Where Are They Now? Riley Achtemeier interviews Laura Linde

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, Riley Achtemeier relates her conversation with Laura Linde.

Former Office of Sustainability Intern, Laura Linde.

Laura Linde was an intern for the Office of Sustainability from the summer of 2013 until her graduation in the spring of 2014. Laura’s title was Events and Opportunities Intern. Her role involved duties that laid the groundwork for what would later become the Green Events and Communications teams. The 2013 cohort was only the second OS intern cohort, with a total of 15 interns. Unlike today, where interns are supervised by an intern program manager, the early cohorts were managed by a student leader. 

During Laura’s internship, her cohort had dialogues to outline the focus of the OS intern program and developed the base map for the past nine years. She describes her year as “building the airplane and flying it too” since they were “defining sustainability, figuring out what [they] were doing … and getting a name for OS on campus.” However, Laura enjoyed the challenge, and her work helped the OS become a known program at UW-Madison. 

During her internship, Laura was able to hone her organizational, communication, and planning skills. She often oversaw volunteers, led tabling events, and planned university sustainability events. Her best moment at the OS was when she helped plan and execute the Sustainability Forum. This forum consisted of speakers, a sustainability undergrad research symposium, and interactive displays of new green technologies. Although the planning was stressful, when it came to fruition the event was packed and all her OS friends came to support her. The friendships Laura made through the OS was the best part of the internship. They are people she still talks to and sees on a regular basis.

Through Laura’s career she recognizes that although finding a position with “sustainability” in the job title is rare, most careers encompass aspects of sustainability. Laura’s advice to people who are looking to work in the sector is, “if you specifically want to work in sustainability, broaden it; it’s way more than just the word ‘sustainability.” Additionally, she notes that the term sustainability is often aligned with green technology. However, sustainability encompasses human behaviors, education, and social constraints, all of which are vital components. Through her Master’s degree in International Development, Laura learned how overlooking the social and cultural component to sustainability is harmful to communities. 

Laura’s work in disaster recovery encompasses social, environmental, program, and financial sustainability. Her current role is Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning Specialist for Habitat for Humanity International on their Long-Term Disaster Recovery Team. She analyzes program performance, grant management, and internal processes to ensure that their program is running effectively and efficiently. This allows the team to meet the needs of its partners and adjust as necessary.

Office of Sustainability Student Interns on a field trip.

In many ways, Laura’s year at the OS is remarkably similar to the current interns’ COVID year. Both the 2013 cohort and 2020 cohort were tasked with adapting to unforeseen circumstances and new constraints. Laura recognized that “there were a lot of ideas thrown around, and a lot of things being done, that didn’t all work, of course, but it was a very open and collaborative space.” The OS has kept its spirit of collaboration, creative freedom, and friendships between the interns that allow new developments made each year adding onto the airplane while still flying it.