Where Are They Now? Norma Behrend-Martinez interviews Hannah Kasun

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, Norma Behrend-Martinez relates her conversation with Hannah Kasun.

Smiling women standing together outside on the UW–Madison campus
Hannah Kasun (left) and the author, Norma Behrend-Martinez.

I hurried to Memorial Union one fall evening, excited to meet with one of my closest friends that I made at the Office of Sustainability. Sitting at a table on the terrace, I saw Hannah Kasun approach, her signature smile on her face. I hadn’t seen her since the summer, when we had picnics at James Madison park. I waved to her and we sat down to talk about our lives and her experience with her current job.

Hannah Kasun was a student intern at the office from Summer 2018 to Spring 2021. When I first arrived at the Office of Sustainability, she was already a veteran and someone who was eager to help out the new interns. She majored in Environmental Studies and Music Performance as a cellist. Later on in her UW–Madison experience, she also added the Food Systems certificate as she became very passionate about products’ lifecycles. During her time at the Office of Sustainability, Hannah was part of the Green Events team, the Communications team, and helped to create the OS Podcast team as one of the co-hosts as well as one of its first editors.

At the end of Spring 2021, Hannah Kasun accepted a position at the IPM Institute of North America’s Sustainability Food Group, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “help food and agriculture companies and supply chains create high-impact, sustainable outcomes for their business, people and the environment.” Hannah has since been promoted from Team Member to Project Coordinator thanks to her hard work as well as her previous experience helping clients with our Green Events intern team.

Hannah’s face brightened as she told me about how the Office of Sustainability internship prepared her for her current role in the Sustainability Food Group. The various intern teams she worked on helped her adjust to the project teams at her current job, since most of the work she does is collaborative. She also learned through our internship that if you are ever struggling with something, it is okay to reach out for help to your team members and bosses. Intern teams weekly meetings also prepared her for the work structure of her job. When I asked about what her daily schedule is like, she told me it varies, with some external meetings with clients and internal meetings throughout the day as well as time for her individual work. Often, she is working 2-4 different projects/clients at once. 

Recently, she has been working on a new certification that the non-profit is launching called the Sustainability Standard. The Sustainability Standard is an external certification for food facilities and growers. According to the Sustainability Food Group website, the Sustainability Standard’s objective is “to assess and communicate performance on sustainability metrics and inspire continuous improvement of sustainability practices.” 

“Developing that program has so many similarities to our [Green Events] certification program,” Hannah noted. She told me about how she is going to present the Sustainability Standard certification soon and start teaching auditors how to audit facilities with this certification. 

Despite all that she learned from the Office of Sustainability, Hannah has found that her job is a lot more fast-paced than the internship ever was. We both love how our internship managers always reminded us that we are students and to put our classwork first. Now that Hannah is at a full-time job, however, her clients get billed by the hour and thus her supervisors are very strict about productive meetings. This is very different from our internship, where we spend time on bonding as a team, brainstorming ideas and going over different team updates. 

One thing that caught Hannah by surprise was how useful her skill at taking notes during meetings was. Hannah and I had a laugh about how commonplace agendas are at the Office of Sustainability. “You never think of note-taking as a skill, but it is!”

Three women smiling in front of an orange background
Hannah Kasun with friends from the WSUM radio station on the UW–Madison campus.

While Hannah has found professional success with the Sustainable Food Group, if we rewind to Spring 2021, she was feeling anxious about landing a job after college. She had signed up for job alerts on LinkedIn but didn’t know a lot about job hunting. Fortunately, through online resources as well as UW-Madison’s SuccessWorks, Hannah had lots of help submitting applications to various positions. During her last semester at UW–Madison, Hannah applied to three jobs.

When it comes to interviews, advises current students to prepare talking points as well as research the organization and find what you like about it. Some talking points she prepared for her interviews included: where she saw herself in five years, relevant past experiences she has had, and what excited her about this job specifically. 

Though Hannah was successful in her job search, she told me that she also realized that “It’s okay if you don’t get the job right away. There are going to be more opportunities.”

Hannah also suggests that current students try to find and gain extracurricular experience. Student organizations and internships are great resources for preparing you for life after college. Not only was Hannah a part of the Office of Sustainability, but she and I also were hosts at Earthspeak radio on WSUM, a talk show where we talked about environmental issues and interviewed environmental experts. Our experience with WSUM led to the SustainUW Podcast, which has been a great addition to our resumes while also satisfying our love for discussing environmental issues. And although I miss ranting about audio editing and politics with Hannah, I am so excited for all the wonderful sustainable work she’s going to do.