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Montclair State Students Contribute to New Jersey’s Sustainability Movement

New internship program with public and corporate partners are helping students make a difference

Posted in: Science and Technology

Photo of Samuel Hall, a senior Physics major, and Portia Calo, a junior majoring in Nutrition and Food Science

Two Montclair State students recently completed research internships in sustainability that are helping the City of Newark and NJ TRANSIT become greener and healthier. The hands-on experience was made possible by a new educational program called “Work to Succeed” and the University’s academic, corporate and public partners.

Through a generous donation from NJM Insurance Group, the University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies was able to pilot work experiences and mentoring in meeting the challenges of energy efficiency and food insecurity.

Samuel Hall, a senior Physics major, and Portia Calo, a junior majoring in Nutrition and Food Science, were the first recipients of the NJM Sustainability Awards. Both say they hope to continue making contributions to greener living and enacting positive change.

“I want to leave a handprint on the earth by giving back instead of a carbon footprint,” says Calo, who worked to get fresh fruits and vegetables into the homes of city residents. “It is important to me that the generations coming after us have a sustainable world.”

In future endeavors, Hall hopes to focus on the proper management of resources and the environment. “Part of the reason why sustainability is interesting,” he says, “is because it requires several different perspectives to be considered, which often leads to collaboration across multiple disciplines.”

According to Amy Tuininga, director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, the mentored academic program connects classroom learning to graduate and professional school preparation and career readiness. “I am very happy to see students succeeding through the off-campus partnerships, enabling this important educational component of their academic careers to jump start the next stages,” she says.

Hall was partnered with Steven Jenks, manager of Energy and Sustainability Programs at NJ TRANSIT, on resource and tool development of advanced energy technologies. It’s a continuation of the type of work he completed last summer as a member of the University’s Green Team, contributing to an atmospheric emissions flow chart for PSE&G.

Calo, who serves as a Food Sustainability Ambassador with the Institute, assisted Newark’s Chief Sustainability Officer Nathaly Agosto Filión on coordinating and researching support for farmer’s markets, community gardens and food access. The experience was particularly beneficial in building stronger relationships between community partners and City Hall, she says.

The University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies supports both student and faculty efforts in a variety of research and community projects. “Work to Succeed” is its latest program, an initiative that provides opportunities to bridge classroom experience with real work experience identifying sustainable solutions, Tuininga says.

“The hands-on experiences they gain through this program better positions them for employment or graduate school,” adds John Hardiman, NJM’s public affairs director. “The initial feedback from the first two students was outstanding and we look forward to the next phase of this evolving initiative.”

This summer, Calo will be a member of the Green Team internship program continuing work on sustainability solutions. As a recent graduate of Montclair State, Hall’s future includes a career in sustainability and graduate studies.

“Proper management of resources and the environment is critical to our future across the world,” Hall says. “It’s important to consider how individuals, businesses and local governments can play a role in helping.”