Interning For the Johns Hopkins Sustainability Initiative

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Name: Katie Chekan

Year: Class of 2010

Hometown: Raleigh, NC

Major: International Studies

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This is my first shot at writing a blog entry, so I hope you guys find it entertaining and useful!

I’ve worked a lot of odd jobs in my life.  I’ve been a waitress, an intramurals referee, a telemarketer, and even a kennel cleaner at a veterinary hospital.  When I got to college, I became very interested in the environmental movement, so naturally when an internship involving sustainability and environmental advocacy became available right on campus Kathleen3 with the Johns Hopkins Sustainability Initiative, I was excited to apply.  I had been working as an intern with Environment Maryland (a non-profit group just a block away from Hopkins) previously, but I decided that I wanted to get more involved with the environmental movement right on campus.   The JHSI, established in 2006, is an entire department at Hopkins devoted to making our campus more sustainable.  That’s what’s so great about the “green” scene here; not only do we have a wide variety of student environmental advocacy groups, but there’s also plenty of job and volunteer opportunities around campus that can contribute to the environment and to sustainability.

I started my internship here at the Sustainability Initiative in June of 2008, and it’s definitely one of my favorite jobs that I have held so far.  This is not your average “make-copies-and-seal-envelopes” type of internship (trust me; I’ve worked some of those!)  This is much more engaging; the staff here is very welcoming, and you are treated like an adult and given real responsibilities, as opposed to just being “the intern.”

One of my favorite projects that I worked on was planning and coordinating our first annual “Green Week” here at Hopkins, which was a week of events and campaigns that encouraged students, faculty and staff to not only reduce their carbon footprint through everyday actions (such as taking the stairs more often than the elevator), but also to share their ideas about improving the infrastructure on campus and reducing the school’s greenhouse gas emissions as a whole, an event we like to call the “Green Idea Kathlleen1Generator”.  This year, students came up with a number of great ideas, which included more water efficient showerheads in the dorms, motion-sensor lighting in hallways, and solar-powered trash compactors.  Their ideas were taken very seriously; we are currently in the process of working with the grounds and facilities crew to get a number of these ideas implemented.  Other events scheduled throughout the year range from informational tours of the campus’s power plant to a “sustainability at Hopkins poster contest,” where the winner received a new iHome!

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In addition to planning exciting events on campus, an internship with the Sustainability Initiative has also taught me a lot about what the Hopkins administration is doing to green our campus.  I have had the privilege of sitting in on a number of Climate Change Task Force meetings.  The President’s Climate Change Task Force, established by former President Brody in the summer of 2007, is made up of four separate working groups, who meet regularly to discuss steps that Hopkins can take in various areas to bring us closer to carbon neutrality.  These meetings cover a wide range of topics, from new approaches to energy and electricity use to forming coalitions with environmental groups in the Baltimore area to raise awareness both on the campus and in the community.

While I am working more in the communications and event planning arena here, there are three more interns who are working on a type of “building audit.”  They are going around the entire campus, building by building, and looking for opportunities to decrease each building’s energy and water consumption (look for future guest blogs by the “Green Building Auditing Interns”!)

I can say for certain that my experience as an intern here has been eye-opening.  At Hopkins, students’ ideas are taken seriously when it comes to “greening the campus,” and it’s nice to know that kids my age are making this kind of an impact on the Hopkins administration.  If you choose to come to Hopkins in the fall and decide that saving the environment is your calling, don’t hesitate to get involved, we are always looking for more brainpower to help make Hopkins more carbon neutral!

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