Zilkha Summer Internviews!

Each summer, the Zilkha Center hires about 8 or so interns in the following fields; Communications, Gardening & Outreach, Artist-in-Residence, Farmington Solar Facility, Sustainability Consultant/Green Offices, Sustainable Food, Sustainable Transportation, Sustainability in Strategic Planning, Or, Submit Your Own Idea!

The interns work individually on their respective projects but are encouraged to collaborate with one another. In addition to working hard, they also take fun trips together including swimming at the tubs, volunteering at the Berkshire Food Project, building a compost bin from scratch, working on farms, cooking weekly lunches, and taking tours of places like the new Williams Inn, The Radix Center, and TAM recycling. 

The 2019 summer interns are Evan Wright (Farmington Solar Facility), Allison Li (Sustainable Food ), Argenis Herrera (Sustainability Consultant/Green Offices), Sam Gilman (Sustainable Transportation), Lucia Wiggers (Sustainability in Strategic Planning), Eliza Harrison (Artist-in-Residence), Aissata Yanneh (Gardening & Outreach), and Wintana Yohannes (Communications). If you’d like to read bios of each intern and see some photos of their summer adventures, keep scrolling!

Evan Wright (Farmington Solar Facility) 

Evan Wright is from Osceola, Wisconsin– a town smaller than Williams! He is a rising Junior and Environmental Studies major. This is his first time working with the Zilkha Center but he has experience with the Center for Environmental Studies. While looking for summer options, he knew he wanted to do something with the environment, likely something educational or activism oriented. It came down between Zilkha and a summer camp job but he chose this internship because of his interest in the work, a desire to be on campus, and the opportunity for collaboration. The goals for his job were not originally well-defined so the beginning of Evan’s summer was spent figuring out a mission and guiding system for his project. 

Early on, he met the other solar interns over video chat and they all decided to focus on the community impact of the Farmington Solar site. They figured out essential questions and scheduled a site visit. The undefined beginnings allowed the solar interns to pull together and bring their own strengths to the table. Evan travelled to a conference at Amherst early on that was fun and informative. He and his fellow solar interns also presented their project at the Berkoneer retreat at Hampshire College, a meeting of collegiate sustainability professionals —including Williams, UMass Amherst, Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire. He had no prior knowledge or experience with solar but had previously done community work and learned a lot from people while doing so. He hopes to further develop his communication skills through this job.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Summer because there’s more time. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

  •  Run. Hangout with friends. Read sometimes. 

Allison Li (Sustainable Food)

Allison Li is from Valhalla, NY and is a rising sophomore. She was a tour guide last year for the Environmental Center and enjoyed the job but when it came to researching summer options, she prioritized opportunities that would allow her to do her own sustainability work and focus on developing skills. This summer, she has been researching product shifts dining could implement as well as doing work with the Real Food Challenge. Additionally, she has been planning out a food justice week (look out for more information on this in the fall!) and contacting collaborators.  She originally didn’t know a lot about what sustainable food meant or how dining worked, but has learned a ton this summer.

She was drawn to the Sustainable Food position because although food is a big part of our lives, most of us don’t think deeply about whether or not our food choices are sustainable. She has realized that, at least on campus, a lot of students have agency over their specific dining choices. Learning how Williams Dining operates and helping them work within their budget has been challenging but getting to meet the dining staff and other interns has made the job pretty enjoyable! Before the summer ends, Allison wants to feel like she has a solid plan for food justice week and have a better personal understanding of sustainable food.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Fall because the temperature is nice and cool. She loves the changing leaves!

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • Sing, bake, read, play with her dog.

Argenis Herrera (Sustainability Consultant/Green Offices)

Argenis Herrera, a rising sophomore, was born in the Domican Republic, but moved to Connecticut at 5 years old and has lived there ever since. Before this internship, he kind of avoided the Zilkha center because it seemed intimidating but has found comfort in it through his internship. He is part of a youth led nonprofit called Greening Forward that focuses on sustainability and environmental stewardship. Although he enjoyed working with them, it was too broad and he decided that over the summer he’d do something similar but more local. He was eager to see sustainability work at a micro level, or more specific and practical. At Greening Forward, he does communications work and wanted to use those skills to help Zilkha work towards its mission and explore new things personally.

