University Students Tackle Sustainability

The Indiana University Bloomington Office of Sustainability (IUOS) has awarded internships to 19 undergraduate and graduate students for the 2009-2010 academic year. Interns will work on an array of sustainability related issues under the mentorship of IU faculty and staff. Sustainability interns will build upon previous projects and lay the groundwork for new initiatives to further improve sustainable practices on the IU Bloomington campus.

“IU’s sustainability internship program has attracted national attention as a unique way to integrate academic and operational initiatives through student research,” said IU’s director of sustainability, Bill Brown. “This small army of talent has amplified the effectiveness of the Office of Sustainability and allowed us to explore opportunities that would be impossible for our full-time staff of two to tackle. Each class of interns brings unique solutions to current problems that then spread throughout the university—and I can’t wait to see what this outstanding class comes up with.”

The number of applicants for the IU program doubled from last year.
The number of applicants for the IU program doubled from last year.

Program Began In 2007
From its inception, IU’s sustainability initiative has promoted experiential learning as an integral part of the “greening” of the IU Bloomington campus. (While sustainability internships have been offered over the past three summers, internship projects were conducted over the course of the school year for the first time during the 2008-2009 academic year.)

The academic-year internship program helps students to find connections between their projects and their academic majors and programs. Interns will meet informally within cohorts to share ideas and to develop a supportive learning community.

“These students are already leaders in and out of the classroom, so you can imagine what they are capable of achieving as a group,” said Emilie Rex, program coordinator for the IU Office of Sustainability. “When we provide the interns a space to discuss sustainability and their research, they immediately begin sharing resources and collaborating. This process yields more informed and implementable research and programming, but equally as important is the sense of community and common purpose that is the driving force behind the sustainability initiative.”

The 2009-2010 Projects
This year’s internship projects range from data collection and analysis efforts—such as a wetland and stream inventory of IU Bloomington and five of IU’s regional campuses—to some larger campus initiatives, such as coordinating emerging IU Bloomington Green Teams and the third-annual IU Energy Challenge.

The 2009-2010 Academic Year Sustainability Internship Program is co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Capital Projects and Facilities.

“For the interns, the sustainability internship program is a way to learn—and earn—while moving the university toward greater sustainability in academic programs and operations,” said Tom Morrison, vice president for capital projects and facilities. “For the university, it is a way to accomplish a great quantity and quality of applied research with minimal cost. To date, sustainability interns have provided an approximate 200% annual return on investment in terms of direct savings to the university. Everybody wins.”

Intern bios and descriptions of the 2009-2010 academic year internship projects can be viewed here.