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, Julia Tuttle relates her conversation with Suzie Kazar.
Suzanne (Suzie) Kazar interned with the Office of Sustainability from the spring of 2018 until she graduated in the spring of 2019. Suzie graduated with majors in Environmental Studies, Geography, and Journalism. During her time in the OS, she was a part of the Communications and Green Labs teams, where she enjoyed planning Earth Week celebrations and gaining professional experience working with clients.
Suzie always knew that she wanted to work in sustainability, though she describes the process of finding her current position as “unglamorous.” Still, it was refreshing to hear that networking—which is always recommended for recent grads—is not the only option for finding a career in sustainability. Suzie said that after graduation she simply Googled “sustainability entry-level jobs” and began applying to anything that aligned with her passions and didn’t require a Master’s degree.
After a long process of searching, applying, and interviewing, Suzie finally found a position where she was able to do meaningful work in sustainability. She is now the Associate Grant Writer at Sustainable Strategies DC—a government affairs and consulting firm that helps communities acquire much-needed resources. There, she helps local governments secure funding for community revitalization projects. For example, she has helped communities get funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to redevelop what are known as brownfields—land that is not currently in use, but that was previously used for industrial or commercial purposes and may have been contaminated from these processes. When brownfields are successfully redeveloped, the community benefits economically because the spaces can be developed into housing or shopping areas, but also socially because residents know that their neighborhood is healthy and safe.
Suzie feels that the OS internship program taught her how to be a professional. In the Green Labs team, she loved getting the opportunity to work with UW–Madison employees because it helped build her interpersonal skills, which she depends on in her current position. She also feels that working in an office at a large university like UW–Madison taught her to focus on what she can actually change. In a university system, things happen very slowly and changes take a long time. But by working in teams in the OS, she felt she was able to make more progress than she could have if she tried to do it alone.
When asked what advice she would give to students looking to enter a career in sustainability, Suzie admitted that it is difficult to find a job focused on sustainability directly after finishing an undergraduate degree, but that there are lots of opportunities in government, businesses, or supply chains. Her advice is to get as much working experience as possible—and that the Office of Sustainability intern program is a good way to prepare. She also advises undergraduate students to get into research positions if possible.
Suzie also suggested trying to incorporate sustainability into whatever you do by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. She knows that no matter where she ends up, as long as she is surrounded by employers, coworkers, and friends who share her values, she will be able to incorporate sustainability into her life and work.