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, Nina Delgadillo relates her conversation with Morgan Barlin.
Whether conducting a waste audit, recovering food from the dining halls, or planning events across campus, Morgan Barlin (‘22) incorporated sustainability into every aspect of her life as a student and Office of Sustainability (OS) intern at UW–Madison.
Morgan’s approach to her current position as the Program Manager for the Leopold GreenHouse Learning Community is no different. She oversees all aspects of the learning community, including helping students to get involved in the GreenHouse Roots seminar, a one-credit seminar for students to learn more about the history of sustainability and its current role on campus; scheduling field trips and sustainability-related events; and getting new students acclimated to the campus. The GreenHouse Learning Community currently accommodates a total of eighty students and is located in the Leopold Residence Hall, a LEED Gold-certified building finished in August 2013 on the west side of campus.
Morgan was a part of the Office of Sustainability intern program from the Fall of 2021 until her graduation in May of 2022, during which time she was a part of the Green Athletics, Social Sustainability Coalition, Green Events, and Zero Waste teams. As an intern, she was able to develop an incredibly valuable skill set that she continues to carry into her work today. She noted that she learned how to lead meetings, how to communicate effectively, how to plan events and develop a realistic understanding of how long sustainability efforts take, as well as develop strong interview skills.
Morgan not only gained valuable skills, but she also became incredibly well-connected to the sustainability scene, both on- and off-campus. She knew that she wanted to stay in Madison after graduating for this reason. Morgan found out about the opening for the GreenHouse Program Manager after she was forwarded the job opportunity from Travis Blomberg, the Campus Resource Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, who felt she was a strong candidate for the position. At first, Morgan was unsure and felt that the position might be too education-oriented or that she wouldn’t be qualified enough, but she soon realized that all of the connections she had made through her time as an intern–from UW–Madison Fleet and Campus Waste and Recycling to the McBurney Center–had helped to solidify her understanding of all aspects of sustainability on campus.
These connections have become an integral part of her work today and she says that the advice she would give to students wanting to become involved in sustainability after graduation is to “Utilize the connections that you have. Always take advantage of networking opportunities in your current role and see every event as an avenue for a potential job.” Morgan notes that taking this approach makes attending networking or work-related events more enjoyable, and that you never know who you could meet that could have a potential job opportunity for you. She also suggests being more open to certain job opportunities even if they do not seem like exactly what you are looking for, because you never know how your assets or experience could become an integral part of that job.
Being a part of the OS internship helped to solidify Morgan’s path in the field of sustainability by showing her that she can make an impact on her community through a multitude of roles. She got the opportunity to work with like-minded people who were passionate about improving campus even when the process could seem slow-moving. This was incredibly empowering for her and helped her to feel like an active member of her community.
Morgan also left the internship with some truly impactful memories. She fondly recalled conducting a waste audit with fellow interns at a women’s soccer game when it started to downpour. Although some might view this in a less than favorable light, Morgan looks back on it with a smile. Towards the end of her internship she also led a team working on a project to incorporate Leanpath technology into the Rheta’s market dining hall to reduce food waste. As a part of this team, Morgan successfully secured a $12,500 grant through the Green Fund program to support the campus’s Zero Waste initiatives by targeting food waste from the source. Leading this project made her feel like she was making a difference in improving the UW–Madison campus.
Overall, Morgan gained a wealth of knowledge, experience, and great memories during her time as an intern and she continues to incorporate everything she learned into all of the work that she does today. She continues to be involved in various parts of the UW–Madison campus both through her work and volunteering. She remarks that without saying yes to opportunities that may have made her unsure at first, she wouldn’t have gained the expertise that she has today, and she encourages others to do the same.