In our “Where Are They Now?” series, current student interns interview former interns about their experience at the Office of Sustainability, and in particular how that experience has helped them since graduation. In the following entry, Eliza Lindley relates her conversation with Ally Magnin.
These days, former intern Ally Magnin ‘20 spends more of her time thinking about chronic wasting disease (CWD) than campus waste streams. In her role as an Assistant Deer & Elk Specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, she wears many hats: creating social media content surrounding the deer hunting season, working in a CWD processing center, coordinating public involvement in deer management decisions, searching for elk calves out in the field, and more. But despite her current focus on natural resources management, Ally’s experiences as an intern at the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability profoundly influenced the outlook and skills she brings to the position.
During her two years as an intern, Ally served on the Green Events, Communications, and Transportation teams, as well as the Social Sustainability Coalition. She fondly recalls time spent conducting waste audits, traveling to Spokane for the 2019 AASHE conference, and collaborating with fellow interns on a wide variety of campus projects. When asked to reflect on her most empowering experience as an intern, Ally shared that being the primary sustainability consultant for a conference held here on campus was a huge confidence boost. Because she was the one answering questions and making decisions, it showed that her knowledge and perspective were valuable, even as a college student. Plus, the event was a huge success and diverted a large portion of its waste from the landfill.
In the years since her graduation, Ally has used the skills she built as an intern again and again. Prior to taking on her current role, she worked for the DNR’s Snapshot Wisconsin program, where she was charged with planning many volunteer recognition events. The OS Green Events team gave her experience with the detail-laden process of wrangling logistics, which Ally attributes as key to her success. Working on the OS Communications team, meanwhile, familiarized her with creating social media content and writing newsletter articles, skills that have been major assets as she takes on more communications responsibilities with the DNR.
Ally also notes that the unique, team-based, intern-led environment at the OS helped prepare her for the spaces she’s encountered in the working world. Taking meeting notes, writing agendas, leading meetings all require skills that one builds over time. Working as an intern gave her the opportunity to build them in a low-stakes, yet impactful space.
One challenge that helped Ally grow while working as an intern was learning to prioritize and manage her time. In addition to school and the internship, Ally was also a cymbal player in the marching band, so figuring out how to balance all of her responsibilities could be challenging. While she loved the variety of projects and cool things happening at the OS, it was difficult not to slip into overcommitting herself. Over time, she developed a better grasp of what her capacity actually was, and she learned that sometimes, the fun projects aren’t the things that need to happen first. This need to prioritize is something she actively applies to her work today, as she balances the work for her specialist role with her new communications responsibilities. Ally’s recommendation to any intern (or college student in a similar situation) is: pick your favorite two teams/activities and really pour your effort into those. You’ll end up doing better work and feeling more fulfilled in the end.
In reflecting on applying sustainability to one’s career path, Ally noted that her time at the OS created a lens through which she sees the world. There are things she notices that her coworkers just don’t, from the recycling options available at an event, to the need to consider social sustainability when determining public usage of a wildlife area. By bringing these things to light, she will continue to serve as a beacon of sustainability, no matter where she goes.