Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Reflections on Culture and Connections
by -- June 2nd, 2015


Internships can be hit or miss.  Once, in college, I had an internship where my supervisor gave me one thing to do about every week or two that took me just a few hours, so I spent most of my time reading environmental psychology journal articles instead.  Luckily, I can tell that my internship at Rocky Mountain Institute, which I started last Tuesday, will definitely be the opposite of that!

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is an energy-focused “think-and-do tank”, headquartered in Snowmass, Colorado, with offices also in Boulder, Colorado, New York City, and Washington, D.C.  I’ll be working on their buildings team this summer.  My interest in buildings stems from the fact that they consume 40% of energy; through retrofits and sustainable design of new buildings, there are huge opportunities for energy savings.  This summer I’ll be working on writing up case studies on buildings that have undergone deep retrofits, to be used to further demonstrate the advantageousness of retrofits.

Photo credit: April Christensen.

Photo credit: April Christensen.

After just one week of work so far, I’m really excited about the culture of RMI.  One of my tasks this week was to read a 90-page document written by the founder of RMI, Amory Lovins, about the story of the organization, its history, and its goals.  RMI was founded on a vision of improving the way society consumes and manages natural resources, a mission that reflects my own personal career goals.  This reading, other RMI articles, and my interactions with the other staff this week, have shown me that RMI is a place that counts on creativity and vision to move forward and achieve its mission.  Not only is this an amazing type of culture to work in, but I believe it’s the only way we can implement solutions for the environmental issues we face; we can’t fix them with current technologies and methods, we need invention and innovation.  I am hoping that because RMI values independence and creativity, I’ll be able to find a way to do some behavioral energy efficiency work this summer, because that’s one of my greatest interests!

Both RMI and the Nicholas School played a part in giving me what I can tell will be an amazing summer internship; the Nicholas School in connecting me to this opportunity and organization in the first place, and RMI for being such a great organization.  This is a reminder of what I think is one of the greatest benefits of getting a master’s degree from the Nic School: connections.  Though the environmental field is growing, the Nicholas School network spreads amazingly far and wide within it.  I got this internship through the Stanback program, which is funded by a Duke alum and sponsors students to work at environmental nonprofits.  Even if I took away nothing from the Nicholas School but the connections, that would be plenty!

I’ll close my first blog post by saying that current events this week have reminded me why I study energy efficiency and climate change.  Texas has received 35 trillion gallons of rain over the past month, with most of it concentrated in the last week or two.  This rain, which has caused dangerous, deadly flooding, is a result of increasing severe weather events that accompany climate change.  Having gone to college in Texas, with friends and my boyfriend still living down there, I am reminded why I fight this fight.  Climate change is serious and I am excited to take on this issue alongside RMI this summer!

Exploring Boulder with (left to right) my brother Dan (who lives in town), boyfriend Erik, and me!

Exploring Boulder with (left to right) my brother Dan (who lives in town), boyfriend Erik, and me!

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