Delaney Buskard, Office for Sustainability Student Employee 

The summertime is a great opportunity for students to get out of the classroom and apply their knowledge in various new settings. This type of experience is especially important for students interested in sustainability since the topic requires such a diverse background of understanding and can be applied in a myriad of fields. However, many students cannot afford to take unpaid internships, which could negatively impact their career options post-graduation. The UVA Parents Fund Internship Grant (PFIG) addresses these issues by providing valued funding for unpaid internships.

Applications for PFIG are evaluated based on the students’ academic background and the relationship between their internship and any of the following topics: civic engagement and public policy, economic and business development, education (both K – 12 and lifelong learning), environment (both planned and natural), health, and sustainability. As of this year, sustainability is a new addition to the list of criteria due to the field’s rising popularity and importance. The inclusion of sustainability into the selection process was suggested by the UVA Committee on Sustainability’s Teaching & Research subcommittee and spearheaded by Brad Brown, McIntire School of Commerce Professor, and Dana Schroeder, UVA Office for Sustainability’s Outreach & Engagement Specialist.

Sustainability Internships in Action

The PFIG has allowed students such as Adam Cooper and Allie Lowy to travel to southeast Asia for their internships, and allowed Office for Sustainability student employee, Clara Falls, to complete valuable work with a local collaborative bridging the gap between healthy foods and those of a lower economic status. I had the chance to interview each of these students and ask what the PFIG has done for them, their relationship with sustainability, and what they are looking forward to most about their internships.

Second year Political and Social Thought (PST) and Music double major, Adam Cooper, will be working in New Delhi, India this summer with The Mrida Group as an intern for one of their companies called Earthspired. Earthspired focuses on integrating small-scale, rural farmers into the larger economy of the region. Though Adam has not started his internship yet, he is especially excited to be exposed to a completely new. He is also especially grateful to be a recipient of the PFIG, as the PFIG gave the financial means to make this experience a reality. Learn more about The Mrida Groupand Earthspire.

Male student in black dress shirt
Photo of student, Adam Cooper
Female student in black blouse
Photo of student, Clara Falls

Second year Global Sustainability and Religious Studies double major, Clara Falls, will be staying local and working with the Charlottesville Food Justice Network this summer. The Charlottesville Food Justice Network ensures that the city’s food system has high standards of human health and environmental safety. The PFIG has allowed Clara to take on this internship here in Charlottesville. She will be working on combatting an issue that she cares deeply about and that will help solidify her career plans post-UVA. As someone who is interested in nursing, as well as the intersection of public health and sustainability, she is very excited to join an organization with the same interests and goals. Find out more about the Charlottesville Food Justice Network.

Third year Environmental Sciences major, Allie Lowy, will be working as the Sustainable Development Intern at the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation (KRMEF) in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. The KRMEF focuses on empowering the country’s impoverished communities by facilitating sustainable change. The foundation does this by developing a low-cost health clinic, eco-friendly housing, an education center, and alternative energy systems. The foundation also has a biodynamic farm that employs a holistic, ecological approach to agriculture by focusing on improving soil fertility. As someone who was inspired to explore issues of sustainable development by UVA’s own Prof. Willis Jenkins, she is excited to learn more about the biodynamic approach to agriculture used at the farm and their green building initiatives, which use bamboo, cow manure, and a variety of recycled materials to build homes. Learn more about KRMEF.

Brick coffee shop with colored railing and designs
Pictured is Leela’s Eco Café, which serves Nepali cuisine prepared from the agricultural products of KRMEF’s biodynamic farm

Thirteen other recipients will also be beginning their internships within the next few weeks and are looking forward to their amazing opportunities. Organizations such as the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the U. S. Department of State: Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and the WASH Institute, will be mutually benefitting from the eagerness of these students to learn and take action. If your workplace would like to explore hosting an intern as part of the sustainability PFIG program, email Christie Julien, Associate Director, Science & Sustainability. To learn more about the PFIG, check out the UVA Career Center’s websiteand stay tuned in August to learn more about what each grant recipient accomplished during his or her internship.