Where Are They Now? Katherine Ackley interviews Carolyn Hamburg

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, Katherine Ackley relates her conversation with Carolyn Hamburg.

Photo of Carolyn Hamburg in front of a flowering tree.

Even through Zoom, former OS intern Carolyn Hamburg is welcoming and happy to meet with me. A spring 2019 UW-Madison graduate, Carolyn now lives in Austin, Texas and works remotely for HIAS, an international non-profit organization committed to helping refugees and asylum seekers. As an OS intern and International Studies major, I was eager to interview her! 

Carolyn studied Environmental Studies and Political Science at UW–Madison. She applied to the OS internship last minute and on a whim, which she told me is very unlike her. The program appealed to her because it is “a true internship” which gives its interns an immersive, learning experience. She was intrigued by the idea of working with the university alongside a cohort of other students who were also interested in sustainability and the environment, as well as the freedom the internship provides for interns to come up with and pursue new ideas. Carolyn started as an intern during her sophomore year and stuck with the program until she graduated. During her time in the internship, she worked on the Green Office Team, which was her main team, as well as the Communications Team and the Green Transportation Team, a team which has since been discontinued. 

Today she works at HIAS as a Talent Acquisition Associate. HIAS was originally founded in the US to support Jewish refugees but has since expanded to aiding refugees all over the world and is internationally renowned. At HIAS, Carolyn’s role includes helping with hiring, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, building teams and overall “making sure [they] hire the right people.” Carolyn is proud to work at HIAS because she “wanted to work for an organization that aligns with [her] values and [that] is doing important work.”

When I asked whether she has used the skills she gained in the OS internship in her professional career she replied, “Oh yeah! It was, if not the most, then one of the most valuable experiences I got out of college.” She told me that she learned how to be a team player, work together with people in a work setting, project management, meet deadlines, and set expectations for yourself and othersall skills that are important in any career. 

Carolyn Hamburg standing in front of a distant mountain and blue sky.

While neither of Carolyn’s post-grad jobs have been directly related to the environment, the internship also shaped her understanding of the environment and sustainability while honing her passion for what she cares about. She is still passionate about sustainability and told me that when thinking about your future career, it is important to identify whether you want the main focus of your work to be the environment or whether you want that to be a supporting aspect. For her, she chose the latter and she does find ways to incorporate the environment into her work. For example, she is part of the Green Team at HIAS, a team which is reminiscent of the intern program because they work to improve HIAS’s sustainability by focusing on different sectors such as energy, waste, and water usage. 

In addition to her time in the internship and her current job, I was curious about her experience moving to a new city after graduation. Carolyn grew up in Kansas and then moved to Austin after graduating from UW–Madison. As someone who has lived in Wisconsin for their whole life and who would like to try somewhere new after graduation, I wanted to know if she had any advice for moving to a new city. She told me that moving to a new place can be difficult and that in order to make connections you have to be proactive. As you settle in she advises getting comfortable doing things alone and also giving yourself time to explore the city and meet new people, reassuring me that “you don’t have to be having the time of your life all the time.”

I am glad I got to meet Carolyn and hear about her time in the internship as well as post-grad life. Even in her current career, which is not directly connected to sustainability, she makes use of the skills she gained in the OS internship and finds ways to incorporate her passion for the environment into her life in more unconventional ways.