Where are they now? Narayani Varanasi interviews Cora Klemme

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, Narayani Meghna Varanasi relates her conversation with Cora Klemme.

Cora Klemme wearing black pants and a coat and white hat standing in a snowy landscape. Cora Kelmme interned with The Office of Sustainability (OS) from Summer 2021 until her graduation in May 2022. She served on three intern teams–the Green Office team, the Zero Waste team, and the Food Sustainability Working Group–and graduated with a major in Environmental Science and a certificate in Sustainability. 

Cora is currently a Sustainability and Energy Analyst at Longevity Partners. Longevity Partners operates in the real estate industry and certifies the real estate portfolios of their clients. Cora works on a team that helps ensure that assets reach net zero carbon goals in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord. 

“We’re working on a project right now that has five different buildings,” said Cora. “We look at all their energy consumption data to see how much of it is coming from the electric grid, how much of it is renewables, and how much comes from natural gas.” Cora and her team then investigate ways to electrify the building, such as installing solar panels, purchasing off-site renewable energy credits, or installing more energy efficient technologies.

Sharing about what she loves about her work as well as her challenges, Cora said, “I feel like when we’re making these recommendations I can see how much energy we could help [our clients] save … but it’s hard sometimes [because some] investors are not really prioritizing ESG, so we’re not always seeing eye to eye with some of the investors of the companies that we work for.” 

At UW–Madison, Cora initially sought a biology major, but during her sophomore year she took a general biology class where she interacted with an Office of Sustainability intern. They shared a passion for the environment and Cora found out about the potential career opportunities that awaited her in the sustainability world. The conversation was so compelling that she soon changed her major to Environmental Science. 

Cora feels that her experiences at Office of Sustainability internship helped her get through the interview processes for her current position as well as gave her a sense of assurance that the sustainability world had financially-secure positions. She particularly values the experience she gained completing energy audits and working with clients as part of the Green Office team. 

“I am a sustainability and energy analyst … so my job position very much pertains to the kind of work that I did at the internship, just at a higher level,” she said.

But the best part of the intern experience for Cora was the people. “It was cool seeing how everyone was involved in sustainability but in ways that I didn’t even know existed on campus. It really opened my eyes to all the different ways that students care about the environment.” 

Reflecting on her challenges at the Office of Sustainability, Cora focused on time management and balancing the impulse to help with every project. “I was a full time student [so] I had my own priorities … time management was a big struggle and then I think I figured that out as the year went on.”

Sharing a piece of wisdom she wished she received when embarking on her sustainability journey, Cora said, “You’ll always be a learner in this process. You can never consider yourself an expert.”