Featured Student: Charissa and a Summer with Big Business
Hello again, FES blog followers! Emily back with another FESer to highlight. But we’re going to do things a little different this time. I often get questions about what one can or should do for their summer internship. My answer is always, “Anything, anywhere, as long as you think it’s super interesting.” That’s a little hard to conceptualize, though, so I thought I’d highlight some students and what they did over the summer vacation.
I recently caught up with Charissa, who is a second year MEM student, and talked to her about what she did last summer. The short answer (spoiler alert!) is that she did some consulting work for Nike out in Oregon. I figured since so many of you out there want to come here either to work for big business, do environmental consulting, do lifecycle assessment, or a combination of the three, Charissa’s story would be a good one to hear.
Emily: Thanks for sitting down to chat with me, Charissa!
Charissa: No problem! Let’s get to it!
Emily: Let’s get to it indeed. Okay, let’s start at the beginning—back before FES. Where were you, and what were you doing?
Charissa: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder (go Buffs!)… Author’s note: Go Buffs!
Charissa: …and spent three years in the conservation biology sector as a field ornithologist and conservation policy practitioner.
Emily: But you haven’t been doing conservation biology here at FES, right?
Charissa: Nope! I went back to graduate school to pursue industrial ecology. I wanted to apply my knowledge of the natural world to challenges in industrial processes, and find innovative solutions in the relationships of natural and industrial systems. While at FES, I’ve specifically focused on life cycle assessment (LCA) as a tool to identify environmental hotspots and use towards sustainable product development.
Emily: Can you tell me a bit more about what drove you to FES over other schools?
Charissa: Yep! I chose to come to FES because of the strong industrial ecology program and the Center of Industrial Ecology as well as some amazing IE professors like Matt Eckelman (now at NEU) and Marian Chertow. The open-endedness of the FES curriculum really lets you tailor your education to your interests and I’ve been able to take a mixture of classes at FES, SOM, and the Architecture School. That diversity in opportunities and course structure has been very valuable for my career path. And just as importantly, the FES community is amazing, and this has been a wonderful place to call home!
Emily: Do you have anything you would recommend to prospective students?
Charissa: Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) has been, hands down, the most useful skill I’ve gotten out of FES. I’ve worked on a few different client-based projects on everything from a comparative LCA on charcoal kiln technology in Brazil, an LCA of palm oil biofuel production, and an LCA of water bottle consumption in New York City. LCA is such an intellectually stimulating subject, as well as a very practical tool, and it’s prevalence and importance in industrial decisions is only increasing.
Emily: Okay, tell me a bit about your summer internship.
Charissa: This past summer I interned at Nike, Inc. at their world headquarters in Beaverton, OR. I worked in their Sustainable Product Research & Discovery group where I collaborated with material scientists, green chemists, and product designers in researching emerging low impact, high performance material and manufacturing solutions for Nike’s in line production.
Emily: That sounds really cool! What kinds of projects did you get to work on?
Charissa: Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the specifics of what I did at Nike because I interned in an R&D group, and the work is classified.
Emily: Can you give the people out there some insight into how you found the job?
Charissa: My general approach was to search for positions at companies known as sustainability leaders. Nike is one of those companies, so I applied to a summer internship position directly on their website.
Emily: Working for Nike must have been really competitive! Do you think your FES skills gave you the edge?
Charissa: My internship was specifically for a material scientist or engineer, but one of the “preferred skills” was knowledge of LCA. Since I don’t have a background in material science or engineering, I’m pretty sure it was my proficiency in LCA that got me to the first round of interviews. By then I had already completed two different client-based projects using LCA through FES. Plus, and had an LCA paper in press for a peer-reviewed journal. I think for my position, Nike was most interested in somebody with a diverse background with hands-on, team based work experience, which my client projects through the LCA class and the Environmental Protection Clinic gave me.
Emily: Anything else to add about the experience?
Charissa: Nike WHQ is a very exciting place to work and it was a great experience to apply my knowledge from FES classes to real-world business solutions.
So there you have it, folks! Charissa knew that she wanted to be interning with a big business, and went out and found one that made her happy. She got to work on real projects (so real that she’s not even allowed to talk about them!) and no one will say doing R&D for Nike will look bad on a resume come graduation and the scramble-to-find-a-real-job-in-the-real-world.
Certainly, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them along to me (like always) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, Emily