The PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (PSEG ISS) launched a first-of-its-kind program this summer, bringing together 35 students from 22 different majors to form Green Teams to address sustainability issues faced by corporations. Interns worked on projects ranging from developing plans to achieve zero waste to collecting Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) information and crafting sustainability marketing proposals.
Amy Tuininga, Director of the PSEG ISS, was the brains behind the entire program.
“I was trying to figure out how we could advance sustainability while connecting with corporations, providing something they needed, and offering training to students that would draw on what they had learned in their classes,” Tuininga said.
To put this program together, Tuininga enlisted the support of seven companies facing sustainability issues: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cox Printers, Greener by Design, NJM Insurance Group, PSEG, Prudential Global Investment Management (PGIM) and Sabert.
“Working hands-on with companies allows students to learn the pace of corporate projects and the process for getting funding and approval,” said Tuininga. “[Students] also learn how a variety of skills and backgrounds are important, as teams are required to accomplish most projects in real-world settings.”
Nicole Provost, a senior Sustainability Science major who worked with Sabert, said she could not resist this opportunity once she heard about it.
“I knew it would enhance my knowledge on sustainability while giving me the hands-on experience necessary when working in this field,” Provost said.
Provost enjoyed the chance to work with students who came from different educational backgrounds. This opportunity was also an attractive element to sophomore Aliza Sherman, a member of team Bristol-Myers Squibb.
As a Marketing major, Sherman explained most of the other students she meets at Montclair State are in business programs. This internship allowed her to interact with students from other majors and with different interests, which she considered a learning experience in itself.
“It was the best decision I have ever made,” she said.
Priya Persaud, a senior majoring in Computer Science and Jurisprudence and Political Science, worked with PGIM and said this program was an opportunity to gain exposure to a field she had never immersed herself in before.
“I was eager to learn more about sustainability and its transdisciplinary impact,” Persaud said.
The Green Teams received weekly trainings on subjects such as the creative process, corporate social responsibility, communication, diversity and networking skills.
“The training and deliverables to the company helped reassure my passion for my career in sustainability and achieving my goal of changing the world someday,” said Abdiel Jimenez, a senior Sustainability Science major and PSEG team member.
Trisha Daraji, a sophomore Accounting major and member of team PGIM, also said she gained a lot from the program.
“The things that I learned will stay with me forever, and I will always cherish this wonderful experience.”
For Dustine Finck, a senior French major who worked on team Sabert, the internship was educational in multiple ways.
“I learned all sorts of stuff,” she said, “I learned about Life Cycle Assessment, teamwork, how to network like a machine and most importantly how to kayak,” making
Interns participated in many trips, activities and community service opportunities as a part of the program and on their own time – which even included a field trip to the United Nations.
“The bond that my team and I formed over ten weeks became unbreakable. I came into the program with four complete strangers, but left with four wonderful friends,” said Daraji.
The program also transformed the way in which many of the students perceive sustainability. Sherman now checks for signage indicating if a business is environmentally friendly and carefully looks at products to see if recycled materials were used in their manufacturing before making a purchase.
“I didn’t realize how much more passionate I became about sustainability until after the program ended,” Sherman said.
The program is in its infancy and still has room to grow in the coming years.
“I envision this program to be a large inter-institutional program […] where students will serve a wide range of corporations, organizations and government agencies,” said Tuininga.
“I am incredibly proud of the professionalism all of the students brought to their projects, the efforts they put in, and the products they created,” Tuininga said. “I never expected so many friendships and development of cross-cultural understanding and support. I am incredibly hopeful that through this sort of a program, we will help to make the world a better place.”
Disclaimer: Jessicca Bacher participated as a Green Team Intern in the PSEG ISS Green Team Program.