2022 Summer Internship Adventures

Our summer internship program was filled with exciting projects, an abundance of local food, and learning about sustainability efforts in our community. While we could share a summary of the internship ourselves, we figured we’d let the interns tell it instead! Keep reading to learn what the summer was like, straight from our interns.

Our interns worked on projects from zero waste, to building a workshop on intersectionality, to communications, to the gardens, and more! Here’s Blue Jordan, talking about their project—a sustainable gardening video game: Interns stand pointing at plants in a vintage style shop

This summer I have been continuing work on a video game I began last year! The game is an educational gardening simulator, aimed at teaching real-world, sustainable gardening techniques to players. The project was created to try to find a way to reach out to audiences who might not be super connected to the fight for climate justice or people who are really technologically minded and [somewhat disconnected from] the green side of the world. Technology and the environment are not really things that go together–technology is sort of an enemy to the environment, in a lot of ways and in a lot of places. But [technology] is also something that nearly every person on earth is intimately familiar with nowadays. On top of that, video games are also something that a lot of people are really familiar with, in some form or other. So I wanted to see if there was a way to mix the two. 

The interns learned new skills and new ways of relating to the world around them, such as our gardening interns Evan Chester and Martha Carlson:

Evan Chester smiles while holding a frog

I learned different ways that the soil needs to be maintained in terms of … acidity, aeration, and watering cycles. I learned when to go from watering daily to watering every other day to spacing it out further, how long you should water, and how deep you should water. There are a lot of minutiae that I had never considered. For example, we were working on the berry patch and I noted that the grapevine was overtaking the space. I thought that maybe we should just cut it back. But then I read about it and it turns out that you can only prune grapes without harming the overall plant in wintertime–when it’s dormant. There are lots of little details that you just maybe wouldn’t consider at first glance. – Evan Chester

 I associate gardening with connections with other people. A memory that specifically stands out for me is pulling carrots when I was really little with my dad. I was so excited. You can just see the stems and it’s so exciting to yank them out. And they are these big orange vegetables and things that you can eat. I just associate gardening with my family and spending time with people that I care about. – Martha Carlson

Throughout the internship, the students were encouraged to apply an intersectional lens to their work, thinking about how sustainability relates to environmental justice. Cyrus Naider’s work focused on this, as he built a workshop on environmental intersectionality: 

Through my research, I’m learning that if you actually practiced sustainability correctly and followed a sustainable framework, it would just be environmental justice. But we don’t talk enough about people when we think about sustainability. Mainly, when folks think of sustainability, they think of reusable straws and how to eliminate their waste. But that’s only part of it, right? How do we involve the people who are informally engaged or more impacted by environmental laws, redlining, and other similar injustices? If we are going to talk about how to reduce waste, or how to take care of the environment we have to take care of the people who are negatively impacted by the environment.

Powerpoint slide that has the words "Environmental Intersectionality" on it

 These people cannot take steps to address the environment due to systematic blockages. So in the presentation, I hope to push people to think about things more holistically.

I also think that this [workshop] will be a cool first step in getting more folks on campus to engage with the Zilkha Center (ZC) if they want to. I definitely feel like the ZC has, not through the actions of the folks here, a perception of being very privileged as … an office. I know that deters a lot of students from engaging [with] it. They feel like they’re too unknowledgeable about these things and they just don’t want to involve themselves due to feeling incompetent. Hopefully, people take something away from it, something new, or start questioning the way sustainable development discussions are currently happening.

One of our main hopes for the internship program is that students feel empowered to navigate institutional change and find community among others who care about sustainability. We were encouraged to hear feedback from this cohort that they know they’re not alone in this work:

I now have a better understanding of how most people in the Williamstown community actually do care about environmental initiatives. If they are not as passionate about it as I am, it’s usually just because they have been very busy. For instance, I’ve talked to many people about the [Zero Waste] event guides. Many individuals often think about event-waste and want to do better, which is heartening. I also learned about what people are doing in the broader community through the Zilkha field trips. And that is also very inspiring. The people here really do care, and they are making changes.  – Charlotte Luke

I really appreciated meeting so many new people who cared about sustainability. It was special to be able to watch my fellow interns produce amazing and diverse work. It was also incredibly rewarding to learn about people from outside of the Williamstown community like G.L. with Generation Conscious or even the elderly couple who had been fighting for climate justice since they attended the first Earth Day protest. It gave me hope to see so many people taking action. – Marta Symkowick

Interns smile and make silly faces while sitting at a long picnic table

The little community that we [the Zilkha Interns] fostered […] was very rewarding. I came into this internship, looked at all the names, and realized I didn’t know anyone. I was a little scared. But we’ve gotten along very well. We all work together and make jokes–it makes coming to work a lot easier. You’re not just sitting there and doing your work, you have people there that you’re interacting with. And it’s an enjoyable experience.  – Jeremy Torres

Whatever career the interns ultimately pursue, we hope that students take this experience with them to impact their world for good: 

I probably will end up in a career that is not environmentally centered–I don’t think I’ll be, like, a sustainability coordinator. But that being said, I think that the sustainability practices I have learned this summer can be implemented in any field. I’ve also learned a lot about making changes within an institution, which is really important. – Pat Klugman

Thanks for a great summer everyone!  

-Many thanks to Marta Symkowick for conducting interviews with her fellow interns, and Jeremy Torres for his support in putting together this piece. 

Click here to learn more about our interns and their projects.