AshlynIntern Ashlyn Brulato is working on SGA's Zero Waste program.Northwestern University senior Ashlyn Brulato is spending the fall quarter at SGA working as a Zero Waste intern. For three days a week, she works with Zero Waste Program Manager Jennifer Nelson on the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition’s We Compost program or with Executive Director Gary Cuneen and Office Administrator Lisa Daleiden-Brugman on the PlanItGreen project.

“I’m a lot more heavily involved than I had expected — certainly from my prior internship experiences,” says Ashlyn, an environmental science and psychology major who hails from New Jersey. “Jen has given a lot of freedom to develop materials, and I think that’s a unique opportunity as an intern.”

Opportunities like the ones Ashlyn is getting this fall are not uncommon for SGA interns. Seven Generations Ahead, a Chicago Metro area-based non-profit that promotes environmentally sustainable and healthy communities, offers a variety of immersive and enriching internships throughout the year to highly motivated and creative college and graduate students.

SGA finds interns through its relationships with area colleges and universities. “We post for and solicit interns at universities through their websites or through personal contacts we have in their sustainability departments,” says Lisa, who sends out the postings and conducts initial phone screenings with potential interns.

Matt Czajka learned about SGA internships through Dominican University, where he’s in the coordinated MBA/RD (Registered Dietitan) program. “I was given a list of intern sites and had to choose my top three choices,” he says. “SGA... was my first choice for my community internship rotation.”

During his semester-long internship, Matt so far has worked with the Illinois Farm to School Network on its Great Apple Crunch program. He helped Farm to School Program Manager Lydia Mills with communications and social media, drafting a press release and tweeting about the Crunch. He also created Great Apple Crunch activity resources and helps update the Illinois Farm to School Network's website.

“SGA interns really dive headfirst into complicated programs,” Lydia says. “The interns who come to gain experience at SGA are a self-selecting bunch of people who think critically about sustainability and food issues.”

Since starting her SGA internship in September, Ashlyn has worked on developing a guide to help Oak Park/River Forest residents understand which household waste items can be recycled or go into the landfill. (Diverting as much waste from the landfill as possible is one of SGA’s major areas of focus.) She’s also working on the expansion of a zero waste pilot program in Chicago Public Schools.

Ashlyn learned about SGA internship opportunities from the director of a Northwestern program called Chicago Field Studies, which “combines a class and internship experience to bring academic context to the professional world, expanding learning beyond the classroom and enabling students to pursue both academic and career aspirations,” according to the website.

For her quarter at SGA, Ashlyn will earn two academic credits toward her degree.
Currently, SGA has internship openings in Sustainability Community Outreach Support, Zero Waste Schools and Communications. Those interested can find an application here.

—Cassandra West