office and the Green Purchasing Working Group. My involvement in these areas has provided me with an extraordinary level of experience developing professional skills in just the first half of the quarter. The experience has also helped me learn how to organize effective meetings, create project plans which help guide long-term work objectives, and polish my public speaking abilities. I receive this education both at the office with my staff mentor (by actually working in a professional environment) and in the classroom (through professional skills trainings and discussing ideas with my peers).

Melissa: Kate, what is useful about having student support for projects you are working on?

Kathryn: P&BC Buyers have been asking for this training for some time but our resources available for developing such a program have been limited. Now, through the Campus Sustainability Internship program we have that needed resource. This is Christian’s only project—we get fifteen hours each week focused on research, data analysis, supplier practices, and program development—it is going to be a great training program for buyers to share. Being located at 2300 Delaware, P&BC does not interact much with students so when we do have the opportunity, as with the CSI program, we get a sense of the energy on the hill.

Melissa: What made you want to participate in the CSI program?

Christian: I applied for the CSI program because I wanted to learn more about real-world efforts for sustainability outside of the classroom. I saw the internship as a great opportunity to take what I had been learning in the classroom and use it to make our campus more sustainable. I was also attracted to CSI because of it introduces student applicants to various staff and their projects on campus. Within the program, there is also overlap on projects, and I already have collaborations with about three other interns. This aspect is special to me because it resembles a real work environment. Each of us has a common goal for campus sustainability, but we are able to understand how cooperation from different areas is the key to making change.

Kathryn: The CSI program has given our department another format for communicating the work we do and the policies and procedures that govern that work. In addition to finally having a resource to put together a green washing training, we have used the CSI program as a chance to recruit for our Green Purchasing Working Group (GPWeG). While we have enjoyed some outstanding student members in the past, we’ve not attracted more than one at a time. Our last GPWeG meeting roster included five students. These student voices help us shape the work we do.

Melissa: What is the value of students and staff working together to foster a culture of sustainability at UCSC?

Christian: As a student it is easy to get caught up in the ideologies of change and sustainability without having the knowledge of how to act on them. Staff members provide the know-how and guidance required to make effective change on campus. Collaboration between the two groups is essential because it utilizes the drive and passion of students with the dedication and knowledge of staff members. We all want to make change for the better, and we all need to work together to make a difference.

Kathryn: Students have access to faculty and administrators in a very different way than most staff. When staff can share with students “how things work” at UC Santa Cruz, we all begin to make connections and form ideas that can lead to collaborative change in favor of sustainable business practices.

Want to talk to Christian and find out more about green purchasing? Interested in zero waste efforts? Be sure to attend the Zero Waste/Green Purchasing workshop this Saturday, March 3 at Earth Summit in the Colleges 9/10 multipurpose room from 12:45-1:45 PM. Learn how to reduce waste and green your campus with the power of purchasing, and if you’re interesting, speak with Christian about the CSI program. If you are interested in getting involved with the Campus Sustainability Internship Program as a staff mentor or as a student intern, find out more and apply here. Questions? Email Shauna Casey.

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