He is the Sustainability Consultant for Green Offices. This summer, he has focused on helping offices on campus implement better policies. He works to convince them to make more sustainable choices concerning three areas; environmentally friendly, socially cohesive, and cost efficient. He had never worked a 9-5 job and quickly discovered that 8 hrs is a lot of time to fill. Still, he loves how flexible the internship is and how he gets to meet so many people. He’s even learned some cool insider information! The trouble is, though, that even though most offices are eager to participate, it is more difficult to get them to make concrete commitments to being more sustainable. Through putting himself out there and making connections, Argenis has learned not to be intimidated by people in power. He wants to leave this summer with a more concrete definition of sustainability and start practicing what he preaches.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Fall because summer is too hot, winter too cold, and he gets sick in the spring.

What do you do in your free time?

  • He’s been reading a lot of books in spanish and english and loves dramatic, intense YA. He’s also learning to play piano, as well as going on hikes and swims in the river. 

Sam Gilman (Sustainable Transportation)

Sam Gilman is from Wellesley, MA and is a rising junior. Although he had no experience with the Zilkha Center before this summer, he has always been interested in environmental issues. He saw the internship and knew he wanted to be on campus and so he applied. He has always found transportation interesting because it is an area that has a massive impact on our lives. Sam had a vague understanding of sustainable transportation like the value of hybrids, but not much beyond that. He spent his first weeks reading.

As the transportation intern, he was assigned a big spreadsheet of flights the college purchased during the past school year at the start of the summer. His goal was to figure out how the college could replace some of these flights to make them more green and less carbon intensive. Additionally, he has been writing a guide on sustainable transportation (Ride sharing, motorcoach, car pooling, college owned vehicles, etc) and looking at college transportation as a whole. Sam was most excited for the opportunity to research institutional measures that could be taken and make comparisons to what other schools were doing in regards to sustainable transportation. It’s been challenging because carbon emissions are hard to get rid of and he quickly realized how much planning goes into college travel. He’s loving the sustainability activities the interns do as a group like trips where they can see sustainable efforts close up. He wants his work as the Sustainable Transportation intern to have longevity and impact, and to become more conscious of his own actions and more resolute in his convictions.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Summer because its light out and not dark before dinner. He enjoys the option of being outside at 9pm.

What do you do in your free time?

  •  Run, eat, watch netflix, hang with friends, and be outside.

 Lucia Wiggers (Sustainability in Strategic Planning)

Lucia Wiggers is from Norwalk, CT and is a rising sophomore. This summer is their first time working with the Zilkha Center but they have an interest in Geoscience and Environmental Studies. They thought this internship would be a good test to see if they could go into sustainability work, specifically on the consulting and planning side of projects. They are the Sustainability and Strategic Planning intern and their work this summer will be utilized by a committee focusing on the sustainability part of the college’s strategic plan. The committee will be doing research in how we can make Williams more sustainable and work through what the school values. To help the committee, Lucia has been researching peer institutions this summer. They used STARS to pick some of the highest rated schools and other NESCAC schools as a starting point for research. Economic, environmental, and social sustainability are the three pillars they use in their analysis while looking at initiatives, goals, structures, etc that have guided other colleges. 

The goal is to take this information and turn it into a comprehensive report for the committee. Meeting and collaborating with the other interns as well as learning more about sustainability and how it can be implemented was what they most looked forward to in the beginning. Getting through all the information initially was challenging. There were at least 50 plans and reports but knowing that it was going to help inform the committee in the fall and help Williams become more sustainable has made it well worth it. They knew sustainability was about trying to reduce consumption for future generations but have gained a much more holistic view of sustainability this summer. They hope to continue becoming more well versed and articulate in sustainability knowledge, make more sustainable choices, and encourage others to do the same.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Summer because of being outside and taking advantage of the nice weather as well as getting time to relax.

