Linnea Zimmerman
Environmental Studies

Reflections of a College Intern
Final Internship Report

Summary of Internship

I was assigned to the Kooskooskie Energy Fair along with three other students, Tyler Chisholm, Sara Weihmann, and Kate Ritley. As an intern, I was assigned the general responsibility of helping to plan a fair designed to educate the public about alternative energy resources through workshops, speakers, and field trips. The Northwest Renewable Energy Festival is currently scheduled for September 20 and 21, 2002 and is to be held on the Whitman Campus. Currently, I am working as Kevin Scribnerís assistant and would like to continue after the semester is over. This position mainly involved research and contacting. Recently I have been working on a survey that will be emailed out to the campus regarding the content that they wish to see at the fair.

Reflections

Overall I enjoyed my internship because I feel that I learned quite a bit about renewable energy resources. Without having had this internship to inspire me to research, I would be ignorant of the array of alternatives there are to fossil fuels. I feel that if people were introduced to the concepts as I have been, they will be interested to learn more. Once people realize that there are alternative resources to fossil fuels that are less harmful to the environment, renewable, and only slightly more expensive, they will be eager to utilize renewable resources. Ignorance is a large part of the energy crisis; the general public is not aware of any alternatives to fossil fuels, nor do they know where to look for more information. However, I think that as the average citizen does recognize that their environmental impact is important, once they have attended the festival, people will be determined to use renewable energy. I myself have found that I am much more concerned with the environmental affects of my actions and am very conscientious about my energy use.

I am very excited about the content of the festival, but for much of the internship I felt very frustrated by the lack of organization in the fair. It seemed in the beginning that we as interns had very little to do in terms of planning anything and relied entirely on the decisions that the steering committee made. It was very difficult to get started when the date of the fair was not yet decided. Once the date was decided it was much easier to plan what needed to be done and schedule accordingly. I am very excited about the fair and would like to continue working on it. I feel that the fair will be a valuable experience for all those who attend and I hope that people will come away from the festival with an increased understanding of the alternatives to fossil fuels.

Experience and Learning

As I have stated, the reason that I have enjoyed this internship is I have learned so much about alternative resources from it. Previous to my research, I knew nothing about energy sources other than fossil fuels. Now I understand much more about alternatives, both the solutions that they present and their drawbacks. I care much more about energy use, specifically how my actions will affect my surroundings and make an effort to encourage people around me to consider the same thing. The amount of information that I have read regarding biomass, winds, solar, and hydropower is astounding. I wish to continue learning about alternatives through maintaining contact with the festival. Finally regarding content that has affected me, the original presentation that I saw regarding living off grid truly intrigued me. I had no idea that it was so simple to live comfortable without the power company and do so without causing significant harm to the environment. Living off-grid is something that I believe that I will aspire to do and not anything that I would have ever considered without this internship.

I have also learned things besides content from this internship. It has taught me the importance of independence in a project. For a large part of the internship I thought that there would be a large amount of direction and did not work on my own. I still find that I require some direction, but I realize now that if I want to start a project, I need to start it myself. Once I decided to research the different forms of renewable energy so that I would be able to create the survey without relying on Kevin, I found that I made great headway. I was able to answer questions and create strategy without waiting for someone else to show me how. This brings me to my final lesson; the importance of research. I have learned so much from this internship and most was from the research that I did while learning about different forms of energy. I thought initially that I would be able to create a survey without having to spend too much time researching, but now I know that that is certainly not the case. I would have had no idea what questions to ask or where to begin brainstorming if I had not been forced to begin looking for information on wind and solar power. Both of these lessons I feel will help me as I continue in this internship and will hopefully make my work both more efficient and relevant.

Goals

My goals in this internship began very generally. I wanted simply to help plan the festival in whatever way possible. Originally, I thought that I would like to work on publicity and several of my goals regarded advertising and publicizing. Now however my goals are to create a survey that will allow people on campus create a festival that they will enjoy and continue researching for Kevin until I have a better understanding of renewable resources. I feel that at this point I have reached my goals. While the survey has not yet been emailed out, it is very near completion. All that remains is Kevinís approval and deciding whether to survey through a link or through direct reply. As for researching, I have accomplished that goal several times over. I understand much more about this topic then I did previously. In the future, I would like to create something concrete from my efforts. Obviously, the festival itself will be concrete, but I would like to work on something that will have direct results to the outcome of the festival perhaps create a pamphlet or organize getting a certain speaker.

Problems

As much as I enjoyed this internship, it was not without its share of problems. I often felt useless is my role as an intern because there was not much for me to do. The planning of the festival was in such an initial state that there was not always work for me to do. Until the date of the fair was decided, there was nothing I could do in terms of planning. Once the date was decided, tasks did start to form, but there was still such a long time span between the time of the internship and the fair that there was little that could be done that would produce concrete results. Much of the time I felt extraneous and though I attended quite a few meetings and expressed interest in being on certain committees, I was often left without a task.

Suggestions

I believe that the simplest solution to all of the problems is to delay the internship in the future by one semester. There will be much more to do in the second semester and I feel that it would be beneficial for an intern to be assigned once the preliminary plans such as date and time are laid out. Also, there should be more specificity to the duties of an intern. When we are assigned only the job of helping plan, it makes it difficult for our sponsor and us. Interns should be assigned to certain committees or tasks. If there is a level of specificity, then I believe that things will be accomplished much more easily. Also, it would be nice if there were some general tasks that interns could accomplish without waiting for the approval of the Executive Committee. I often felt that we would have to wait for two weeks between meetings before there was anything for us to do. Even when I asked for something to do from Kevin, he would be unable to assign me to a task because he also did not know what was happening. I truly did enjoy this internship because of what I learned, but in order for it to be more effective, there must be a higher level of organization.