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Green Teams Put Students at Forefront of Sustainability Movement

Innovative internship program concludes with special presentation to state’s business leaders

Posted in: Science and Technology

Photo of PSEG Green Team surveying a roof

Montclair State University is taking the expression “hands-on internship experience” to exciting new heights by placing college students in the heart of New Jersey’s sustainability movement.

Positioning students from across the academic spectrum alongside professionals at some of the world’s largest corporations and community organizations, the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Green Teams program is the latest example of the impact Montclair State is having on the Garden State economy. The summer internship program gives students the chance to solve real-world problems and move New Jersey organizations closer towards achieving a neutral carbon footprint.

Students who participated in the Green Teams summer internship program exhibited their final presentations on August 9, in Montclair State’s state-of-the-art Center for Environmental and Life Sciences. Team projects tackled sustainability-related issues currently facing host companies, such as communications, community concept mapping, waste management and waste water treatment.

Some of the state’s premier organizations were on hand to hear the conclusions of the teams’ projects, with participating organizations including PSEG, ADP, Honeywell and the City of Newark in attendance. The list of partners for the 2017 program also featured Earth Friendly Products, Hackensack Meridian Health, Humanscale, PGIM Real Estate and Princeton University together with Sustainable Princeton.  Other regional and global companies attended the event as prospective partners, including UPS, Wyndham Hotels, New Jersey Manufacturers and Deloitte.

Catherine Starghill, the deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor, and Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, welcomed guests with remarks highlighting the initiative’s tremendous results and forward momentum in its second year.

“What the corporate partners here are doing is exactly what we are investing our money and time into, and that is ensuring that students get work-based experience” remarked Starghill. “We want to make sure we are partnering with institutes like the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies who are creating pathways to success for students. We are so encouraged to be here and partner with all of you.”

Now in its second year, the Green Teams initiative was expanded through the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, allowing for students from institutions including Princeton University, Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey to join with Montclair State to participate in the forward-thinking internship program. Other participating New Jersey colleges and universities included Fairleigh Dickinson University, Kean University, Ramapo College, Rider University and Rutgers University-Newark.

In all, the nine teams were comprised of 45 students from 10 New Jersey colleges and universities. International students from the University of Graz in Austria also participated, showcasing the global reach of the initiative.

The PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies is pleased to serve as a sustainability nexus for academics, corporates and communities,” says the institute’s director, Amy Tuininga. “The materials produced and presented by our summer 2017 Green Team student interns provide useful information that can be shared among both partnering organizations and broader audiences to collectively overcome the hurdles to achieving global sustainability. Companies gain fresh insight from new talent, students learn about corporate culture, communities benefit from the influx of energy and everyone wins when we work together to be more sustainable.”

“This internship provided a hands-on snapshot of sustainability initiatives in business and an incredible professional learning environment that allows us to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom,” says Ariadna Camayo, a senior sustainability science major who worked with Honeywell on an analysis of the global organization’s waste. “This is a field that’s always moving, and there are always new things developing. So, it has been invaluable to be in a fast-paced corporate environment with a global company and have such an amazing internship experience.”

Unique to the program is its transdisciplinary focus, allowing students from all majors to utilize their differing academic backgrounds to solve sustainability problems as members of a professional team. In all, 42 academic programs were represented in the 2017 cohort.

“Working with other students who are majoring in different academic areas allowed me to see different perspectives and how they can come together to solve a problem,” notes Jonathan Novoa, a senior finance major who helped develop an environmental social governance database to house sustainability metrics for PSEG. “Our project solved a problem a lot of companies currently have, so being a part of this program makes me feel like I could become part of a company as a professional and help solve it immediately.”

Building on the success of the inaugural program in 2016, the initiative welcomed back nine peer mentors who were dispersed among the teams to provide guidance throughout the various projects, allowing for continued growth of past participants.

“I wanted to return to this program because it completely changed my life when I participated in it last year,” says Julie Attys, a senior public health major who rejoined the Green Teams as a peer leader in 2017. “I will always be so grateful to both the PSEG Foundation and Montclair State for giving me the opportunity to not only be a part of this program, but for allowing me to return and take on a leadership role. It has allowed me to develop leadership skills before I even receive my degree, which has already had a tremendous impact on my life.”

To learn more about the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, visit PSEG Sustainability Institute.