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The Future is Green

PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ Green Teams doing their part for the planet

Posted in: Homepage News, University

Commissioner Shawn LaTourette with students
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette poses with students from various Green Teams.

Now in its seventh year, the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ (PSEG ISS) Green Teams is in full force at Montclair State University. Each summer, students from universities across the country and in various disciplines, descend on campus for the Green Teams program.

This year’s 50 students are divided into 10 teams and paired with host organizations to survey, research, analyze – and ultimately report on – sustainability projects for partner organizations, including Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, PSEG, Weeks Marine, Inc. and the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition Essex Hudson Greenway Project.

PSEG ISS supports research and community projects, including climate change in New Jersey, and energy and water studies globally. In its seven years of operation, the PSEG ISS Green Teams Internship Program has had 320 undergraduate students from 68 different universities and almost 120 degree programs go through the program. By the end of this summer, the 64 teams (including 10 from this summer) will have completed over 250 projects for 39 different hosting organizations, many of them repeat customers. The 2022 students hail from 31 universities and represent 45 degree programs.

“This is the greatest group of students we’ve ever had,” said PSEG ISS Director Amy Tuininga during the official launch of this year’s Green Teams summer program on June 2 at the University Hall Conference Center.

PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Director Amy Tuininga kicks off the 2022 Green Teams launch.

This year, the Institute also partnered with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, who told students that their work was crucial, was the keynote speaker at the launch.

LaTourette was candid and said improvements need to be made if New Jersey is to meet its statewide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. “We’re not doing well,” he told the students. “We’re going to need you, the work that you’ll do in this program and well beyond in your careers ahead, is critical. Each of us owns a part of this planet, and what we all do affects one another.”

Dean Lora Billings, Provost Junius Gonzales, PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Director Amy Tuininga, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, right, discusses Green Teams projects with (left to right) College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings, Provost Junius Gonzales and PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Director Amy Tuininga.

LaTourette said each of the Green Teams had a “point of connectivity” with his department and he urged students to reach out to NJDEP employees, many of whom were on hand to meet with students during the launch. He also touted the virtues of working for a cleaner and safer planet, noting that it is a rewarding career. “So, get out there. Do good work. Rely on us to help you in all the ways that we can. Stay in this place, it’s a good one. You’ll feel good about it … because you’re working on protecting the one thing that we have in common that doesn’t have a political identity and that is the environment that we share.”

photo of Jacyann Watson
Public Health major Jacyann Watson says she’s excited about working on the Cooperman Barnabas project.

Montclair senior and Public Health major Jacyann Watson says she’s excited about working on the Cooperman Barnabas project and bringing her unique perspective to her team. “I am looking forward to learning more about how hospitals work and creating ways to reduce their carbon footprint,” she said. “I’m excited to meet and learn as much as I can with the Cooperman Barnabas staff because they are all brilliant. I think it will be helpful towards my career because I will meet many people from different disciplines that I will learn a great deal from and gain experience.”

Although the summer program just kicked off, Watson says: “This experience has already taken me out of my comfort zone. I am looking forward to gaining leadership skills, becoming a stronger public speaker and just becoming a more confident, well-rounded young woman.”

Anthony Grande, a Political Science major at Montclair, is on the New Jersey Natural Gas team which will help the company increase awareness of its energy efficiency and energy assistance programs.

“What I am looking forward to doing the most in this program is connecting with and helping overburdened communities in New Jersey to help ease the many financial burdens they face in this state, while [also] being environmentally responsible,” Grande says. “This is a very unique opportunity to learn more about my fellow New Jerseyans in ways you cannot get from reading articles or watching videos.”

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Junius Gonzales welcomed the students and congratulated them at the launch, noting that the program was exciting beyond the work on sustainability.

photo of Anthony Grande
Montclair Political Science major Anthony Grande was thrilled to join the Green Teams and is working on the New Jersey Natural Gas team.

“The partnerships here with the different representatives from PSEG and the commissioner and others represent how you really need multi-sectoral commitment and involvement to get collective impact to tackle some of the world’s wicked problems,” he said.

Hector Ferrer, senior ESG analyst with PSEG, told the students: “The work you’re doing is going to have a real impact with your partners. The work you’re doing is going to have an impact in the State of New Jersey.”

Group of five students speaking in front of stage
Members of the NJ Transit team introduce themselves during the launch.

Tuininga says the students will spend 10 weeks with their hosting organizations to develop and deliver high-level sustainability projects that will be presented on August 3. The paid internships are supported by the PSEG Foundation, academic and corporate partners and grants from the National Science Foundation. Since 2017, Montclair State University has secured $2.9 million in National Science Foundation grants designed to build more inclusive STEM workforces, connect students and their families to careers in STEM, and increase STEM literacy for all.

An enthusiastic Watson urged others to apply to future Green Teams. “If any student, regardless of major or age, has the opportunity to apply, just do it! This internship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the individuals who have cultivated this program did a great job at creating an organized, diverse, well-rounded program. I have no doubt that when it’s over I will leave with much experience and great opportunities that stemmed from this program.”

Indeed, the PSEG ISS has been key in propelling participating students into internships, green jobs and graduate/professional studies.

The PSEG ISS projects and team members are as follows:

AvalonBay Communities – The team will calculate water consumption and help develop a plan for reducing water consumption, conduct a competitor analysis for biodiversity best practices and inform people of programs where they can purchase green energy.

