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, Hannah Kasun relates her conversation with Elisa Guerrero.
Elisa Guerrero was a student intern with the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability from Summer 2018 through Spring 2019. While working with the Office of Sustainability (OS), Elisa was part of the Green Office, Green Events, and Green Labs teams. In these programs, student interns consult with offices, events, and labs across campus to improve sustainability practices, awarding a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum status upon program completion.
According to Elisa, the best part of her internship experience was the summer session when interns were able to take a variety of sustainability-related field trips. These field trips, which included tours of green campus buildings and a trip to the Farley Center, helped Elisa to think of sustainability in a broader sense and to see it as a community and collaborative effort.
The hands-on implementation of OS programs was the most impactful component of Elisa’s internship experience, including giving presentations to clients and applying sustainability to real-world situations. These tasks significantly influenced Elisa’s career path, helping her realize that she enjoyed sustainability outside of a classroom setting, and inspiring her to seek program-related work in local government rather than a research-focused path.
“The university is kind of like a little city,” says Elisa, who has translated her interdepartmental experience on the UW–Madison campus to her current position as the Urban Planning and Sustainability Intern for the City of Monona. In this role, she supports the city’s 100% renewable energy goal, plans sustainability-related programming, and serves as a key link between policy makers and public works employees to implement the ideas of the City of Monona Sustainability Committee.
Elisa’s current position is “a perfect fit” as she is passionate about working with sustainability at a local level and has a specific interest in sustainability and urban planning. She enjoys the way local government work gives her roots in the community, and allows her to see the results of her work on a shorter time scale than would be possible on a national level.
Elisa also works with the Foundation for Dane County Parks, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support programming in the Dane County park system. With her bachelor’s degree in Community and Environmental Sociology, Elisa says that she has always had an interest in community nonprofit work. She enjoys seeing firsthand the important role that nonprofits can play in supporting local governments in meeting sustainability goals.
Elisa’s advice to current interns is to enjoy working with others who are equally as excited about sustainability, and to learn from the lived experience that university staff bring to the table. She says that sustainability can mean many different things and encourages students to find ways to incorporate it into their future work, even if it is not specifically in their job title. Finally, she recommends being open minded and flexible, encouraging students to find “the balance between working within the system and pushing the envelope” in order to best advance a sustainable future.