What do you do in your free time?

  • Play guitar, collect records, and make ceramics.

Eliza Harrison (Artist-in-Residence)

Eliza Harrison is from outside of Boston and is a second year Art History graduate student. She heard about the Zilkha Summer Internships from another grad student during the year when they shared them with her. She started out doing quick work everyday around campus, using the journal format as an art practice. A daily art archive was the result. Journaling is especially effective because she could draw and write at the same time. She’s taken some of these quicker pieces and expanded on them. Eliza didn’t know much about Zilkha before this summer but took Environmental Studies courses in her undergrad. Specifically, she is interested in the intersection between Art and Environmental Studies. 

At the start of the summer, she was looking forward to getting time to draw and make art. Since being in school, she never had much opportunity to just focus on creating. Days go by fast for her but this internship has allowed her to be in collaboration with time, spend time outside, and look at the little things we all are used to overlooking. Also, she realized how much she enjoys using gouache (a type of watercolor paint)! Eliza is looking forward to continuing to create art, especially when classes start again. This internship has shown her that you can have fun making art in ten minutes and that can be enough.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Transition seasons; fall and spring. Specifically, the period in between seasons. Has come to appreciate spring more as she’s grown up.

What do you do in your free time?

  • Have fun w friend/roommate! Biking, hiking, cooking. Make art and read. 

Aissata Yanneh (Gardening & Outreach)

Aissata Yanneh is from many places but mostly New York and is a senior. They hadn’t worked with Zilkha before this summer but they did have friends who’ve interned here in past years. What attracted them to the Gardening and Outreach internship is their love of gardening and desire to get people involved in it. They believe we should all know how to grow some parts of our own food as well and that gardening can be a beautiful, collaborative thing.

This summer, they’ve been growing plants and getting people involved in the garden via garden parties! These past weeks, they’ve most looked forward to growing (and eventually eating) the strawberries. They were shocked by how you don’t have to do much to get the plants to grow. All they really need is light, space, and some love and attention. It has been a lot more accessible than they initially anticipated. They had experience helping in community and urban gardens. Also, they learned a bit from old family members and through raising their own indoor plants. They started first with a bamboo plant when they were 18 and still think back fondly on it. It showed them that they could grow something and enjoy the process as well as the reward. Nonetheless, it’s been challenging managing pests like bunnies and groundhogs or invasive species like japanese beetles. Still, it’s an amazing feeling to directly see the benefits of labor they and other people have put in. Before the internship comes to a close, they want to have a deeper relationship with nature and get out of the view that humans are at the top of this world.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Summer because it’s hot. They love when it rains in the summer and there’s a lot of lightning. Also, they love when it’s cold in the summer and think its better than hot or warmer weather during the winter.

What do you do in your free time? 

  • Stretching, videos about cats, tarot cards, reality tv, and reading.

Wintana Yohannes (Communications)

Wintana Yohannes is from Arizona and is a rising junior. She worked as a tour guide for the Environmental Center her freshman year and has spent a lot of time in the building since. A desire to be on campus this summer and an affinity for environmental justice led to her filling out the intern application. She loves communication and collaboration and thought the Communications internship would be a great fit for her. At the beginning of the summer, she was most excited to bring in her own interests to the flexibility of the position. She has been managing the social medias for the Zilkha Center, creating content, and making updates to the sustainability website. 

A surprising element to her job was figuring out the best mediums to convey information. It was challenging getting comfortable with being a voice for the Zilkha Center and trusting herself to communicate effectively on their behalf. Still, learning more about sustainability and communications has been eye opening for her. Furthermore, she has loved doing activities and going on adventures with her fellow interns. She hopes that before finishing this internship, she can have a better understanding of sustainability, environmental justice, and the impact and potential of education via social media.

What’s your favorite season and why?

  • Fall because she loves the various and vibrant colors. She didn’t see much of that growing up in Arizona.

What do you do in your free time?

  • Listen to music, write, read poetry and sci-fi. Hang out with her friends. FaceTime her nephew!