  • Onix Roige Diez, Environmental Chemistry, Beloit College
  • Stephen Holman, Sustainability Science, Kean University
  • Aarushi Gupta, Environmental Sustainability Studies/Business Administration, Rowan University
  • Jocelyn Ramos, Psychology, Passaic County Community College
  • Sarah DeFazio, Engineering/Interior Architecture and Design, Raritan Valley Community College

Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center – The team will develop a baseline environmental assessment of specific areas within the medical center to inform sustainability strategies and best practices and prepare a sustainability report.

  • Erick Tapia, Computer Science/Mathematics, Montclair State University
  • Muntasir Meah, Earth and Environmental Science, Boston University
  • Jacyann Watson, Public Health/Community Health, Montclair State University
  • Marichen Montiel, Business and Administration Management/Marketing, Mount Saint Mary College
  • Laura Matthews, Engineering Management/Industrial and Systems Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology

NJ Transit – The team will build a marketing campaign demonstrating the environmental benefits of NJ Transit and how to best communicate and visualize emissions savings and other benefits, as well as how to make them available to riders on the agency’s app.

  • Regina Rasmusson, Earth and Environmental Science, Montclair State University
  • Bianca Palomino, Environmental Science, Lehigh University
  • Elizabeth Patton, Sustainable Development/International Relations, University of St. Andrews
  • Mia Weinberg, Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior; Rutgers University
  • NoElle Sprenkle, Marketing, Saint Peter’s University

New Jersey Resources – The team will identify small-scale renewable natural gas projects in New Jersey through wastewater treatment facilities and more, including researching potential Department of Energy funding opportunities.

  • Megan Johnson, Biology/Communications, Purdue University
  • John Choi, Physics, Montclair State University
  • Shannon Dwyer, Jurisprudence, Montclair State University
  • Emma Redmond, Mechanical Engineering, Rowan University
  • Devin Motani, Finance, University of Miami

The New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition – The team will perform cultural, social and economic analyses of communities adjacent to the proposed Essex Hudson Greenway and will make recommendations for engaging those communities.

  • Stephlyn E Buchanan, Biology, Passaic County Community College
  • Natalie Correa, Sustainability Studies, Hofstra University
  • Leanna Sanchez, Anthropology, Montclair State University
  • Revathi Machan, Environmental Planning and Design/Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior; Rutgers University
  • Syeira Stephens, Human Performance/Sports Medicine, Howard University

New Jersey Natural Gas Energy Efficiency – The team will create a plan to increase awareness of the agency’s energy efficiency and energy assistance programs, particularly to customers in overburdened communities.

  • Nicole Garcia, Biology/Marketing, Caldwell University
  • Francesca Clarke, Environmental Science, Rider University
  • Ann Sinclair, Environmental Studies/Astronomy, Swarthmore College
  • Anthony Grande, Political Science, Montclair State University
  • Stephen Lehren, Culture & Media, The New School

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation – The team will compile and analyze existing data sets related to river flow, study how rain gardens and rain barrels could decrease runoff and generate a report on data-driven recommendations for future flood preparedness and effectiveness of rain barrels, rain gardens, etc.

  • Ali Mangean, Biology, Passaic County Community College
  • Camille Goodman, Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences, Montclair State University
  • Bret Schuler, Environmental Science, Drew University
  • Martu Kollie, Environmental Justice & Citizenship/International Relations, Beloit College
  • Heather McGraw, Environmental Engineering, Arizona State University

Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG) – The team will revive waste efforts and storytelling about current and past efforts and develop communications and videos regarding waste efforts, as well as conduct research on carbon offsets research.

  • Maria Pineda, Molecular Biology, Montclair State University
  • Benjamin Bratter, Earth and Environmental Science, Montclair State University
  • Mauricio Calderon Castro, Environmental Studies/Economics, Lake Forest College
  • Yismeily Duran, Environmental Science, Passaic County Community College
  • Chidera Moghalu, Economics, Howard University

The Trust for Public Land – The team is tasked with creating a database on existing national and international interactive play exhibits at parks, playgrounds, museums, environmental education centers, arboretums, botanical gardens, zoos, aquariums, etc.

  • Madison Braswell, Science, Brookdale Community College
  • Victoria Harripersad, Environmental Science, Stockton University
  • Kyanna Camacho, Psychology, Fordham University
  • Isabella Lamboy, Civil Engineering, The College of New Jersey
  • Carol Tapia, Visual Communication Design, Montclair State University

Weeks Marine, Inc. – The team will produce a comprehensive database of the company’s generators and determine their carbon footprint before preparing a strategy to reduce emissions and the costs and benefits associated with making any necessary changes.

  • Nathalie Arbelaez, Information Technology, St. Francis College
  • Prithivi Rana, Engineering Physics, Ramapo College of New Jersey
  • Madison Post, Environmental Studies, Stockton University
  • Yoelis Brito, Electrical Engineering, The College of New Jersey
  • Isa AL-Maktoum, Mechatronics Engineering, Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology
Philip Bakelaar drawing on board
Philip Bakelaar, an adjunct public relations professor, sketches out the details and the ideas from the launch in real time.
Students watching lecture in classroom
Students listen and take photos of speakers in the program.
Five students speaking in front of stage
Members of the Trust for Public Land team introduce themselves.
Shawn LaTourette speaking with students
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette shares information with students.

More photos from our launch event gallery:

Attendees seated at tables watching event speakers
photo of Yismeily Duran at table

For more on Green Teams, visit PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies

Story by Staff Writer Sylvia A. Martinez. Photos by Roy Groething.