Internships Connect Classrooms to Environmental Careers


By Julie Stowe

As clean-energy outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Amanda “Emmie” Theberge ’08 travels around the state organizing panels and giving presentations aimed at helping to build grass-roots support for clean-energy policies.

Last year Kevin Fritze ’07, a Ph.D. student in business and environmental policy at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, gathered and analyzed climate-change data and did economic analyses of carbon offsets. His findings were included in a policy brief discussed during a Senate hearing on reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Both say that in a crowded field of job and graduate school applicants they stood out because they had real-life experience from internships and student research at Colby. “The fact that I have local, national, and international experience definitely set me apart from other applicants for my job,” Theberge said. “And without internship grants, I wouldn’t have been able to do those internships.”

An environmental studies grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded student internships and research at Colby from 2000 to 2009. That grant has now ended, but at least one concerned donor has stepped in to help replace the funding.

Jason Klein ’97 has established the Klein Fund for Student Research and Internships in Environmental Studies through the Ruth and Seymour Klein Foundation. Funds are provided for students who otherwise could not do unpaid environmental internships. The fund also provides money for student research projects in environmental studies. “Gaining career and life experiences helps a lot with developing the ability to create connections, and it gives you the necessary experience that employers need,” Klein said. “Spending my summers working in environmental and science education at summer camps and, between my junior and senior years, working for the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx Zoo’s education department, gave me career and life experiences that helped me choose my career path.”

Klein is curator of the Trailside Nature Museum at the 4,300-acre Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, N.Y. The museum offers two programs, one focusing on the reservation’s flora and fauna, the other devoted to research on the Delaware Indian tribe.

He’s one of many at Colby who have seen internships lead to careers.

Theberge says she landed her job with NRCM in part because of an internship in the Maine Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, where she researched wind power in Maine, and because of research she conducted on Maine’s environment for her senior capstone class. Theberge also was able to do an environmental economics internship in Australia, thanks to funding from the Mellon grant and the Linda K. Cotter Internship Fund.

Fritze did a summer internship at the Belgrade (Maine) Regional Conservation Alliance between his sophomore and junior years, working with Colby’s GIS lab to create specialized maps for conservation. The following summer he interned at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., working in the Office of Environmental Policy. Said Fritze, in an e-mail, “I would credit all of [my internship experiences] together as providing me with an impressive résumé for an undergraduate, which did open doors and led to my current situation.”
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